Grooming / May 8th, 2017

The Lost Art of Classic Straight Razor Shaving

This is a guest post from Victor Bertoni on how men lost touch with the fine art of straight razor shaving.

Bic disposable, Gillette, Dorco Pace…these are all brands that pass for shaving razors now. Don’t get us wrong, some of these brands make excellent razors, but whatever happened to the manly art of straight razor shaving? Our fathers and their fathers before them enjoyed what is now the lost art of straight razor shaving.

When men were men and shaving was a skill worth mastering.

The Lost Art of Shaving

In our quest to live in a ‘microwave society’ where everything is almost instant, we lost a few wonderful traits along the way. A few decades ago, our fathers shaved with what was known as a straight razor. This was a shaving device so precisely made that it could double as a weapon. Though, we would never recommend that! 🙂

Made from carbon steel, the straight razor could fold into its own handle, which protected both the blade and the user. When folded, the blade was kept sharp and safely tucked away within the handle. When open, the handle gave the user the leverage and ability to reach some of those difficult to reach places.

The straight razor was sharpened using a wet stone and only the most skillful of barbers could wield it. To give you a clean shave, the barber would go through a routine that was almost ritual-like. This culminated with you getting the cleanest, closest shave ever to grace the face of man.

Using the strop (a leather strap that hung on the side of the barber’s chair), the barber gave the blade a razor’s edge by ‘polishing’ it regularly during the shave.

Why the Art of Straight Razor Shaving is Lost

The main culprit on why shaving is a lost art can be pointed to ‘convenience’. Somewhere along the way, men became too busy mastering ancient arts such as straight razor shaving. We started using multiple-blade cartridge razors instead, many of which were disposable.

Such a shame.

Years ago when the multiple-blade razors where being introduced into the market, the very first men to try them out were not too impressed. In fact, they out right disliked the feeling these razors evoked. They said that the razors felt like cheese graters on their faces.

That, however, did not necessarily deter the producing companies from mass marketing these new products. Thousands of strategically placed Super Bowl ads later and the art of straight razor shaving was lost forever.

Why These Commercials Worked

The argument for multiple-blade razors was that each blade made a separate, yet consecutive pass down or across your cheek. This meant that the more razors your multiple-blade razor had, the closer the shave. Whether this is true for every individual is definitely up for debate.

What we do know is that a straight razor shave is definitely a close shave (definitely closer than a cartridge version!). The problem was that this art was difficult to master. With a straight razor, you didn’t just ‘slightly nick yourself’ when you handled the blade badly. You quite literally cut yourself. That’s why it was the privilege of every father to teach their son how to shave.

Why the lost art of straight razor shaving should be saved

In a world where human contact and connections are getting more and more virtual by the day, we definitely need something that will bring us closer together in a more traditional fashion.

Absentee parents (fathers in many cases) mean that fewer boys grow into men in the right way. There are traditions that should not be messed with at all; such as teaching one’s own son how to shave. Not only did this bring fathers and sons closer together, but it also allowed the boys to learn self-control and to develop patience. It showed many:

  • How to stay clean shaven, neat and presentable.
  • How to interact with other men in the barber shops.
  • How to make sensible decisions and to live with the ensuing consequences (only trust the best and most thoroughly vetted barber with your neck).

The lost art of straight razor shaving did much more than just give you a clean shave. It made a man out of you.