An old-fashioned tradition, straight razor shaving was once a professional service confined to the barbershop. Men would visit the barber for a haircut and receive a straight razor shave along with it. The old practice moved into the home, but was overshadowed by the safety razor, and, later on, by the disposable razor. Today, straight razor shaving is still thriving as a niche community, but the ultra-convenience and low initial cost of disposable razors has limited its popularity amongst younger gentlemen. Despite the steep initial learning curve tied to cut-throat shaving, many men have found that it transforms their shaving regimen into a rewarding experience, leaving their skin smoother and less irritated. Below, we’ve created a how-to guide for beginners interested in learning straight razor shaving; follow the steps we’ve laid out, and enjoy the adventure.
Step 1: Beard & Skin Prep
- Wrap a steamed towel around your neck and face area. If you’re pressed for time, take a hot shower.
- Fill a shaving mug or bowl with boiling hot water, and let your brush soak.
- Squeeze excess water from the bristles and empty your shaving bowl.
- Rinse your face.
- Use your shave brush to apply soap, and swirl over the surface until your lather has formed stiff peaks.
- Let it sit for 5 minutes.
Step 2: Shaving
- Pull your skin tight over the area where you intend to shave,
- Place the razor at a 20-30 degree angle to the surface of your skin.
- Make a pass across your face, applying little to no pressure.
- For optimal smoothness, make 3 passes across each section: on the first pass, shave with the grain; on the second pass, shave across the grain; on the third pass, shave against the grain.
- Re-apply lather between each step.
Step 3: Clean Up
- Rinse any remaining lather off of your face with cold water. The cold water will close your pores.
- Dry your razor, wiping between all parts.
- Strop your razor. In general, make sure to hone between each shave.
- Use a styptic stick or styptic powder for any nicks or cuts.
How to Hold Your Straight Razor
- Rest 3 fingers on the back of the blade.
- Rest your pinkie on the blade’s tang.
- Place your thumb on the face of the blade in the middle.
- 15 round trips on the linen side of your strop.
- 30 round trips on the leather side of your strop.
What to Look for in a Straight Razor
- Check the steel’s quality: a razor with a good temper sharpens better than poor quality steels. To test it, tap the blade on your nail; if it gives a clear ring, it’s likely well-tempered.
- Round point blades are the safest.
Try it out: you may find that this old-school tradition has a special place in your heart.