You may have seen men shaving with a straight razor in movies or on tv and wondered if it might be worth a try. For some men, a straight razor is their daily grooming choice and for others, it is reserved for a special occasion. Let’s examine some pros and cons to determine if the result is worth the effort.
Shaving with a straight razor can be worth it once you master the process. A straight razor can give you the best shave available for years to come with proper maintenance, as a good quality razor should last you a lifetime. There are some significant drawbacks as the razor is fairly expensive, and there is a steep learning curve to mastering it.
Read on to learn more about straight razors and if incorporating one into your shaving kit makes sense for you.
Are straight razors worth it?
At first glance, the thought of using an old-fashioned straight razor may not seem like the most practical option. They look intimidating and potentially dangerous. Will the end results justify the added time needed to use a straight razor correctly?
While it may seem like a hassle, straight razor shaving is a truly unique experience that many men enjoy not only for the closeness of the shave but also for the tradition and novelty of the experience.
Shaving with a straight razor can be worth it if you practice diligently until your skills improve, then take the time to do it correctly each time. If you do take the time to go through all the steps of a wet shave – from softening the stubble to using slow, steady strokes, to applying an aftershave balm – the end result with be a fantastic shave.
Pros of using a straight razor
First, let’s look at some pros for introducing a straight razor into your arsenal. We’ll cover equipment, process, and experience.
Some pros of using a straight razor are:
- Closeness of shave
- Long-term value
- Cool factor
- Moments of zen
Closeness of shave
A properly honed straight razor blade is the sharpest shaving implement available. On the first pass, shave with the grain of your beard; on the second pass, shave against it. These two passes will leave you with the smoothest, longest-lasting shave possible.
A straight razor is definitely more expensive than a typical multi-blade disposable razor, typically running more than $100, but a good quality razor should last you a lifetime.
Multiple lifetimes, in fact, since a straight razor properly cared for can be passed down to future generations of your family and become a treasured heirloom.
When you look back into history and picture archetypes of masculinity, such as soldiers and cowboys, what kind of razor do you picture them using? Chances are it is a straight razor.
Also, think about the old-time barbershop with hot towels and talcum powder. Generations of men coupled a haircut with a shave provided by a barber wielding a straight razor.
There is nothing inherently cool about shaving with a disposable razor, it is simply a part of a man’s regular routine.
A straight razor can elevate the experience, but the cool factor is off the charts. Everything about the process is elegant, artistic, and just plain cool.
From opening the blade to running it down a leather strop to running it over a face covered in thick lather, the straight razor man will be the coolest guy in just about any room.
Moments of zen
Since straight razor shaving requires focus and attention to detail, it can be an opportunity to tune out everything else in the world for a short while and lose yourself in the moment.
Dedicating a few minutes in the day to a shaving ritual can calm nerves and recharge the battery.
Cons of using a straight razor
Now let’s look at some factors that might not make this method the best option:
- Upfront costs
- Potential danger
- Time required
- Equipment maintenance
Making the jump to a straight razor is going to require some startup investment. You’ll need a razor and a strop, in addition to the usual accessories like a brush and shaving soap.
A good straight razor is most likely going to run north of $100, which is a big upfront cost but if you keep it well-maintained, the razor should last a lifetime. This is where you get what you pay for, so you want a high-quality razor. Remember, the blade will be held against your face and neck, so you cannot afford to sacrifice quality.
You’ll also need a strop, a strip of leather used to keep the razor sharp. Strops can range anywhere from $15 to more than $75.
If wielded improperly, a straight razor can be a dangerous weapon so a great deal of care is necessary when shaving with one.
If you go too fast or apply too much pressure with the blade, you risk giving yourself some truly nasty cuts.
Straight razor shaving requires smooth passes over a thick layer of lather, letting the blade do the work with only light pressure. The results can be out of this world if done right, but rushing the process will give you a bad shave and possibly some deep cuts.
Shaving with a straight razor is not a quick process, so doing it correctly is going to require some time.
Both the equipment and your face will need prep work. You’ll need to make sure that your razor is sharp and your face is covered with a thick layer of soapy lather. Once you’re ready to begin shaving, you’ll need to go slowly and deliberately so you get a good shave without nicks and cuts.
Take the time to make each pass count, so you can make fewer passes overall and reduce the opportunity to cut yourself.
A straight razor is a precision instrument that requires regular maintenance to keep it functioning properly.
Before every shave, you’ll need to run the blade down a leather strop to keep it sharp. In addition, every few months the razor will need to be honed.
This process involves wetting a sharpening stone and running the razor carefully along the stone to give it its edge. You can do this yourself or send your razor to a professional to have it honed. Honing takes time and repetition to master, so while some men may enjoy the process, others may not want to invest the time that is necessary to keep a razor in top condition.