To the uninitiated, shaving with a straight razor seems downright insane. After all, you’re pretty much just taking a knife to your face when compared to a modern cartridge razor, right? The question then becomes why shave with a straight razor if it’s so dangerous?
I do agree that straight razors are pretty intimidating, but if you can get over the intimidation factor, then there are many benefits to shave with a straight razor.
Furthermore, once you develop the muscle memory it’s pretty easy to shave with a straight razor. Don’t get me wrong, you may still nick yourself everyone once in a while, but I have managed to nick myself with cartridge razors as well.
The four main reasons I’ve come across for shaving with a straight razor is because there is less irritation, it can be more cost effective, it can handle any length of hair, and it’s enjoyable. I’ll expand more on these four benefits below.
Many men who post to various shaving/straight razor forums say they experience less irritation when shaving with a straight razor as compared to when they shave with a cartridge razor.
The common explanation is you experience less irritation because you’re only passing a single blade over your face per pass as opposed to five blades with the current blades.
I tend to agree with this. However, I also think part of the reduced irritation might be a result of using shaving soap/cream and a shaving brush as opposed to shaving foam/gel.
I think it does a better job of lifting the hair off the skin in order for the razor to shave through it than shaving gel/foam. Using shaving soap/cream pretty much goes hand in hand with using a straight razor.
Can Be More Cost Effective
I remember very vividly the bitterness I felt sitting in the razor aisle at the store having to buy, yet again, razor cartridge replacements. It felt like an endless trap buying replacement cartridges after replacement cartridges, just for the sole purpose of being clean-shaven for work.
Something about buying cartridge razors to do an activity that I really didn’t enjoy just didn’t sit right with me.
Shaving with a straight razor offers the opportunity to not have to pay razor manufacturers for the “privilege” of shaving your face. While straight razors have their own expenses and maintenance costs, it felt good not having to fork my money over to Gillette each month.
Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the fact that shaving with a straight razor can quite easily become a hobby. It’s not uncommon for people to buy multiple straight razors.
Obviously, the more straight razors you buy the less cost effective shaving with a straight razor becomes. However, by the time you own multiple straight razors you are probably using straight razors for other reasons than cost.
Shave Different Lengths of Hair
One of my absolute favorite reasons to shave with a straight razor is due to the fact it doesn’t matter what length of hair you shave with it. A straight razor will shave a six-month beard just as easily as it will shave a day’s growth of hair.
Since 2012 I’ve been a pretty irregular shaver. More often than not, I would be shaving every 2 – 3 weeks and sometimes go 2 – 3 months between shaves.
Shaving these lengths of hair is extremely irritating with a cartridge razor. You can barely move the razor half an inch, if that, before it’s completely clogged with hair. It takes what seems like forever to shave your face and head.
You can definitely use a set of trimmers to cut your hair and beard down to size, but now you have hair flying around the bathroom and you still have to do another pass with a cartridge razor if you want to take it down to skin for a really close shave.
This is perhaps what keeps me shaving with a straight razor. There’s nothing quite like the weight of a straight razor in your hands while you’re shaving and the feel of the steel blade gliding across your skin.
It may sound odd, but somehow I feel more connected to a straight razor while I’m using it than I ever have with any cartridge razor.
Perhaps it’s the concentration that using a straight razor demands which produces this effect?
With a cartridge razor it’s easy to let your mind race and think about other things while you’re shaving. However, shaving with a straight razor demands your full attention if you don’t want to nick or cut yourself.
I find this full concentration super enjoyable and relaxing. It transformed shaving from something that I really didn’t like and was forced to do into something that gave me an opportunity to escape from a wandering and racing mind.
It gave me the opportunity to just focus on the task at hand without having to worry about anything else.
I’m reminded of when one of the winners of the “Alone” reality TV show mentioned he thought living in the wild felt like a much more authentic way to live than in modern life. Similarly, shaving with a straight razor, for me, gives me a small escape from the hustle and bustle of the “always connected” modern life.
I highly recommend all men to experience a straight razor shave at least once in your life. Even if you don’t want to try shaving yourself with one, find a local barbershop and have a barber experienced with straight razor shaving give you a shave. It’s definitely an enjoyable experience.