A Straight Razor Shave; Why Not?

Discussion in 'Articles' started by stingraysrock, Mar 8, 2011.

  1. stingraysrock

    stingraysrock PIF'd away his custom title

    I am a novice. Let us get that out of the way right now.

    While I have been using straights almost exclusively for many weeks now, I am far from what I would call an expert. My shaves are quite often DFS, with a sprinkling of BBS here and there, but I think that they can and will be better as time moves on.

    I think one of the reasons why my shaves are not quite what they could be is because I have not studied the art of the straight razor shave very much. I certainly have not researched techniques to the extent I did when getting into DE shaving.

    My approach to shaving with the straight has been limited to watching TSD Board Member Chimensch / Dov shave in his anniversary video, and a few You Tube videos that PanChango / Dale has sent me links to. In fact, I have spent more time researching the provenance of vintage straights, hones and strops than I have spent studying the mechanics of the shave itself.

    The reason for my woeful lack of preparation and study is where this story begins. This is not a story of how to shave with a straight; it is my supposition of why people are reluctant to delve into straight razor shaving in the first place, myself included.

    In a word; hype.

    Hype I believe is short for hyperbole, which is to exaggerate the significance of something without directly comparing it to another object. An example of hyperbole would be me holding my wife's purse and saying "this thing weighs a ton." Obviously I cannot possibly hold something weighing a ton, but I most likely conveyed my opinion that BG's purse is very heavy, and did so by placing a picture in your head of someone holding a very heavy object.

    Last week during my weekly one on one with Charlie, my department head, somehow the conversation got steered into the subject of shaving. Charlie stated that he shaves in the shower with a Gillette Mach 3 and that he has been thinking about switching to a Fusion and he wanted to know what I thought about the Fusion. I told Charlie that I gave up cartridge razors almost a year ago in favor of a double edge safety razor and more recently I had taken up shaving with a straight razor. The look on Charlie's face was priceless! Charlie says "Don't you cut yourself to pieces? I can see you in the obituaries; man dies after cutting own throat while shaving!" The story goes on and on from there, but you can tell from his hyperbole that somehow Charlie bought into the notion that shaving with a straight razor is dangerous.

    So where does the notion of a straight razor shave is dangerous come from? Perhaps it is a conspiracy! Did somewhere along the line a manufacturer of shaving equipment hatch some grand scheme to brainwash the planet into thinking straight razors could kill you? That view is perhaps a bit extreme, but there are folks out there who think the moon landing was faked too...

    The idea of (insert manufacturer here) creating some kind of artificial shortage of a certain product, or carrying out a well orchestrated " campaign of planned obsolescence" has been bandied about before, so I will not go into it here. No friends, in my opinion, the answer is so much easier, although perhaps just as sinister; the media.

    Be it movies, magazines, newspapers, cartoons, sit-coms, commercials, or any other kind of vehicle where you are held as a captive audience is exactly where the whole notion of straight razors being dangerous all started. Can you cut yourself with a straight razor? Of course you can. Can you cut yourself with a safety razor? Yes you can. Can you cut yourself with a cartridge razor? Indeed, you can, although the cuts are not going to be as deep as a straight or a safety razor, but that is just a matter of blade exposure.

    Any way you slice it (no pun intended) you can cause yourself to bleed while shaving. The difference between getting cut with a cartridge razor and a straight razor is that the straight razor makes for a better story.

    The original tale of Sweeny Todd was created in the mid-1800's and has been re-told and adapted for a variety of audiences over the years. Whatever form the tale takes, be it a stage play or on the big screen, you still have victims having their throats cut with a straight razor. Would the story have the same panache if the razor was a Mach 3? I doubt it. Does any razor other than a straight razor have the moniker "cut throat razor?" Nay. In fact the term "cut throat" is used in a variety of ways from outright murder by throat cutting to implying that something or someone as particularly dangerous or deceitful. Further, the term "razor sharp" implies that a blade is so sharp you can shave with it, among other disambiguation’s. The early days of shaving consisted of using whatever means available to shave with, be it rocks, shark teeth, shovels, axes, or swords.

    Once hardened steel was invented in the mid-1700's, and along with it, straight razors, we were presented with a superior edge, perhaps the likes of which have never been duplicated. The price of razors and their associated maintenance tools tended to be pricey, so a vast majority of people wanting a shave visited a barber, and so the seeds for the idea of having your throat cut by your barber must have been planted.

    In addition to Sweeny Todd, there are other slasher flicks that feature straight razors such as Repulsion by Roman Polanski (his first English language film circa 1965,) American Nightmare, House On The Edge Of The Park (truly twisted and sick, not for the faint of heart) and who could forget the hitch hiker scene in Texas Chainsaw Massacre? There are any number of other venues which feature people being injured with a straight razor. Couple these stories with perhaps a few truths and eventually you end up with a sort of urban legend that could lead people to believe that since we have "safety" razors, somehow that means that straight razors are not safe.

    I wish to draw your attention to another possibility, one so dastardly that the mere thought of its existence makes my skin crawl: Yellow Journalism; the ultimate hype machine! We have all seen newspaper stories with a tag line of "run-a-way truck crashes into school bus." Immediately, this brings to mind images of a tractor trailer driver losing control of a rig and causing a crash. However, many times, once you actually read the story, you find out that the "truck" was actually a regular everyday pick-up truck.

    Perhaps my idea of Yellow Journalism is a tad off base, but I think you get my point.

    Perhaps "Yellow Journalism" is not appropriate when talking about advertising campaigns per se; however, we do see claims from shaving products to be "safer" "closer" "faster" "smoother" etc. In my opinion, a lot of those claims are exaggerated and qualify as maybe just a little yellow, or perhaps off-white? Why does this matter you ask? Well, consider this; you buy a straight razor and you use it for life. Where is the profit in that for a shaving products company? This is exactly what Gillette had in mind when he wanted a shave but did not want to be bothered with paying for a shave or maintaining a blade. So he figured out how to attach a blade to a handle at such an angle that the likelihood of being cut through the mishandling of the blade was lessened.

    Now, add a dash of "new" "improved" "safer" "sharper" "convenient" and "cheaper" to the equation and before you know it, the straight razor is somehow sidelined as being inferior, if not downright dangerous when there are "safer" options available.

    Keep in mind that this piece is all about my opinion, my supposition as to why more people are not using straight razors. One more reason is that perhaps while growing up, no one in your house used a straight razor, so you never picked one up either. This, in addition to all of the hype regarding the danger of shaving with a straight razor is the case with me.

    Until now that is.

    Once I got onto The Shave Den, a whole new world of hair removal was opened up to me. I jumped right in to the DE's and the SE's along with Injectors. While exploring my new hobby, I saw lots of people using straights and I figured that they were crazy! However, as the months went on, I found myself more and more curious. I would see threads where people were getting DFS and BBS and never spending a dime on blades. I looked at all the pictures of the SOS posts with the straights and read about the love of shaving that people have with these remarkable instruments and then one day I was bit by the SRAD bug.

    Now I have five straights in a rotation with four more that need restoration and I could not be happier, or more eager to shave every day. I wish my hair grew faster and thicker so I would have to shave multiple times a day!

    Anyway, if you are one of the people standing on the sidelines thinking that straights are not for you regardless of what anyone else thinks, that is your belief and you stick to it.

    However, if you are a person standing on the sidelines thinking that you would like to try a straight, but you think they are too dangerous, but you want to try anyway, I encourage you to jump on in! If you are getting fantastic shaves on a constant basis with a safety razor, then you already have most of the basics nailed down.

    What is left to learn is buying the right shave ready blade and a strop and then learning the correct angles. That is it. Really! You can learn how to hone later, or you can just keep sending razors out for honing; there is no shame in that.

    So what do you say? Are you ready?

    Let's Do It!
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2017
  2. Williams Warrior

    Williams Warrior Well-Known Member

    Sounds like your going to make a full conversion to straights eventually. As of right now I only have a fleeting interest in them even though a nice one is a work of art in my eyes but the initial cost of start up is prohibitive. Don't know if I'm wrong, I'm sure someone can correct me but my SE and injector trials yielded less than satisfactory results in the comfort department so is a shave ready straight more comfy than those razors mentioned? The SE and injectors felt rough and harsh while my DE is smooth.:confused:
    BeShaved likes this.
  3. Dridecker

    Dridecker Sherlock

    :eek: Fantastic job Jeff! You really seem to have a flair for writing. :happy096
  4. Queen of Blades

    Queen of Blades Mistress of Mischief Staff Member

    Moderator Supporting Vendor
    Indeed! That was a very well written, and easy to read article! A pleasure in fact! :happy096
    BeShaved likes this.
  5. Bird Lives

    Bird Lives Future Root Beer King of Turkey

    I dug it...I dig the topic, and your way with words and rhythm...I can feel the pulse of your speech through how you translate it to the page...And you render your enthusiasim in a most infectious way...Don't keep us waiting. You've got my attention, and I'm looking forward to the next installment..:)
    BeShaved likes this.
  6. battle.munky

    battle.munky Has the menthol.munky on his back!

    Yeah Jeff, awesome job. Very engaging :happy088
  7. Dslazar9

    Dslazar9 Took the Menthol-cratic Oath

    Great article, great writing-thanks for posting it.

    The Chimensch video was the final spark that convinced me to give it a go.
    I still have a lot to learn, but have been getting DFS from str8's and of course have a wicked RAD. I just sent 4 razors to Glennsixgun for a hone. Luckily I have about 6 more at home that are cut throat sharp.
    Of course the advise I got from TSD folk get me from butchering myself-too bad.
    BeShaved likes this.
  8. Bullwinkle

    Bullwinkle Member

    I have been thinking hard about a straight.. but, as mentioned the start-up, etc is a little overwheming. What do you fellow's that use a straight think about the Feather AS system?
    BeShaved likes this.
  9. PanChango

    PanChango Not Cute

    I would take a look at whippeddog.com.

    Larry has helped many people get started.
  10. Billr

    Billr Mix Master Mighty White!

    :sihns011 +1 On Larry - he is great.

    Thanks for the read Jeff - You do write very well. Looking forward to more!
  11. Williams Warrior

    Williams Warrior Well-Known Member

    It was late last night and I totally forgot to give you props for the article!! Sorry about that. I wish I could write, I can barely string sentences together and have them make sense sometimes.:D
    BeShaved likes this.
  12. excalibur5

    excalibur5 Member

    +2 on Larry. I have a freshly honed one on its way from him at the moment. Can't wait to try it out.

    Another source for the elusive straight without killing the wallet is the "for sale" thread on this and other forums. I bought my other straight that way (at the straight razor place classified section), and got a great deal. Be VERY careful of E-bay for straights.
    BeShaved likes this.
  13. stingraysrock

    stingraysrock PIF'd away his custom title

    +3 on Larry. Glen has some higher end stuff for sale too.

    Also, thanks for the props Ya'll! It is fun! I am cooking up something else as we speak...
  14. Dslazar9

    Dslazar9 Took the Menthol-cratic Oath

    I've had great experiences with 2 straight pros-Bob Keyes and Glen (glensixgunn).

    Both do a great job of honing and restoring. Bob Keyes has a wonderful selection of vintage straights. Both are extremely helpful and responsive.
    BeShaved likes this.
  15. A fantastic read Jeff. Nothing short of what I envisioned. Keep up the good work and keep'em rolling...:happy088
    BeShaved likes this.
  16. Kyhunter

    Kyhunter Active Member

    bravo Jeff. Ive got two straights here and more one way. I need to send then off to be honed. I actually cant wait.
    BeShaved likes this.
  17. stingraysrock

    stingraysrock PIF'd away his custom title

    Lloyd, My Brother, writing for me is a Passion. It always has been. From high school to college,and in my note books that I have kept through the years. Writing is like Jazz; just go with what feels good at the moment, live in the moment, improvise, explore the range of your instrument and for some reason, it all gels with your surrounding. There are no accidents; only happy opportunities to go another direction. So what if you played an F sharp when you meant to play the F flat; it is all A, B, C, D, E, F and G, with half steps either side in between!
    BeShaved likes this.
  18. cyb

    cyb Member

    Jeff, that was a great story with great writing. I really enjoyed the pics as well. Bravo! Looking forward to the next piece. I've been reading your SOS posts about your straight shaves, and that has been inspiring. I have been pulling together the tools for my own straight razor odyssey.
  19. Chimensch

    Chimensch Member

    Great article. Keep up the good work.
  20. swarden43

    swarden43 "It's your shave. Enjoy it your way."©

    Finally took a minute to read this. Great job, Jeff!:happy088:happy088
    Looking forward to your next article.

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