It is a fact that, in a World increasingly dominated by technology, men’s shaving is steadily leaning towards an instrument from the past: the straight razor. The causes of this are varied and, in some ways, unrelated. Here we take a look at just some of the reasons for the increase in popularity in the use of this vintage shaving tool.
Perhaps the main reason – according to feedback I have received – for throwing away the multi-blade shaver and replacing it with a classic straight razor is one of cost. A lot of guys seem to have had enough of the old King Gillette marketing ploy of ‘make the razor cheap and the blades expensive’. This seems to get more expensive for the consumer as time goes on, considering the price of a pack of multi-blade refills!
But aren’t straight razors expensive? Well, sure, initially they will cost more than practically any multiblade shaver you can buy. However, that single-bladed straight razor will, with reasonable care and attention, last you the rest of your life. That’s right – the rest of your days! Even when you add the cost of a razor strop and hone, a basic, decent-quality setup shouldn’t cost more than about £120 ($200).
What? That much? are you kidding?
No, I’m not kidding. Like buying a very good suit, initial outlay is high – but so is durability. Go get a suit from a Savile Row tailor – if a classic style is chosen (and you watch your figure!), chances are you will still be wearing it twenty years from now. It’s an investment, not just an outlay.
Another reason I hear is one that really follows on from the first – it’s a conservation issue. Now I am not going to claim that switching to straight razor shaving will save the planet but, when you consider the huge number of multi-blade cartridges consigned to landfill each year, you have to admit that every little helps. It’s not just the waste, either – the ongoing cost of manufacture and the use of plastics within the components and packaging also has its own impact on our surroundings.
Compare that with the manufacture of a straight razor – of course it has to use raw materials, energy in the forging and grinding, energy in transport to the retailer and associated use of packaging and advertising costs. Yet, this is a one-time thing – once this product has reached its owner, all the consuming stops – dead. I have razors that are still perfectly usable (indeed I use them daily) that are 150 years old. That’s real economy of production!
Another reason is a bit harder to define – it’s the satisfaction experienced by shaving with a straight razor. One aspect is pure macho – shaving with three inches or so of unguarded, super-sharp steel that absolutely takes no prisoner rates about 11 out of 10 on the macho-meter to many guys – one slip and you’re going to see blood!
Well – that’s true but, with a little practice and a whole lot of respect, a straight razor becomes a tamed tiger. Act the fool or mess around and it will, for sure, show you its teeth but handle it with care and all you will be left with is a comfortable, smooth shave that will only get better as your skill improves.
And that is yet another attraction for straight razor users – it certainly is to myself. There are so many things nowadays that require us to employ little or no skill in their performance that it is very satisfying to know that, when straight razor shaving, you are employing a skillset that takes time and patience to master – and will continue to improve for as long as you determine to refine it.
So – in conclusion – is it necessary to be a rugged, macho individualist with a grave concern for environmental matters in order to become the user of a straight razor? Certainly such a person could be a prime candidate but so would any guy who looks in the mirror every morning and simply wants something that bit different – a chance to practice a skill or an opportunity to be – even just for ten minutes – totally focused on their own pleasure.
Did I forget to mention that? In this age of the busy-busy lifestyle, a straight razor shave is one of the few things that really cannot be hurried – and this opens up, for those precious few minutes, a window of relaxation and a level of insulation from the World Beyond that isn’t a thing to be missed.
But that’s another story.