Day 1: Upgrade Your Shave with a Straight or Safety Razor & Shave Soap

This post is part of the 21 Days to a Manlier Green series

Ditch the plastic multi-blade piece of junk and those aerosolized cans of neon blue gel. Reclaim the manly ritual of shaving, using a blade and some soap to cleave the hair from your face. You’ll reduce the amount of waste you produce, save some green, and be a better man for it.

Upgrade Your Shave

Shaving, A Man’s Right of Passage

I don’t remember the first time I shaved. It was an important day on my journey to becoming a man, yet I don’t remember it.

It doesn’t help that it was so long ago, back when I was in the 5th grade. Yes… the 5th grade. I’m a hairy guy and it’s nothing new.

I started shaving at the end of elementary school and could grow a full beard by the start of high school, when I was also already 6’2”. I was an awkward kid. Hell, I’m still awkward but I’ve come to terms with it.

Even though I’ve been shaving for the majority of my life, it wasn’t until after college that I became good at shaving. At first, I had no idea what I was doing.

Apply shaving cream. Resist urge to spray shaving cream all over the place. Take razor in hand. Move razor across face, with the aim of removing hair and not cutting myself. Rinse face. Dab cuts with tissues.

As I said, I had no idea what I was doing.

Learning to Shave

straight and safety razor shave 3Once upon a time, I feel that fathers took the time to teach their sons the ritual of shaving. Just as I don’t remember the first time I shaved, I don’t remembering being taught how to shave. This isn’t to say my dad didn’t teach me. My dad has taught me plenty during my life. I assume he showed me how to shave, but it’s not a clear memory. Nothing special.

And that’s just it. For the vast majority of men, shaving is nothing special. It’s a routine hygienic activity and not a ritual, as shaving once was.

Just look at antique razors and shave mugs. They were ornate works of art. Detailed enameled mugs and bushy badger hair brushes for working soap into a rich lather. German-made straight razors with acid etched designs and buffalo horn handles. Or even a chrome-finished one-piece double-edge safety razor, with its neat clean lines and industrial appeal.

If taken care of, these shaving tools last a lifetime. They could be passed on from father to son.

Who want’s to pass on a used can of shave gel and a dull five blade plastic razor?

It’s time to go back to the time of our grand and great-grandfathers. Time to dust off an old tradition and resharpen the skill of shaving.

Be Green, Save Green

Modern shaving equipment is designed to provide a decent shave without much skill involved. Shave gel comes out of the can, ready to be smeared across your face. Razors have multiple blades, sharp enough for a handful of shaves at best. When used up, toss and repeat.

Just how many razors are we throwing away each year in the U.S.?

As Americans, 320 million people and counting, we toss out more than 2 billion disposable razors each year (source).

2 billion disposable razors!

These plastic and metal razors and cartridges aren’t built to be recycled. If you buy them, you’re committed to eventually tossing them into the trash (or developing a weird collection of old used razors…). There is just no other way around it for the time being.

Switching to a straight or safety razor, however, is going to be an investment – an investment that is going to make you man-up and save some serious cash.

Safety Razor

A new safety razor will cost you around $30 (Merkur Long Handled Safety Razor), which is more than a disposable razor. The blades, however, only cost 30 cents as opposed to $3 or more for the popular Gillet Mach3 cartridge. Given that a well-taken-care-of, quality safety razor won’t wear out, you’ll make your money back in no time.

straight and safety razor shave 4The safety razor is my go-to beard removal tool. I use an antique 1950’s Gillet safety razor that I snagged for $5 at a local junk shop.

I restored the razor using an old tooth-brush, borax with a little water added to form a paste, and some elbow grease to get all the gunk off. I followed this with several rinses in clean water. Lastly, I brought the razor back to its original glory with a Dremel, polishing pad, and some chrome buffing compound. An excellent $5 investment.

This razor has traveled the world with me. Replacement blades were easy to find in China, Burkina Faso, and Senegal – as safety razors are what they still use.

Straight Razor

The straight razor is the ultimate man shave. Saving with a straight razor is a skill and if done right will produce the closest shave you have every had, hands down.

There is, however, something a little scary about the idea of a straight razor. The idea of taking an extremely sharp piece of metal and gliding it across your throat… I’ve seen Sweeney Todd.

straight and safety razor shave 2This is an overhyped fear. Given the angle of holding the blade and the direction a razor is moved while shaving, you’ll do nothing more than nick yourself. Most shaving cuts come from either being careless or a dull blade that snags on a hair, causing the razor to ‘jump.’ A sharp straight razor is going to keep both from happening – you sure as hell won’t rush with a sharp blade and a sharp blade is not going to snag, even on the toughest of facial hair.

Straight razors are an investment.

I wouldn’t spend anything less than $150 dollars. Seek out a straight razor that is shave ready and already honed. Along with a straight razor, you’re going to want to buy a leather strop to keep the razor sharp, which will range between $20 and $70 dollars depending on the quality and craftsmanship. My favorite place to find these items is actually Etsy.com.

Yes, this may seem like a lot, but a good straight razor and strop is going to last a very, very long time. If you invested $230 dollars in a straight razor, you would make your money back in a year-and-a-half (given $3 standard replacement blades, changed every week). Then, for the next 60 years, you’ll be saving money. How much?

$9,360

(or ~ $26,256 compounded with 3% interest)

Not a bad investment. Then, you have to think of all the waste you’re a saving with each shave. You won’t be adding to the 2 billion disposable razors tossed out each year. You’ll even be wasting less than with a safety razor, which still produces wasted thin metal blades.

To top it all off, you’ll be paying homage to your manly forefathers each time you shave.

Shave Brush and Mug

Canned shaving cream is pretty cheap and it lasts a long time. Once you’ve used the can up, however, it has to be thrown away. Most municipal recycling centers in the U.S. don’t recycle these cans.

straight and safety razor shave 1Shaving cream cans, as well as other aerosol cans, once contained CFCs as the propellant. CFCs, which led to the hole in the earth’s ozone layer, have since then been banned. The compressed gases that replaced CFCs in aerosol cans still aren’t doing the environment any favors. These gases are comprised of hydrocarbons and volatile organic compounds (VOC), which contribute to global warming, ground-level ozone, and smog.

Better alternative? Shave soap, placed in a shave mug, whipped to a rich lather with a shave brush. You know… the way it was done for hundreds of years.

I’ve been using the same brush for 6 years and my bar of shave soap seems to be never-ending.

How To Shave

Shaving with a straight or safety razor is going to take some getting used to. For the time being, I won’t be writing any posts on how to shave with these tools. Rather, I’ll defer to some of the great content already out there:

 

Already shave with a straight or safety razor? Thinking of making the switch? Comment below and please share this post with your friends. Here’s to a manlier greener world! Cheers!

Image Credit: Ryan Hyde

3 Replies to “Day 1: Upgrade Your Shave with a Straight or Safety Razor & Shave Soap”

  1. I’ve been wanting to make this switch for a while now (lately, I’ve been opting for not shaving at all, but using the beard trimmer I got for my birthday instead). Thanks for the links.

    Also, I completely sympathize with the started shaving in elementary school thing.

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