The art of shaving
The first hint any man has that heʼs graduated from childhood is when he starts to grow facial hair and has to learn how to shave. Men these days have the choice of an electric shaver or a multi-blade razor, but there is an art and beauty to the straight razor shave, which has returned to the men’s grooming scene in recent years.
The process of a straight razor shave is a morning ablution, a ritual that a gentleman engages in as a matter of mental preparation . A handful of barbers still practise this in the salon, but if you know how to do it, the straight razor still offers the closest shave that one can possibly have. The trick is to avoid leaving too many cuts on your skin that it looks bad. Plenty of establishments sell straight razor shaving kits that range from the accessible to the premium.
Itʼs essential that you do not rush the process of shaving. Depending on how fast your beard grows, it can take anytime between 20 and 30 minutes, and as you grow more proficient, you can probably do it in under 10. But the point is to enjoy the moment. Think of it as a quiet time at the start of the day, getting your mind ready for the challenges ahead.
WHAT YOU NEED
A straight razor kit is available in most grooming stores and websites. You should have the following:
1 Shaving brush
1 Brush stand
1 Razor (straight razor)
1 Sharpening belt strop
1 Shaving cream
1 After-shave balm
1 Terry cloth towel
After you have used your brush, wash it and let it drip dry on the brush stand. Do not attempt to wipe it dry on a towel as this may cause them to fall out or bend.
Rushing into your shave is a terrible idea, guaranteed to leave you with plenty of cuts that may make it look like youʼve gone five rounds with Sweeney Todd. Hereʼs a quick guide to accomplishing the perfect straight razor shave at home.
STEP1 Start with warming the skin. This can be achieved with either wrapping a hot moist towel around the face for a few minutes, or taking a shower. This opens up the pores of the skin and makes it easier to shave.
STEP2(OPTIONAL) Apply a pre-shave oil to the skin. The oil helps to ease the process of shaving, preventing irritation afterwards.
STEP3 Wet the bristles of your shaving brush with warm water, and pick up some shaving cream at the centre of the brush. In a circular motion, spread the lather on your face. Add hot water to produce more froth if necessary. STEP4 Allow the shaving cream to sit for a while. Meanwhile, if you have a fixed blade, sharpen it with a strop to ensure it is sharp and smooth. This helps to reduce the likelihood of nicks to the skin.
STEP5 Start to shave from the sides of the face. Hold the skin tight and let the blade sit flush to the face, then tilt it slightly. Without applying pressure and in a smooth motion, let the blade follow the grain of the hair. Use shorter strokes at first and finish off with longer strokes.
STEP6 Repeat with the jawline and the neck area, until most of the hair is removed. Remember not to apply any pressure. This is not a cartridge razor. Slicing your neck is not something you wish to experience.
STEP7 Lather up once more and repeat the procedure, but perpendicular to the grain. On the neck, this is likely to be difficult, so skip this if you wish.
STEP8 Repeat the procedure, going against the grain this time. This is when most shaving accidents happen, so be careful, particularly where the skin is not clearly visible – the lower end of the jaw and the neck, as well
WHAT THIS DOES
The circular motion lifts the hair on the skin, so that the blade cuts the hair follicles at the base rather than the top, making it smoother.
as around the earlobes. Use a smooth action without aggressive force.
STEP9 Rinse off with cold water to close off the pores.
STEP10(OPTIONAL) Apply an after-shave balm to soothe the skin. Although this is a matter of personal preference, it is advised by professionals.
HOW TO HOLD YOUR BLADE
Your ring finger should sit on the tang (the curved hinge against the handle), with your thumb on the shank, at the front of the blade. The index and middle fingers sit on the back of the blade, giving you optimum control over pressure.
For those who choose to work with a safety razor rather than a straight razor, the process is much the same, but the straight handle makes it much easier to control the strength and motion of your shave. Sharpening the razor, however, is unnecessary. Just replace it with a new blade.
With a honer that’s wet down, in a criss-cross motion, swipe the blade on both sides across the stone. Repeat 15 times, and 30 times in the same way on the leather strop to keep it sharp.