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Straight Razor
September 18, 2011 5:28 PM   Subscribe

Modern straight razor users are known to favor them for a variety of reasons. (related)
posted by Trurl (118 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
The prospect of using a straight razor is as good a definition of wendell as I can fathom.
posted by lumensimus at 5:36 PM on September 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


I haven't purchased razor blades in like two years because in Korea I always had friends leaving and ended up with a surplus of their stuff. I just went to the CVS to try and buy some and nearly died when I saw the price- 25 bucks for 4 razors! I jokingly told my wife I was going to take up shaving with a straight razor but now I'm not sure I was kidding
posted by GilloD at 5:37 PM on September 18, 2011


This is pretty much how I imagine straight razor users.
posted by brain_drain at 5:41 PM on September 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh man, I'll never use a straight razor thanks to Un Chien Andalou (warning: not safe for stomachs. Seriously).
posted by Paragon at 5:51 PM on September 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


Really? Because this is pretty much how I imagine straight razor users.
posted by phunniemee at 5:53 PM on September 18, 2011


Tried it, takes too long.
posted by Plemer at 5:54 PM on September 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


A man needs a good blade, I always carry a razor in my right sock incase I have to cut a motherfucker. In my left sock I carry an extra sock, it is full of ball bearings.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:54 PM on September 18, 2011 [41 favorites]


...so if you see a limping bloke bleeding from one foot, do not mess with him.
posted by pompomtom at 5:56 PM on September 18, 2011 [58 favorites]


I've used one before. It's the best shave I've ever had - no ingrown hairs and very close to the skin. It does take longer than a disposable, and I had some trouble getting the hang of sharpening it, but it really is a superior shave to "regular" razors.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 5:57 PM on September 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeow. If you are looking to escape the Gilette/Schick 8-Blade Razor experience, just go with simple, tried and true safety razors.

Leisureguy's Guide to the Gourmet Shaving Experience is a great primer.

But yes, um, straight razors. For when you got to cut a !#)(%!*.
posted by cavalier at 6:01 PM on September 18, 2011 [12 favorites]


It does take longer, though I like being able to shave only twice a week and not worry about longer stubble clogging the razor.

I usually shower a few minutes, shut off water, shave carefully then turn the water on and rinse. A small mirror in the shower is essential. To prevent it from fogging up all the time just heat it up with the shower water before you use it.

The disposable blade straight razors aren't too expensive to start, just be sure to get the best, sharpest blades you can find.
posted by tronfunkinblo at 6:01 PM on September 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm curious: do women ever use a straight razor to shave their legs?
posted by DisreputableDog at 6:04 PM on September 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


"A small mirror in the shower is essential. To prevent it from fogging up all the time just heat it up with the shower water before you use it."

Holy shit that never occurred to me and is amazing
posted by Blasdelb at 6:04 PM on September 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'll see your Leisureguy and raise you Mantic's YouTube videos about DE safety razors.
posted by fijiwriter at 6:06 PM on September 18, 2011 [7 favorites]


i have had dreams like this
posted by not_on_display at 6:06 PM on September 18, 2011


Metafilter favorite Gene Weingarten uses a straight razor.
Men, even really smart men, are funny.
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 6:06 PM on September 18, 2011


I went through that phase. Made me realize why safety razors came to dominate the market.
posted by 2N2222 at 6:08 PM on September 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Polk Salad Annie's granny was a mean, vicious, straight razor totin' woman.

Before the gators got her.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:10 PM on September 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


Yeah I can't quite get down with shaving regularly with a straight razor, but I did ditch the cartridge razors about a year ago and now love my safty razor. Great shave and soooo much cheaper per shave than those cartridge razors.
posted by MrBobaFett at 6:19 PM on September 18, 2011


Gentlemen: at least get yourself a real safety razor and do away with that disposable/cartridge shit. Save money and your face.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:21 PM on September 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


Last week I went to a place that offers a straight razor shave. It was pretty impressive, my face was smooth and clean for my friend's wedding (it was our groomsmen gifts, enjoyable and practical). It was $50 though (but it was on the Las Vegas strip so it was tourist priced).
posted by SirOmega at 6:23 PM on September 18, 2011


Nothing beats a good ol' fashioned barber shop straight razor shave. My barber goes all out with the hot towels and notions'n'potions and conditioners and things. It takes about an hour and is extremely relaxing. Something I do for myself about once a month.
posted by PapaLobo at 6:26 PM on September 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


This comment by caution live frogs convinced me to try a safety razor.

A fresh blade in a safety razor is so sharp that even if I decide to get lazy and grow out my beard for a week, it still slices through like it were just stubble.

They're so much cheaper. I got a Parker for under $30 on Amazon, and a box of 100 blades for about $16. I use a blade each 5 days/week if I'm shaving often. The razor itself came with 10 blades...which at that price I could by a new Parker every couple of months and it would still be cheaper than a Mach7 Plus Turbo Vibrashave.
posted by device55 at 6:28 PM on September 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


I am happy with my good old fashioned Boots safety razor which I got for ~$7 in Birmingham last year. I have literally had to change the blade four times.
posted by parmanparman at 6:28 PM on September 18, 2011


at least get yourself a real safety razor

All of the "variety of reasons" for the straight razor except for nostalgia seem to be advantages it has over those "multi-blade" things. So yeah, I'll stick with the classic safety razor. I still don't understand why anyone who shaves would use anything else.

It's impossible to find blades in non-urban Canada, but you can order a several years supply from the Internet for what appears to be about the price of an average straight razor.
posted by sfenders at 6:28 PM on September 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


My excellent barbershop uses a straight razor to clean up around the edges whenever I get a haircut, and if I were the shaving type they'd also be happy to give me a genuine shave with one. They're amazing, and I can't imagine why anyone would want to use any other kind of razor to shave with.

Although I will admit to having used disposable razors for those rare times that I've really wanted to be clean and smooth... down there. Do people use straight razors for that kind of shaving? Inquiring minds want to know.
posted by hippybear at 6:37 PM on September 18, 2011


For the safety razor users in the thread, how many uses do you get out of each blade? Just one?

Because I can stretch a Gilette Exel (or whatever the most basic one is) for like 20 shaves before swapping it out, so I'm not sure the upgrade to safety razors is worth it.
posted by Aizkolari at 6:40 PM on September 18, 2011


I use a safety razor and generally get 4-5 shaves out of each blade.
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:44 PM on September 18, 2011


I have a bunch of antique straight razors in my knife collection, but I've only ever used one to actually shave once or twice. I appreciate how effective they are, I just don't have the patience required for it.

But then, I've usually got some degree of stubble on my face announcing to the world what a lazy shit I am.
posted by quin at 6:44 PM on September 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


OK. I actually have a pretty damn nice blade. Dovo Solingen something. I know because its made of surgical stainless steel and GOLD.

I also have a russian wooden strop. It looks like a rectangular rather than a rounded mini-baseball bat. One side is slate or some kind of mineral. The other 3 are various leathers.

I have tried tons of soaps, tons of techniques...but I just can't seem to get it to work. It just seems to SCRAPE the skin. I think it just doesn't work for some people.
posted by hal_c_on at 6:45 PM on September 18, 2011


For the safety razor users in the thread, how many uses do you get out of each blade? Just one?

I can use a single blade about 5 or 6 times before throwing it out. If I wait a long time in between shaves (like a week), I'll just pitch the blade and start fresh.
posted by device55 at 6:45 PM on September 18, 2011


My brother has been using a straight razor for years now -- his reason is that he doesn't have to keep buying new razors.

He's adept with it now, but he cut his cheek badly when he was learning. He happened to be at our mother's house, and he held the flap of skin in place while she cleaned it and sealed it with super glue. The cut was so clean that it healed invisibly.

He stuck with the razor though. I get the heebie jeebies when I see it.
posted by Toothless Willy at 6:46 PM on September 18, 2011


It does take longer than a disposable

Also it murders you by slicing open your carotids.

I get the heebie jeebies just thinking about using a straight razor. Safety razors, though, are first class.
posted by Justinian at 6:48 PM on September 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Some people really really love their straight razors.
posted by hippybear at 6:50 PM on September 18, 2011


This post endorsed by famed barber Sweeney Todd.
posted by kmz at 6:56 PM on September 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


...using a blade at all smacks of Oscar Wilde on poppers levels of limp-wristedness...
posted by TedW at 7:03 PM on September 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


For the safety razor users in the thread, how many uses do you get out of each blade? Just one?

I swap my blades every Monday. Which means the ANNUAL cost of blades is about $4. (They're between 7c and 8c in bulk on Amazon.)

Also, 20 shaves out of a Gilette cartridge? Yipe. I found that 6 or 7 was pushing the point where it caused facial injury.
posted by zvs at 7:18 PM on September 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Do men still use that powder to help stop shaving cuts from bleeding?
posted by pointystick at 7:26 PM on September 18, 2011


I did the ceremonial straight-razor shave at the barber thing for a friend's wedding - maybe they just sucked at it, but it hurt like hell, left blood spotting, and they finished the annoying bits around my weird facial crevices using the same mach 3 disposable that I use at home normally.

Shaving in the shower with a mirror is indeed amazing, though.
posted by xiw at 7:27 PM on September 18, 2011


Thought this was viral marketing for Underbelly Razor. The Sydney 'razor gangs' are probably worth a post.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:28 PM on September 18, 2011


I can stretch a Gilette Exel (or whatever the most basic one is) for like 20 shaves before swapping it out

Seriously? I'm amazed. I get 2 shaves out of a Mach 3 Turbo blade with a silvertip badger brush and wet, rich lather. My beard is heavy, but not that heavy.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:30 PM on September 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have an interesting theory about straight razors and presidential politics. If you look at pictures of the U.S. president, you'll see that all of them were clean shaven until Abraham Lincoln, then almost all them had facial hair until Woodrow Wilson. A similar pattern exists for Prime Ministers of England, with facial hair not appearing until around the mid-1800s and disappearing within 100 years. The pattern also happened with Canadian prime ministers.

Why is this? Why should these leaders be hairless except between the mid-19th till the mid-20th centuries?

My theory: The safety razor was invented around 1900. Until the mid-19th century, an immaculately clean-shaven face was almost synonymous with the ability the hire a barber who was skilled with a straight razor, and thus, was a minimal sign of the prosperity expected of their leaders. By the mid-19th century the clean shaven face was replaced by the beard or mustache, which had a greater populist appeal. Shortly after the invention of the safety razor, every man aspiring to the appearance of prosperity could afford the clean-shaven look, and it became de rigueur for the politician-as-everyman.

If someone has a better theory, I'd like to hear it.
posted by twoleftfeet at 7:30 PM on September 18, 2011 [11 favorites]


The two times a year that I have to shave* I go through a whole bag of disposable razors. I tried the fancy $30 multi blade cartridge thingies, and each cartridge would only do 1/4 of my face, after using a trimmer.

I am terrified of straight razors. You know the kind of fear of heights that comes not from the fear of accidentally falling, but from the fear of not being able to resist the siren call of the voluntary jump? Well, I don't know if I could help myself from a Buñuel remake.

The safety razor, I love it. I got 3 of them. I put new blades on each of them, and change them halfway through. Every stroke is done with a perfectly sharp blade. It feels so wasteful and decadent to use 6 blades for a single shave, but it is less than $1, and lightly used blades are always useful around the house.

* I only shave when I have to go through customs and immigration. In my country you can not have a beard on your passport photo, and the US consulate insisted that my visa picture look just like my passport one.

I have no fucking idea why Homeland Security, who has digital copies of my fingerprints, always gives me hell when I look in any way not exactly like my visa photo.

posted by Ayn Rand and God at 7:36 PM on September 18, 2011


Polk Salad Annie's granny was a mean, vicious, straight razor totin' woman.

no, that was polk salad annie herself - you know, with her momma on the chain gang and her granny in a gator's stomach, the poor girl figured she'd damn well better fend for herself

damn, that's some kind of funky, though, isn't it? - been lovin' that tune since i heard it on am radio way, way back
posted by pyramid termite at 7:38 PM on September 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Do men still use that powder to help stop shaving cuts from bleeding?

Styptic powder or a styptic pencil is pretty much a must-have for any shaving kit which involves a manual blade and not an electric razor.

Either that, or tear off bits of toilet tissue and apply them to cuts. But then you end up as the butt of a joke in a classic movie.
posted by hippybear at 7:39 PM on September 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Do men still use that powder to help stop shaving cuts from bleeding?

Both powder and pencil are available.
posted by TedW at 7:40 PM on September 18, 2011


Thanks, tedW & hippybear styptic was the word I forgot!
I
posted by pointystick at 7:45 PM on September 18, 2011


Also alum blocks, some people swear by them.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:46 PM on September 18, 2011


On the one hand, I'm all for these "let's rediscover the humanizing rituals surrounding grooming, food, etc., that have been forgotten in the modern age" things. On the other, when exactly am I supposed to find the time to shave with a straight razor while brewing my own beer, fermenting my own sauerkraut, curing my own legs of ham (which I butchered myself, of course), tending to my urban homestead (chickens and all) . . . ?
posted by treepour at 7:53 PM on September 18, 2011 [14 favorites]


> Gentlemen: at least get yourself a real safety razor and do away with that disposable/cartridge shit. Save money and your face.

I got an old adjustable Gillette safety razor (cluetip: About 1/50 the price of Merkur and etc. brands from your friendly neighborhood flea market or rummage sale. Remember to be patient and ready to pass on anything that doesn't have clean and smooth metal on any surface that might touch your face).

Every other year or so I feel prompted to try using it again, thanks to threads like this. I haven't got the touch to use it right yet, but I'd really like to eventually not depend on $many-dollars per unit multi-blade razors any more when I need a good shave.
posted by ardgedee at 7:54 PM on September 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


The delight some take in a good razor is not to be underestimated.
posted by codswallop at 7:57 PM on September 18, 2011


Another vote here for safety razors; you get most of the advantages of a straight razor except for the apex of manly coolness, and you don't have to forgo your previous identity in order to become A Guy Who Shaves With A Straight-Razor. I don't think the blades last quite as long as cartridge blades, but they cost a squillionth as much and give you a better shave.

Do men still use that powder to help stop shaving cuts from bleeding?

I, uh… can't remember the last time I cut myself badly enough to require anything more than patting the blood off and giving it a stern look to stop the bleeding. The styptics are still there on the drugstore shelf next to the blades, though, so I guess people with more troublesome faces do buy 'em.

Why should these leaders be hairless except between the mid-19th till the mid-20th centuries?

I don't know why beards appeared when they did, but I have read that they disappeared due to World War I, in which poison gases were used extensively. The army didn't require you to shave, but if you had a beard, your gas mask was unlikely to seal very well. So the people who came back from that war were mostly clean-shaven, and that set the style for the time. (Though, if you look at pictures of Wilson, he was cleanshaven even before the war— the gas-mask explanation may be bogus.)
posted by hattifattener at 8:00 PM on September 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


when exactly am I supposed to find the time to shave with a straight razor while brewing my own beer, fermenting my own sauerkraut, curing my own legs of ham (which I butchered myself, of course), tending to my urban homestead (chickens and all) . . . ?

You'd have a lot more time to tend to the details of life if you'd just shut off your damn computer and stop typing things into community weblogs.
posted by hippybear at 8:00 PM on September 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


when exactly am I supposed to find the time to shave with a straight razor while brewing my own beer, fermenting my own sauerkraut, curing my own legs of ham (which I butchered myself, of course), tending to my urban homestead (chickens and all) . . . ?

I find piece in slowly dissembling and cleaning my cheap electric shaver.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 8:05 PM on September 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


peace, even
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 8:05 PM on September 18, 2011


When I lived in Chicago, there was a barber shop next to the Board of Trade (Joe Lala's?) that I used to get a weekly hot towel and shave. Awesome. The old guy doing it with a straight razor had a shake, but with the blade in his hand he was a maestro. I was not cut once in over a 100 shaves from the old codger.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:05 PM on September 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


What does LIB find pieces of in his cheap electric razor? Inquiring minds want to know!
posted by hippybear at 8:06 PM on September 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


I jumped on the DE safety razor bandwagon about a year ago with a Merkur and haven't looked back. I use Feather blades bought in bulk on Amazon or eBay, and generally swap them out once a week (3-5 shaves, usually). I've gone through less than two containers of shaving soap this whole year, and I haven't used regular cartridge razors at all, except for when traveling by air... the one downside, I've found, as I've read that getting the razor through security at the airport can be iffy and I'd rather not risk it. Using the cartridge razor again even for a week made me appreciate how much nicer the safety is, though, because I could feel how different the shave was immediately.

I still cut myself every once in a while with it but having the styptic pencil on hand fixes everything. My hat's off to you if you're able to use a straight razor skillfully. The level of work required (as well as investing in even more shaving gear) has deterred me from exploring it.
posted by Kosh at 8:07 PM on September 18, 2011


Tried it, takes too long.

For some early risers* who have the time, razors merely whet the appetite without satisfying it.

Hence the need to practice daily.

*Gary Oldman in Dracula ( 1992)
posted by cenoxo at 8:09 PM on September 18, 2011


I don't know why beards appeared when they did, but I have read that they disappeared due to World War I, in which poison gases were used extensively. The army didn't require you to shave, but if you had a beard, your gas mask was unlikely to seal very well. So the people who came back from that war were mostly clean-shaven, and that set the style for the time.

I was under the impression that WWI was when Gillette razors really took off. The story about Gillette giving away the razors, and making it up on the blades didn't seem to be really true until then, or after. By which time, the patent was running out. In fact, before WWI, Gillette razors and blades were both kinda pricey, comparable to today's Gillette disposable five blade offerings. Companies like GEM had plenty of offerings even before the Gillette DE system for a fraction of the price. I think, however, Gillette might have gotten a nice foothold on the military market, and after the patent expired, competitors were making razors and blades conforming to Gillette's DE system. The single edge GEM system survives to this day, but for shaving, they are a niche known mostly to aficionados.
posted by 2N2222 at 8:26 PM on September 18, 2011


Never realized how much I'd grown to hate shaving until I switched to a traditional safety razor back in '06 after a brief try in my youth. Went through the venetian blind cartridge nightmare for too many expensive years, did my slow, slow, incomplete best with Braun, then bought myself a '51 Gilette Super Speed on ebay, along with a mug and brush. Spent $32 on blades in 5 years (with about 50 blades left so far) and have a nicely ritualized shave after my shower each morning. I get the brush just wet enough, whip up foam in my mug as I count to 30, foam up, shave in short, quick, effort-free strokes, wipe off with a cloth, rinse out the brush and razor, and get on with my day. A tedious chore becomes a part of the observance of a new day emerging, just like I start every day with a thoughtfully cooked meal without fail.

Every day deserves a worthy starting point, considered and wakeful.
posted by sonascope at 8:30 PM on September 18, 2011 [14 favorites]


If someone has a better theory, I'd like to hear it.

Using Occam's Razor, my theory is that facial hair follows fashions.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:43 PM on September 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't get it, are your valets sick or something?
posted by The Whelk at 8:44 PM on September 18, 2011 [10 favorites]


I aint tryin to decapitate myself nothankyou
posted by Senor Cardgage at 8:49 PM on September 18, 2011


facial hair follows fashions

fash·ion/ˈfaSHən/
Noun: A popular trend, esp. in styles of dress, ornament, or behavior.

That's more like Occam's circular saw.
posted by twoleftfeet at 8:56 PM on September 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Fashion? They're doing it over there, but we don't do it here.
posted by The Whelk at 8:59 PM on September 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have 5 or 6 straight razors of various vintages and more strops than that because I use them on knives. I also have a half-dozen Rolls razors just because I love the mechanism and the ingenuity.

But I really cannot stand to look at myself in the mirror long enough to use a mirror for shaving.

I shave by feel using an ordinary twin bladed Gillette.
posted by jamjam at 9:06 PM on September 18, 2011


I jumped on the safety razor bandwagon a few years back like a lot of other guys after years spent irritating my skin with multi-blade things. (Huh, just checked mu email history, and I bought my first DE in 2005). After a few years of that I started to get interested in straights, and after talking to my cousins husband about it I decided to go ahead and give it a go.

I started of slowly, just doing my cheeks and finishing the rest with the DE, and gradually built up from there, using it maybe once or twice a week when I had a bit of extra time. It's quite fun and not nearly as hard as it looks, and I got superb shaves out of it.

In the end I set it aside though, I didn't find it a better shave than the DE, and it was certainly more time consuming and riskier. I've been thinking about getting it out again though, and this might just be the prod I need.
posted by markr at 9:10 PM on September 18, 2011


Apropos of nothing, I'll just point out that the invention of the safety razor is usually credited to Gillette, whose whole name was King Camp Gillette, and that the entire history of the safety razor might have been different if instead of choosing the slogan "Gillette... The Best a Man Can Get" they had chosen "King Camp"... It's All About Fashion."
posted by twoleftfeet at 9:13 PM on September 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


There is a reason men used to pay barbers to shave them, before the invention of the safety razor. I have enough trouble keeping my kitchen knives sharp, thanks.

As mentioned upthread, you need only a Merkur razor, a pack of Feather blades, and good soap or cream. I love Taylor of Old Bond Street, which justifies the entire existence of the Land of Eng. You will not get a closer shave, if you're doing it right.

Also, until you're used to shaving with a safety razor, get a styptic pencil. Because you're going to bleed until you get the hang of it. Once you do, you won't go back. Also, shave in the shower, if you can.

Stay the hell away from Merkur blades, btw. They make excellent razors and snaggy-ass blades. Feather and (a close second) Derby are the best.
posted by middleclasstool at 9:23 PM on September 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


I started with an electric three head Norelco for my laddish peach fuzz, then an early girlfriend moved me to an Atra-style razor, then a fashion-forward friend sold me on the safety razor, with all its wonderful exfoliating properties! However I soon discovered those properties were in direct conflict with being late to work, hung over and trying to shave as fast as possible. I often resembled a victim of a glassin'.

So back I went to the twin blade. And then one day, about a week after I'd been in a rollover car accident and had been prescribed a (now banned, I think) sleeping aid, to allow me to fall asleep against the severe neck pain I was suffering. I'd showered and was shaving away, preparing for work, when I noticed that I was digging the razor deeper and deeper into my face, taking the top layer of skin off with the efficiency of a microtome. The red, red kroovy was running down my face and I just kinda kept going, not really sure why I was doing this. Finally, with great effort of will, I stopped, put the razor down, snagged about half a roll of toilet paper and stuck that to my face and went and lay down to contemplate what the fuck had just happened.

Needless to say, that episode freaked me out so badly that I immediately went back to an electric and stuck with that for about a year, until the unending ingrown hairs on my throat drove me to lunacy and I used that innocent electric like a chain mace against the side of a dumpster.

So now I'm back on my Atra, using generic blades which last me 10 ~ 14 days. And they're getting increasingly difficult to find. I can't find a new handle at all, apparently the $25 one they sell on Amazon is all looks and no go. *sigh* Such are the trying issues of a first world male.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 9:25 PM on September 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Using Occam's Razor, my theory is that facial hair follows fashions.

Right, but what kind of razor does Occam use?
posted by hattifattener at 9:54 PM on September 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


It must be a safety razor, because it doesn't go with excessive hand-waveyness.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:00 PM on September 18, 2011


A fantastic shave can in no way be understated.

Straight, single, double, doesn't matter.

It's like saying you can't use nouns in my favorite poem.
posted by Sphinx at 10:01 PM on September 18, 2011


A couple years ago, I flew across the country for the first time since I'd switched from electric to a safety razor. I checked the TSA website, and it said that "safety razors" were OK for carry-ons.

I thought that was odd, but I put my razor and blades in my kit and took it through security. But as you can tell from my scare quotes above, the TSA and I, we had different definitions of "safety razor". Apparently they meant "disposable razor or cartridge nonsense". Had to toss out a perfectly good blade.

I checked just now, and it looks like they've tightened up the language since then.
posted by gurple at 10:12 PM on September 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Polk Salad Annie

Rather partial to this version myself.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:14 PM on September 18, 2011


As mentioned upthread, you need only a Merkur razor, a pack of Feather blades, and good soap or cream.

Well. And a badger, if you went for soap.

In fact, even if, for some terrible reason, you're reading this thread and decide that a safety razor isn't the way to go, you might still consider hard soap and a badger brush. A decent badger costs $30 or so, but then about $4 gets you 6 months of lathery goodness.
posted by gurple at 10:18 PM on September 18, 2011


Right, but what kind of razor does Occam use?

The kind you can only get by stealing it from the barber who shaves all and only those who don't shave themselves.
posted by jamjam at 10:20 PM on September 18, 2011


+1 on the safety razor. Pros go with the feathers, but I go with the Merkur.
posted by mwachs at 10:31 PM on September 18, 2011


Hey, thanks for the nod, there, PeterMcDermott!

So more on the musical tip, then, with... Steppin' Razor.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:39 PM on September 18, 2011


The Whelk

Beep Beep!
posted by Windopaene at 10:40 PM on September 18, 2011


Tried it, takes too long.

Huh? With a new blade I can do a full shave, dry, of cheeks and neck in about 45 seconds. Really smooth result, and needs at most 3 passes.

Using a straight razor is not an affectation or ritual for me, just a way to save time, effort, and money. Sadly the replacement blades seem to be more and more expensive and harder to come by in North America, but in most of the world a pack like this is maybe 50 cents.
posted by Meatbomb at 11:02 PM on September 18, 2011


A fantastic shave can in no way be understated.

Straight, single, double, doesn't matter.


Absolutely. I've tried them all. They all work. Go figure. Once you figure out not only how to shave, but why the method works, the tools become almost irrelevant. As long as the blade is sharp, and the skin lubed up enough, DE, single edge, Injector, disposable, straight, doesn't matter.
posted by 2N2222 at 11:21 PM on September 18, 2011


I can stretch a Gilette Exel (or whatever the most basic one is) for like 20 shaves before swapping it out.

If you can squeeze 20 shaves out of an Excel, you can squeeze 20 shaves out of a safety razor.

You can get maybe a couple more out of a safety razor if you make sure to completely dry the blade when you finish (preventing microscopic corrosion) and if you take the time to briefly hone them in a similar way as you would a straight razor. Considering the cost of $0.07 to $0.20 per safety razor blade, though, I'm not sure it's worth the effort.

Not all faces work with every kind of razor, though. I can do safety razors no problem, but straight razors don't play well with the skin below my jaw line. If cartridge razors work best for you, or electric, then stick with it.

I refuse to believe, however, that you can get any better shave if you stack more than 3 blades into a cartridge.
posted by jabberjaw at 11:59 PM on September 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Safety razor, no doubt; however I'd also recommend giving a try to shave oil instead of soap or cream. I've been working off of this 1.7oz bottle for the last two years now, no joke. It's the finest shave experienced so far, and the ladies love the smell.
posted by FatherDagon at 12:23 AM on September 19, 2011


Wow.

Uh, I guess I'll be the first one in to this thread who actually uses a straight razor on a regular basis. I bought it with the first of the proceeds I made off my first real job, round about when shaving became something I needed to do. This was over half my life about 15 years ago.

At that point in my life, I surely had some misguided ideas about masculinity and self-identity and whatever other factors may have made a straight razor seem like a good idea. For whatever reason, though, I stuck with it, so let me share a couple first-hand facts:

It did take me about five years to get proficient with it. I'm fair-haired and was in school that whole time, so I suppose it was a nice low-stress environment in which to practice. Probably 80% of that time could have been saved had I been aware earlier of improper honing technique.

I did, and continue to use, cheap disposables as an alternative or supplement, though on a very infrequent basis. I also spent some time using my straight razor with canned shaving cream, so am definitely not trying to hipster the fuck out on you.

The critical skill comes in controlling the angle the blade makes with your face. Too shallow, and you'll rip the hairs out instead of cutting them. Too steep, and it won't draw correctly and you'll cut yourself. The reason safety razors are so "safe" is that they keep the draw force perpendicular to the blade edge, making it harder to translate the blade along its length. Doing so is the only way in which you'll ever cut yourself. However, even when the handle is directly in line with the blade, as in the case of a straight razor, you'll realize if you fuck up well before any sensitive tissues become endangered. In fifteen years of at-least-biweekly use, I've only seriously caught myself with it once, and that was the result of negligence in a maneuver proximately unrelated to shaving. The blatant disregard, carelessness, or malice aforethought it would take to seriously harm one's self with a straight razor is roughly equivalent to that it would take to do so with a steamroller.

Again, I'm trying to take the role of apologist rather than evangelist. The safety razor people in this thread seem on to something, and have in fact renewed my interest in trying one at some point. But my point is that, if you can abide the time investment, in both the learning curve and the daily process, a straight razor is a perfectly practical shaving option. And this despite whatever desire you might have to LARP Deadwood or make your own sauerkraut.
posted by 7segment at 1:10 AM on September 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


My brother and my good friend were at a barbershop for shaves. My good friend is the kind of guy who tries this himself. Since it was for a wedding, he figured he'd have a professional do it, at a men's barbershop. He has venison that he bought off the side of the freeway and smokes himself. He's that kind of guy. As they walked into the shop, they passed an older man, sleeping quietly in a rocking chair on the porch.

After the haircut, it came time for the shave. The barber said "oh, we'll go get the guy who does shaves." Enter: porch guy. Porch guy, it turned out, was the 84-year-old proprietor of the establishment, and apparently, still around for executing a shave or two.

What my brother describes as happening next is better with pantomime, but it involves my friend lathered up, my brother sitting by watching, and old man, with a shake that would make Michael J Fox look solid. (Apologies.)

My brother's eyes widen as he makes eye contact with my friend, who has clearly seen the wobble. With his eyes, he shouts "you don't have to do this!" to which my friend eye-shouts "oh god. but I'm kind of in the chair already."

Suffice to say, there was much blood.
posted by disillusioned at 1:11 AM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


There Will Be Blood.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:16 AM on September 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


flapjax said: Polk Salad Annie's granny was a mean, vicious, straight razor totin' woman.

pyramid termite said: no, that was polk salad annie herself - you know, with her momma on the chain gang and her granny in a gator's stomach

Actually, we're both wrong, pt... Tony Joe's little "mean, vicious, straight razor totin' woman" spoken aside was actually in reference to Annie's momma. It immediately followed the "cause her momma was a-workin' on a chain gang", line, so I'd say it definitely referred to Annie's momma. Annie wasn't mean or vicious. She'd just pick her a mess-a polk salad, every day 'fore suppertime, down by Tony Joe's truck patch. And carry it home in a tote sack.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:27 AM on September 19, 2011


I feel the attraction of a straight razor: always seems good at the barber. A few years ago my usual barber started grumbling about how under health and safety legislation he was now required to ask permission before using the razor on you, but he seems to have forgotten about it now.

The army didn't require you to shave...

Is that right? I had the impression that both the British and German armies allowed moustaches but not beards in WW I (in the Royal Navy, by contrast, you could have a 'full set' but not just a moustache). On the other hand I think some French regiments regarded facial hair as part of the uniform? Probably cavalry, though. Not sure about American rules?
posted by Segundus at 1:38 AM on September 19, 2011


So more on the musical tip, then, with... Steppin' Razor.

Flapjax is always quick with the musical references. But he missed the obvious reference to the Kurt Weill/Doors song... "Show me the way, to the next whisker bar."

I'm not sure I got that right. But a close shave.
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:55 AM on September 19, 2011


Flapjax is always quick with the musical references. But he missed the obvious reference to the Kurt Weill/Doors song... "Show me the way, to the next whisker bar."

Yeah, don't know how I missed that one, twoleftfeet. But let me make up for my oversight with this all time favorite version of Shave Me.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:23 AM on September 19, 2011


Flapjax commits hairy carry.
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:33 AM on September 19, 2011


That reminds me - I need some more double edged blades.

I loved the Merkurs that I bought with my 30L, but the Derby's I got at the same time (and finally go around to using on Friday) just did nothing. Everything was exactly the same as with the previous Merkur shave (same razor, same cream, same routine) but the razor just filled with cream within half a stroke and had to be taken apart to clean it before I did the next stroke. Very frustrating.

Any of your DE guys got any suggestions of went wrong, or shoudl I just buy some more Merkur blades?
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 3:34 AM on September 19, 2011


I dunno, I can usually buy two packages of the Gillette Mach-3 razors and be good for a year.

The trick is, shave with water only and dry the blades very well after each use. I also have a very heavy beard and have to be baby's butt smooth for work.
posted by AndrewKemendo at 4:00 AM on September 19, 2011


Rinsing off the blades and drying them extends the life of the Mach 3 quite a bit.
posted by humanfont at 4:43 AM on September 19, 2011


It's probably been mentioned but if you strop on a leather belt (or your arm) your expensive Gillette Fusion Power Plus Pro blades they stay perfectly sharp for months.
posted by fraac at 4:44 AM on September 19, 2011


My father announced three weeks ago that he, a sixty year old man who has been bearded for fourty some years, is switching to a straight razor. After reading this thread, I hope he's drawn up his will.
posted by Lisitasan at 5:31 AM on September 19, 2011


In fact, even if, for some terrible reason, you're reading this thread and decide that a safety razor isn't the way to go, you might still consider hard soap and a badger brush.

I still use one with my Taylor shaving cream. Makes it last way longer. I used to use soap, but they dry out my face like crazy. I've got sensitive skin, and they just don't work for me.
posted by middleclasstool at 5:50 AM on September 19, 2011


The multiblade whatever stuff and modern shave gel work fine. I shave my face and my head in the shower on a daily basis, and I change cartridges maybe every three months or so. It's good enough to get compliments from my wife.
posted by Foosnark at 6:41 AM on September 19, 2011


flagged for boyzone!
posted by desjardins at 6:49 AM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


At that point in my life, I surely had some misguided ideas about masculinity and self-identity and whatever other factors may have made a straight razor seem like a good idea.

What kind of misguided ideas did you have? I ask mostly because part of the appeal of the classic safety razor to me was that it would give me a 'traditionally masculine' ritual that I was actually invested in. It's not super-meaningful or anything, but it does give me a little satisfaction on that level.
posted by Kosh at 7:23 AM on September 19, 2011


When I was switching over from plastic fantastic to metal and sincerity, I did actually buy myself a nice straight razor, thinking I might go all the way back to the beginning. Taught myself to use it, and had a number of decent shaves, but for me, the imp of the perverse prevents me from really relaxing with it. In the same way that I spent my youth waiting for Metro trains from as far back as possible, because of my concern that I might get a wild hair and suddenly leap in front of the train, I find I'm not happy with having death quite so close at hand.

Hmmm. Go to work today, or cut my own throat? I think I'll go to work today.

I'm really not that capricious or inclined to sudden and absurd action, but as long as it's a non-zero probability, I'll stick with the double-edged safety razor and leave my imp of the perverse to mull over this box of Thin Mints instead.

Hmmm. Eat just one or two, or the whole box? Hmmm.
posted by sonascope at 7:52 AM on September 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Straight razor shaving does not have to be a time-sink. I shave daily with a Feather Artist Club straight razor that takes proprietary disposable blades. One pass with that gives me a closer shave than I ever received from an electric razor. 5 minutes and I'm done. Most of that comes from whipping up some lather.
The blades are about $15 for a pack of 20, but one blade can last me for weeks if I only do one pass a day.
I concur with some of the guys above that it makes shaving something to look forward to as opposed to a chore. I'll never go back to the multi-blade or electric shavers again!
posted by ttrendel at 7:57 AM on September 19, 2011


Also alum blocks, some people swear by them.

I certainly do. Not just for cuts and nicks, but even just as a regular aftershave. It's nice to have an aftershave which isn't covering your skin with guck. A very fresh feeling, although there's a ten-second period of salt-fire-panic involved.

Also handy for travelling, instead of having to bring liquids onto the plane, or packing open bottles, etc.

Single block lasts for years.

Apparently, you can also use them as an anti-perspirant, but I've had exactly zero success with that. Unless you're shaving your pits, I don't see how that could possibly work.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:57 AM on September 19, 2011


Also, it is really not as dangerous as people make it out to be. The first shave with it can be pretty nerve-wracking, but it is pretty hard to cut yourself badly unless you are being careless. Of course, being careless is pretty hard when you have an extremely sharp blade pressed up against your neck.
posted by ttrendel at 8:00 AM on September 19, 2011


The multiblade whatever stuff and modern shave gel work fine. I shave my face and my head in the shower on a daily basis, and I change cartridges maybe every three months or so. It's good enough to get compliments from my wife.

Well, I'm convinced.
posted by device55 at 8:02 AM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I shave my face and my head in the shower on a daily basis, and I change cartridges maybe every three months or so

Woah, you can get 3 months out of one cartridge? Are you sure you're not a Play-Doh mop-top?
posted by Hoopo at 9:03 AM on September 19, 2011


I switched from an electric razor in college to a cartridge razor in preparation for international travel (later cancelled, sadly). I was trying to figure out what power adapters I needed and realized that a cartridge razor neatly sidestepped the issues and is much more portable to boot. I never switched back.

We tend to aggressively seek discounts in this household, and razors are one of those things that actually we tend to not pay for. If you clip coupons, every so often the razors will go on sale cheaply enough that they're free after coupons (generally when they're introducing a new model, I guess). Unfortunately it means that I have all these razor bodies left over because it's the razors, not the cartridges, that go on sale. It's wasteful. But it is inexpensive.

I seem to be in the underrepresented "fast and cheap" demographic. Does anyone know if there's a faster shave than a cartridge razor in the shower? Because I'm all about the speed.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 9:17 AM on September 19, 2011


My favorite TSA/razor story involves me going home for Thankgiving only to realize after the checkpoint that I had a straight razor in my bad. It really made me feel 'safe' that I could get something so sharp and dangerous through with so little effort. Scary stuff.
posted by Carillon at 9:40 AM on September 19, 2011


Some talk above discusses brands of DE blades. I started with a small sample pack that had about 5-10 blades each for about 5 different brands. After some trial and error, I use Personna Red blades daily (OK, maybe I skip Saturday since I have no one at work or church to impress). I did not like the "free" Merkur blade I got with my 34C.
posted by fijiwriter at 10:14 AM on September 19, 2011


A decent badger costs $30 or so

Same as in town?

And chalk me up as someone else who is not only quite happy with Mach 3, but has to change them so infrequently as to not really be sure how many blades I go through a year (that's with five-times-a-week face shaving plus touching up my three-times-a-week scalp shaving (with a triple-bladed HeadBlade)). I may be an edge case, because I have very oily and therefore very tender skin, but the triple blades are better than doubles were in terms of minimizing nicks, and I don't recall my safety-razor days with fondness at all.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:21 PM on September 19, 2011


Also handy for travelling, instead of having to bring liquids onto the plane, or packing open bottles, etc.

So - curiosity begs the question: How well do straight razors travel on todays airlines?
posted by jkaczor at 1:55 PM on September 19, 2011


I'm kind of amazed at the people who can use cartridges more than a couple of times. One of the reasons I've switched to a safety razor for my legs is that I couldn't bear the expense and waste of a blade cartridge I could only use twice.
posted by padraigin at 1:57 PM on September 19, 2011


Went from a Mach3 to a safety razor a few years ago. I tried, I really did. Followed all the instructions and tips, bought good blades, did all the prep work, etc.

It shredded my face and was nowhere near as close as the Mach3.
posted by Ratio at 2:34 PM on September 19, 2011


I must be doing it wrong; can't get a good shave without nicking my jawline with a safety razor. I can shave myself just fine with a straight razor after giving the edge a good strop.

A Mach3 cartridge blade lasts me 3 or 4 months, though, so I'm pretty sure I'm some kind of facial hair weirdo.

(Shaving soap and a cheap boar brush with all three shaving implements.)
posted by porpoise at 2:50 PM on September 19, 2011


Been using a Safety razor since 2005. If you get the chance, ask older male relatives for ones they have knocking around in a draw, I got my grandfather's and father's old gillettes just from asking.

Can't believe no-one has recommended the Gillette Swedish Blue blades. I can get some Chinese edition gillettes blades and Shick DE blades here in Shenzhen, but ran out of Israeli Personnas alas. If cheap is what you're looking for, the Palmolive solid shave stick is about $1-2 and lasts ages, pair that with a brush and that's luxury for budget pricing.
posted by arcticseal at 5:13 PM on September 19, 2011


I see from the site Lord Voldemort is a big fan.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:48 PM on September 19, 2011


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