Shaving with a straight razor (aka open razor) continues to be the artisan method of shaving. Offering the convert better results, significant savings, and unparalleled luxury, the straight razor still reigns supreme. The one glaring area where the straight razor lacks is convenience. Without a doubt, learning to wield a straight razor, stropping, and (if you want to) honing is time consuming and not for the undedicated. Yet, if you can get over that simple shortcoming, you will find that straight razor shaving offers all the benefits and luxury you deserve during your daily shave. Instead of completing a laborious and painful task, you will be enjoying the manliest ritual the world knows. The Art of Straight Razor Shaving.
The benefits of using a straight razor are many. This article will cover all of the major benefits of switching from a cartridge based razor to a straight razor. The biggest two benefits are lower cost and a better shave. Other less tangible benefits include the meditative aspect of straight razor shaving, saving the environment, manliness, craftsmanship, exclusivity, exfoliation, and ingrown hair treatment. We shall start with a discussion of cost.
Shaving with a Straight Razor is the Best Way to Shave
Straight razor shaving has been described by such colorful phrases such as: “The Rolls Royce of Shaving”, “The Ultimate Shaving Experience”, and “The Manliest Way to Shave”. If you switch to a straight razor and spend the time to master its use, you can expect the closest and most comfortable shave known to man at this time. A quick aside, the open razor also holds more lather on the blade so you need to rinse less often.
Users who have switched report that the straight razor gives a much closer shave compared to a disposable. Compared to DE razors, the majority of converts agree that the straight razor gives a closer shave, yet there is a minority of converts who say their DE gives a comparable shave. Regardless, the straight razor gives you the freedom to choose the best angle, the best direction, and the best stroke that works for you and your face. You are not limited in how you can shave.
The standalone blade allows you unparalleled freedom of choice. There is no guard preventing you from either increasing or decreasing the angle. There is no knob to turn if you want a more aggressive shave. No, all you have to do is lift the spine up or lower the spine down to change your shave. In addition to the ability to change the angle, you have limitless options in how you wish to wield the razor. You can do a simple push stroke, an elegant scything stroke, or a dexterous diagonal stroke. Read more about straight razor strokes here. Combining the different angles and strokes, you have complete control over your shave. You can achieve an acceptable and presentable shave with a single with the grain pass if you’re in a rush or don’t want to do a full shave; or you can go the whole nine yards and get the closest shave known to man.
In addition to the freedom of adjustability and closeness, straight razor shaving offers an irritation free shave. Also, users suffering from ingrown hairs report that straight razor shaving has lessened the occurrence of these painful annoyances. Because the straight razor shaves your face by actually cutting the hairs instead of pulling them out and then cutting, the resulting shave is irritation free. Because straight razors are sharpened to a polish level beyond that of DE & cartridge razors, the blade cuts through your hairs with minimal effort. The use of teflon is well documented in DE & disposable razors. Straight razors achieve the same level of slickness through a mirror polish. The result: no razor burn.
Some users even report that a straight razor shave lasts longer than a normal shave. In some cases, a couple of days. This is probably due to the straight razor shaving closer to the skin, perhaps cutting the hairs slightly below the skin in the against the grain pass. Some users even compare a with the grain pass of a straight razor to the against the grain pass of a DE. Regardless of where you fall in the DE v. Straight Razor debate, everyone agrees a straight razor is miles ahead of a disposable.
Straight Razor Shaving is the Cheapest Way to Shave
The math was originally done by John Tischler and explored in Straight Shaving Benefits: It’s the Cheapest Way to Shave! Let’s do the math quickly. A re-honing from us is only $10 and can be stretched out to nine months in between sharpening. That equates to a yearly cost of $25 including shipping both ways. A Fusion cartridge costs $3 a piece and only lasts five days for most people. Less if you have a tough beard or more facial hair. Feather DE Blades cost $.60 and last about the same. Quick math shows us that daily shaving with a Fusion costs $219 per year and a DE costs $43 per year. As you can see, even a DE still costs twice as much as a straight razor per year of use!
Even more savings can be had if you switch to traditional shaving soap and a brush from canned goop. While a puck of shaving soap costs about $20, that same puck will last you up to two to three years! Compare that with canned goo lasting only a month or so and you can see how the investment in a brush can really pay off. Not only that, but a boar brush from Omega is very affordable at $13!
But what about the initial investment you ask? Your right, a straight razor is not cheap. A Dovo Best is $80 and to shave while your razor is out for honing, you do need two straight razors or a backup DE. A cheaper but riskier option (if you don’t know what to look for) is to purchase a vintage straight razor from an antique shop, flea market, or other sale. You can frequently find serviceable razors costing only $20-$30. Add another $20-$30 for a sharpening and you have a serviceable razor for as little as $40.
Even though the intial investment isn’t cheap, the savings after only a year of switching from a cartridge pays for two open razors! A Murkur Futur costs $80 which is the same price as the Dovo Best, even the Murkur Heavy Duty costs $43. So, as you can see, a DE’s initial investment can be pretty similar and the blades will cost you more.
One more calculation should be talked about before closing this section. If you own two straight razors, the need for sharpening each straight razor is cut by half. If you own three, further reduced to a third if you were curious. The reason is that you reduce the wear & tear on each individual razor by spreading it out. You still have to deal with corrosion, but that acts slowly and can be prevented if you use the proper precautions and follow our maintenance advice. Thus, with two razors, you only have to send each razor in every other year if you stretch it out at a cost of $30 per year for sharpening including shipping both ways via priority mail. If you prefer a six month sharpening interval, having two razors is still only $40 per year if you take advantage of our $10 re-honing, less if you combine shipping or use first class mail.
It is the Greenest Way to Shave
By switching to a straight razor, traditional soap, and a brush you are reducing your environmental impact to essentially zero. That’s right, zero. If you buy a vintage straight razor, you aren’t even adding emissions from the manufacturing process. Okay, perhaps making the soap & brush emitted a small amount of carbon. Either case, the act of shaving has virtually no impact on the environment. No landfill waste and no CFC’s from aerosolized shaving goo means straight razor shaving is the greenest way to shave.
Your only environmental impact is the energy used to heat your water and ship your razor for sharpening (unless you sharpen it yourself). Although you could in theory use cold water in theory, in practice that’s just punishing yourself. And if you’re worried about the badgers killed to make shaving brushes, you can sleep easy knowing that they are actually a pest and a nuisance to the Chinese who cull the badgers. The Chinese are also reported to harvest the meat as well as the hair. And if you’re still concerned about junk yard waste from one straight razor, you can rest assured. With proper honing, your straight razor will last you several lifetimes depending on its original width.
Luxury, Craftsmanship, & Meditation
The open razor shave offers unparalleled luxury, craftsmanship, and a zen-like experience. The luxuriousness of a traditional straight razor shave cannot be over stated. From the hot lather on your face, to the smooth & irritation free shave, you cannot experience a better shave. Add the hot towel and face massage and your truly in the lap of luxury (okay, you can’t do a face massage yourself). If you haven’t experienced one yet, I highly suggest you to find a local barber to do one for you. You won’t regret it.
The craftsmanship of a straight razor cannot be understated. So much hand grinding, forging, and assembly is required for each straight razor. Each straight razor is more like a unique handcrafted piece than a mass produced identical copy made from molded plastic or metal.
Shaving with a straight razor is a zen-like experience. It requires extreme amounts of focus and concentration to truly master. You have to shut out the rest of the world and enter a zen-like state, focusing on the razor, the feel, the angle, and the shave. Shaving with an open razor requires you to slow down your day and focus. After mastering the art you may start noticing yourself entering a zen-like meditative state.
Straight Razor Shaving is the Best Way to Exfoliate
Forget chemical peels, micro-derm abrasions, and laser resurfacing. We have something better. A razor sharp piece of metal scraping away all our dead skin cells. That’s right, simply by shaving our faces each day we are exfoliating and doing it rather effectively too. Yet, nothing is as effective and irritation free as a straight razor.
Exfoliation is simply the removal of the top layer of dead skin cells. The act of shaving with a blade does just that while removing hair at the same time. A straight razor does it better than a DE or cartridge razor because of the sharper edge and guard free operation. Without all the “safety” features, it’s just the blade and our face. Nothing there to interfere with the operation of the razor.
Accomplishment & Exclusivity
The sense of accomplishment upon completing your first straight razor shave without cutting yourself is beyond words. While this was once the only way to shave, open razor shaving has become a lost art practiced by only a handful of men and even fewer women. Nothing should detract from the accomplishment that is mastery of the straight razor. It may take several months, but once you get there, it is incredible. Not only is it a great achievement, but you’ve just joined a very exclusive club.
The ranks of open razor users represents only a tiny fraction of the population. For women, the numbers are so miniscule that it is impossible to get an accurate representation. While many men try their hand at straight razor shaving for a variety of reasons, only a few go to the lengths required to truly master it. Spend the time needed to master the craft of artisan shaving and you will join the ranks of the men who came before.
It’s the Manliest Way to Shave
Nothing evokes manliness than a straight razor. While shaving in general is marketed to and considered by many to be a man’s thing, a straight razor is one of the few manly tasks that is still a man’s activity. Which isn’t to say women cannot, have not, or should not partake; just that the vast majority of straight razor users are men and a cut throat razor still evokes manly thoughts. No other method of shaving is so masculine as the straight razor. Not only that, but mastering this exclusive art adds another notch into your manliness stick.