Many modern men have a perennial attraction to the old-fashioned barbershop experience, and one of the touchstones of barbershop quality has always been the straight razor shave. Though extravagant in today’s shaving world, it is part and parcel with the old men’s tradition, and many still go in search of it.
Barbers who provide straight shaves are less commonplace today, but the tradition is still very much alive. Only licensed barbers are permitted to give customers straight shaves, and every barber shop is required to hang a license in plain view on their shop wall. The gentlemen’s experience draws a number of crowds, from old men who want to re-live the tradition, to environmentalists who appreciate its low-waste method, to young hipsters enthralled by the old-time romance of it.
Raised awareness of blood borne diseases has, however, changed standards of health regulation in the barbershop. With the risk of spreading diseases such as Hep B, C, and HIV–a potential consequence of using improperly sanitized razors–Ontario mandated that all authentic straight razors used in barbershops be sanitized using an autoclave–that is, an apparatus that sterilizes using heat and pressure.
Though the straight razor shave is legal in Ontario, many barbers opt to use straight razors with replaceable blades, otherwise known as Shavettes. Paul’s Barber Shop, north of Toronto, provided authentic straight razor back-neck shaves, sanitizing the blades with barbicide, and only switched to replaceable blades once Ontario health regulations changed, requiring the use of an autoclave.
Outside of Ontario, there’s a lot of hearsay about whether re-usable straight shaves are legal in barbershops, and there are different local regulations implemented from place to place. The Ohio State Board maintains that re-usable straight razor shaves are legal, so long as they’re performed by a licensed barber. Even so, barbers reserve the right to decide whether they’ll provide the service, and most resort to straight shaves with throw-away blades, saving time and money.
Not all of them have converted, though: Blue Star Barbershop in Columbus, Ohio provides an authentic straight shave to this day, honouring the tradition wholeheartedly. The classic straight razor shaves are valued amongst customers for the exceptional closeness and precision of the shave: the re-usable blades are sharper and more flexible, allowing a better angle of access and a cut close enough to make shaving an every-other-day habit, instead of a daily one.