How to Shave with a Safety Razor
Grandpa’s razor was simpler than yours: One razor. A bristled brush. Some shave soap. In my opinion, a man’s shave in this day and age should be simple as well.
However, technology is moving so quickly that tablets will soon sprout gills and occupy coral reefs. Communication is technology’s blue ribbon. Shaving didn’t even get a consolation prize. Space-aged shaving goo, copious blades, and batteries have adulterated the morning shave. Fortunately, a friend of mine introduced me to the best shave technology that has ever been produced – and it predates sliced bread: the straight edge razor
Stepping Up the Game – Double Edge Safety Razor
Double-edged razors are also known as DE or safety razors. Today’s cartridge razors are actually an evolution of safety razors, but most “avid shavers” (men who find satisfaction in shaving) will make the terms mutually exclusive to distinguish between the two. Years ago, barbers were the shavers. Not willing to take a straight-edged blade to their own necks, men paid professionals to prep them for hot dates and interviews. With the advent of double-edged razors, men could shave at home – it was safer and easier than the straight edge. Hence, the moniker “safety razor.”
How to Shave with a DE Razor
- Soak your brush in steaming water; this softens the bristles. Using a brush will enhance any man’s shaving experience (badger hair is the way to go – Best Badger will do but Silver Tip is superior). Brushes help lift hairs, which means a closer shave.
- Shake some of the water out of the brush. Using the damp brush, lather your shave soap. Let the bristles massage your face as you apply the lather in circular motions. If your soap turns into a Santa beard, you’re on the right path.
- Make the first pass with your razor. Keep it angled at about 30 degrees.
- Pull straight down. Don’t apply pressure – let the handle’s weight take care of that.
- Flex or do something else you consider manly. Maybe chop down a tree with an axe.
I recommend doing 1-2 passes with the grain of your beard and one light pass against the grain for perfect smoothness. Be careful when going against the grain – it’s ingrown hair territory (the first two passes lessen those chances).
Advantages & Disadvantages of Double Edges Razors
I must admit – cartridge razors are not worthless. They are quick, though not as quick as electric razors. I’ll still use one if I’m racing to work and can’t possibly wait for a quality shave. They are easy and safe. I consistently struck out in Little League – as a teenager, if I could swing cartridge razors around my face without killing myself, anyone can.
In my opinion, the most redeeming quality of cartridge razors is that long beards are no matter. This is the one place DE razors fail – if I haven’t shaved in four days, it pulls. It tugs. It’s painful. If I have vacation beard, my first shave is with a cartridge. Once the overgrowth is trimmed, it’s back to a real shave.
Cartridges may require no skill, but they come with a price: For eight Mach3 Turbo cartridges you’ll pay $25. For a third of that price, a mere $7.50, you can buy 100 Derby Extra razors.
I’m not kidding. A third of the price, four times the razors, and a shave your special lady friend won’t forget.
Typically, people shaving with cartridges use shaving cream out of the can – gross – that stuff can clog your pores and it hardly lubricates. Plus – what is that stuff? Shaving soaps or creams to lather yourself lubricate better, can be much cheaper, and can be better for your skin.
Safety razors provoke less ingrown hairs. How? Imagine peeling a potato: one blade gets the top layer off. What if your potato peeler had two blades? As the second blade peels a little more after the first, you’re now wasting good food! What if your potato peeler had – no joke – six blades?
Now imagine that potato is your face. One blade is enough for me.
You know what makes me feel tough? Increasing weight at the gym. Want to know what makes me feel really tough? Applying shave soap with a brush in the gym’s bathroom. It’s like tripling whatever you lift.
Who knew satisfaction lurked behind my morning chore?
Safety razors often stow away in dark corners of beauty stores, but I recommend shopping online. My entire shaving outfit cost $25 – the same price as my replacement Mach3 blades. The next investment, new DE blades, was less than $3.
As with all things, if you want the best of the best, you can pay as much as you’d like: Handles alone can cost $160, and I’ve seen $55 shave soaps. Some men prefer bespoke suits, but I’m more of a well-tailored off-the-rack kind of guy. The results are similar, but a canyon separates the final costs. I’m content supplying myself for the next 6 months under $15.
DE Shaving Gear – What to Buy for a Great Double Edge Shave
- Kent BLK12 Traditional King-Sized (Silver Tip badger): $235
- Edwin Jaeger Best Badger: $44
- Parker w/ Rosewood handle (boar): $16
Safety razors are not for everyone: just like how a hard day’s work, standing your ground, hauling wood, and opening doors for beautiful women aren’t for everyone. To each his own, I suppose.
Shaving with a double-edged razor does take more time and effort, but the returns pay in spades. If you can’t put a little extra effort into your appearance, don’t expect any edge on the man who can. If you have any questions, I’ll be listening to Johnny Cash and working a firm pomade into my hair.