In terms of shaving like the manliest of men, straight razor shaving is about as masculine as you can get. How can you think of shaving with a straight razor without calling upon an image of a burly, shirtless man in slacks and suspenders, shaving with a straight razor in front of the mirror while chewing on a cigar, or of a stately English gentlemen preparing for a night of socializing? The answer is, you can’t. But straight razor shaving isn’t for everyone.
There’s clearly the safety element when it comes to shaving with a straight razor and it takes a lot of practice to perfect your technique, but once you do you may never go back to any other shaving method. It’s recommended that you slowly and steadily hone your straight razor skills: start by just trimming one area with your straight razor (we recommend a large, flat area like your cheeks), and complete the rest of the job with your usual razor. Expand your comfort zone with each shave, and eventually you’ll be mastering your entire face. By slowly becoming more comfortable shaving the easiest spots on your face, you can get your practice in without risk.
As we’ve intimated, this isn’t something that is a rush job (i.e.- this isn’t a “quick shave and run out the door for your morning meeting” process). Take your time to properly prepare the perfect lather using a shaving brush and your favourite soap or cream. A proper lather is crucial to straight razor shaving, as your razor won’t work if your lather is too thin or dry. Let your lather sit on your skin for two to three minutes to lift and soften your facial hair, making it easier to remove. Take this time to strop your razor, ensuring it is sharp, clean and effective. Once you’ve completed stropping your razor, add a thin, fresh layer of shaving cream to rehydrate what you’ve already applied. This is where the fun starts!
It’s important that you learn the parts of a straight razor, and hold the instrument properly when shaving both for safety and maximum effectiveness. Place the pads of your index and second fingers on the shank with your thumb under the shank and against the shoulder. The handle should be raised vertically between your middle and ring fingers, with your ring and pinky fingers resting inside the tang.
Using your free hand, stretch your skin and tightly as possible. Hold the razor at a 30 degree angle to the surface of your skin and shave your first even stroke in the direction of hair growth. Only two strokes will be necessary, and sometimes the second stroke can be skipped.
The crucial thing to remember is the 30 degree rule: if you hold the razor at fewer than 30 degrees, you may end up pulling your hair out by the roots instead of cutting it. Holding the razor at more than 30 degrees and you’ll risk injury. The only spots on your face where the 30 degree rule doesn’t apply are your chin and upper lip, where the blade should be carefully angled closer to your skin due to the irregular or delicate surfaces of these areas.
If you feel that shaving with a straight razor seems like a lot of effort compared to shaving with other types of razors, you’re correct. It certainly requires much more of a commitment than using disposables, or even a safety razor, but if you insist on getting the absolute closest shave possible, there is simply no other option.
Header Image: MensXP