How To Shave Like Your Grandpa

by Brett on January 4, 2008 · 347 comments

in Dress & Grooming, Shaving

shaving1.pngProper shaving has become a lost art. Today’s average male has no clue about the fine art of the traditional wet shave that their grandfathers and some of their fathers used to take part in. Instead, they’re only accustomed to the cheap and disposable shaving products that companies market. I’m not sure when or why it happened, but the tradition of passing down the secrets of a clean shave abruptly stopped. Thankfully, this glorious male ritual is making a comeback.

Benefits of the Classic Wet Shave

Reduce costs. An 8-pack of your typical 4-blade cartridge razors can set you back over $20. $20! That’s $2.50 per cartridge. The cost of a double-edged safety razor is no more than $.25. You can save some serious money switching over to a safety razor. Additionally, you can save money by using traditional shaving creams and soaps. A can of the chemically packed gel goop that most drug stores sell can cost you up to $5 a can and it doesn’t even last that long, and they don’t give you a quality shave. On the other hand, traditional shave creams and soaps are made out of natural materials. While their up-front cost may be a bit more than shaving gels, you require less product to get a proper lather. Thus, you end up saving more in the long run.

Reduce environmental impact. Traditional wet shaving with a double-edged safety razor uses less waste than shaving with cartridge razors. The only waste is a single metal razor blade and lather down the sink. Unlike today’s razor cartridges, a double-edged blade can easily be recycled. The tubes and bowls that most traditional shave creams and soaps are sold in produce less waste than those clunky non-biodegradable aerosol canisters that gels come in.

Better, more consistent shaves. Most men today walk around not knowing they have horrible shaves. Electric razors and the latest 5-blade contraptions irritate the skin more than needed, leaving razor burn, ingrown hairs, and redness. Shaving with a safety razor will eliminate the skin irritation and give your face a clean, healthy look because you’re just using one blade instead of several that chew up your face in order to cut your whiskers.

You’ll feel like a bad ass. It’s nice taking part in a ritual that great men like your grandfather, John F. Kennedy, and Teddy Roosevelt took part in.

The Tools

Safety Razor

gilletesafetyrazorvig.jpgSwitching from a cheap disposable razor to a double-edged safety razor is like upgrading from a Pinto to a Mercedes. A safety razor is a machine. It’s nice holding a piece of heavy, sturdy metal in your hand while you’re shaving as opposed to a piece of cheap-o plastic.

You can find safety razors in a variety of places. First, ask your grandpa if he still has his. Chances are he does. If gramps doesn’t have one, try checking antique stores. I found my 1966 Gillette Superspeed Safety Razor in an antique store in Vermont. I only paid $10 for it. If you don’t have any luck there, stop by eBay and do a search for safety razors. You’re bound to find a few there. Finally, if buying a used safety razor doesn’t fancy you, you can always buy a new one from the several companies that still make them. A highly recommended safety razor is from Merkur. They have several types to choose from at varying prices. Look to spend about $40 for a new safety razor.

Suggested Razors
Merkur Classic Safety Razor, Straight-#178- Made in Germany
Merkur Futur Adjustable Double Edge Safety Razor with Satin Finish- #700- Made in Germany
Merkur Classic Long Handled Safety Razor, Straight


You can choose from a variety of different blades. Each blade has a unique sharpness and cutting ability. Experiment with different kinds until you find the ones you like.

Suggested Razors
American Personna. You can find these in most drugstores. They’re usually marketed as generic brand blades. They’re pretty forgiving for the first-time user.
Merkur Double Edge Razor Blades- Pack of 10 Blades- Made in Germany

Shaving Brush

shave2.jpgIf you’ve never used a brush during shaving, you’re in for a treat. A brush helps hydrate the shaving cream in order to form a thick, rich shaving lather. Using a brush to lather up helps get the shaving cream up under each whisker which results in better, smoother shaves. Plus, it just feels nice on your face to lather up with a brush.

Brushes are made out of two types of animal hair: boar and badger. Boar bristles are stiffer than badger bristles and hold less water. Boar hair brushes are also cheaper. You can find a boar hair brush at Walmart for about $4. If you really want to have a nice shaving experience, splurge and buy a badger hair brush. Badger brushes create more lather and it feels a lot nicer on your face. You can pick up a nice badger brush at any Crabtree and Evelyn. If you don’t have a Crabtree in your area, try Amazon.

Suggested Brushes
Omega Creamy Curved Handle Pure Badger Shaving Brush – #13109
Porter’s Badger Shaving Brush
Omega Brownie Junior Badger Shaving Brush with Stand – #63184

Soaps and Creams

If you’re like the average guy, you’ve probably been getting your shaving cream from a can. This blue/green, chemically laced goop does nothing for your face and smells like a hospital. Traditional shave creams and soaps, on the other hand, are full of natural ingredients that nourish your face and leave you smelling absolutely manly. While these high-quality creams and soaps may cost more than the can stuff, just a dab will create enough lather for you to lather up twice.

Suggested Creams and Soaps

Proraso Eucalyptus & Menthol Shaving Cream 150 ml.
Kiss My Face Fragrance Free Moisture Shave, 11-Ounce Pumps (Pack of 4)
Taylor of Old Bond Street Sandalwood Shaving Cream Jar
Proraso Shave Cream Tube
Body Shop For Men Shave Cream

The Technique

Prep your beard. If you want a clean shave, you need to prep your beard adequately. The goal during beard prep is to soften your whiskers so shaving is easier and causes less irritation. The best way to soften your beard is to to shave right when you get out of the shower. The hot water from your shower should hydrate and soften your beard enough for shaving. If you haven’t showered, at least wet your beard with some hot water. A hot towel is a great way to soften the facial hair.

Lather up. Take a small dollop (about the size of nickel) of your shave cream and place it in a mug. Take your brush that you’ve pre-soaked with water and swirl the cream around until you get a nice thick lather. Apply the lather with your brush in swirling motions. When your face is nice and covered, take a few strokes to smooth everything out.

The shave. Unlike shaving with cartridge razors, shaving with a safety razor actually requires some skill and technique. Once mastered, though, you should be shaving effectively in no time. The four keys to a successful shave with a safety razor are: 1) use as little pressure as possible, 2) angle the blade as far away from your face as possible, 3) shave with the grain, and 4) go for beard reduction, not beard removal. This will take some getting used to if you have used cartridges your entire life.

You don’t need to use pressure because the weight of the safety razor is sufficient to cut your beard. If you press down, you’ll end up hacking up your face. To help counter the tendency to apply pressure, try holding the razor by the tip of the handle.

Angling your razor is probably the trickiest part. The proper angle is somewhere between 30 and 45 degrees. To get the proper razor angle, put the top of the razor head directly on your cheek, with the handle parallel with the floor. Now slowly lower the handle until the blade can cut your whisker. Practice on your arm if you’re not comfortable practicing on your face.

While shaving against the grain can get you that smooth feel, you risk slicing up your face and causing ingrown hairs. When you’re first starting out, shave with the grain of your beard. If you lather up and pass the razor more than once over your face, you’re guaranteed to get a smooth finish.

The goal with shaving should be gradual beard reduction, not beard removal in one deft swoop. Most men try to get rid of their beard in one pass of the razor. This hack-and-go technique is what causes the majority of skin irritations. If you want to avoid skin irritation, lather up and pass your razor over your face several times. Your face will thank you.

Post-shave. Rinse your face off with some cold water to close your pores. Treat your face to a nice aftershave. There are several to choose from, so pick the one you like best. Aftershave helps reduce any irritation that may have occurred and will leave your skin looking healthy.

Additional Resources

Several resources exist on the internet on traditional wet shaving. Check these sites out for more information.

Badger and Blade (This is an excellent resource. I learned most of what I know about the traditional wet shave from this forum.)
A Guide to the Gourmet Shaving Experiene

{ 333 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Bill Alley January 11, 2008 at 7:57 am

“How to shave like your grandpa” left out one very important and manly fact: facial hair IS manliness. There are many of us in fact that find the clean-shaved image quite unmanly and even suspect, as though one is ‘trying to recreate their boyhood’.

The war going on between the conformists and the individual reveals one clear point: what did nature intend men to look like? For the overwhelming majority of us it became apparent in our teens that our male bodies sprouted hair in certain, if not many, places of the male body to make the strong and impressive fact that we look like we do because we are MEN…not boys anymore, not women!

And what do the gurus of Madison Avenue typically say? Well, based on ‘what women want’ or whatever flavor of style they wish to impose, we the mustached/go-teed/bearded are frequently squeezed into the box called nonconformist Neanderthal for being so. That’s EXACTLY what manly men do. They do not give into popular opinion or culture; they know exactly who they are and are not afraid to flaunt that image (such as that of the Paul Mitchell from the hairstyle world or the legendary Ernest Hemingway).

It happens from time to time that the hairy may ends up the object of desire from others, and the pendulum swings now and again in our favor. However, we manly men don’t need a swinging object to tell us that we do not need to test the wind direction to change our image; if anything, the rest of the world needs a strong reality check to find out why they are so easily manipulated into changing their own.

-Bill Alley
Norwich CT

2 alan January 13, 2008 at 1:55 pm

Sorry but theres nothing manly about a safety razor, shaving isnt supposed to be a safe activity, comback once you’ve used a straight razor and we’ll talk

3 Larryedit January 25, 2008 at 4:56 am

I’ve been trying to get my 21-year-old son to switch to a razor for a while. I’ve used a double-blade cartridge style razor for years. It took care of a problem from which he still suffers: the irritation, razor burn, and ingrown hairs. BUT you have to use it right! You can’t draw the razor up your neck, against the growing pattern of your beard. Same with your face. “Go with the grain, you’ll avoid the pain!” (New marketing slogan for shaving with a razor.) 8^)

4 Shouldn't You Be Working? January 25, 2008 at 5:44 am

[...]Just surfed over to a new blog on how to be more of a man in our modern age.

Here’s a great article on classic shaving technique: [...]

I like the author’s writing style – brief, but with meat. Check out Brett McKay’s “The Art of Manliness.”

5 Brett McKay January 25, 2008 at 3:05 pm

@ Larryedit- “Go with grain, you’ll avoid the pain.” I like that. Send your son over here and we’ll convince him to switch to wet shaving.

6 Doctuh January 30, 2008 at 5:22 pm

I am going to put another plug in for the straight razor. If you are going to go the environmental track it has 0 disposable parts. Yes a good one is a large capital cost, but once you have it you have it. If you take good care of it when you move on it can pass to your greatgrandson. It takes a little painful effort to get the hang of it but once you do you will never find anything that gives a better shave.

7 Bob Flanagan January 30, 2008 at 6:45 pm

May I suggest using Witch Hazel as an after shave instead of those perfumes? My grandfather and father used this natural astringent. It does a better job and you don’t have to put up with the fragrance.

8 Brett McKay January 30, 2008 at 6:51 pm

@ Doctuh- I’ve put a straight razor on my wish list for next Christmas. Any suggestions on a particular one?

@Bob-I’ll have to give that a try. Thanks for the tip!

9 Mike Panic January 30, 2008 at 7:41 pm

I’ve been using a Futur razor since picking one up in Austria back in 1999, been on the same bar of DR Harris lavender soap for nearly 4 years now. I couldn’t imagine shaving with anything but platinum coated double sided razors, a bar of shave soap and a badger brush.

10 Doctuh January 30, 2008 at 7:59 pm

I have a stainless steel one from Dovo in Germany. It has performed flawlessly, and as my barber attests: I have a very tough beard.

One drawback: no air travel with it, better pack the safeties for such travel.

As far as the Shave Soap / Aftershave I use the fantastical Burt’s Bees / Bay Rum line of products, the shaving soap and cologne mixed with water for an aftershave. They discontinued this line over a year ago and I personally cleaned out most of the stock I could track down in New England. It is great stuff. Their new line of men’s products is junk.

11 Ilya Monastyrsky January 30, 2008 at 8:03 pm

I have no problems with the cartridge blades. I stopped even bothering to use shaving cream and haven’t had any problems…

12 Mike Anderson January 30, 2008 at 8:43 pm

When I was 14 I decided that I was a MAN and could shave — I told my father this and he promptly went out and got me a Wade & Butcher straight razor, badger bush, shaving mug/soap, sharpening stone and strop —- needless to say I spent the next couple of years learning how to shave with, strop and sharpen the thing and, once I really did start to get a beard, was able to produce the smoothest shave I think was possible.
This all went on until I went into the Army (they didn’t let me keep the thing there) and by the time I got out I was too lazy to keep up the ritual needed to shave this way.
If, however, anyone is willing to go through the learning process you’ll be able to enjoy the nicest shave there is.

13 Brett McKay January 30, 2008 at 8:49 pm

@ IIya- My father-in-law shaves like this. It works for him. I tried it for a bit, but I just couldn’t get used to it.

@ Mike- I wish my dad got me a shaving kit like that! That’s awesome. Are you starting to get back into the ritual again?

14 Brett McKay January 30, 2008 at 8:55 pm

@ Mike Panic-
Wow! Four years with the same bar of soap! I’ll have to look into that

15 Mike Anderson January 30, 2008 at 9:03 pm

No, I don’t think I have the ambition needed to procure the supplies and relearn the old skills (funny how things used to seem so easy when you were young and so much trouble as you get older)

16 Mike Anderson January 30, 2008 at 9:07 pm

I did replace the soap from time to time (Old Spice and other suppliers would sell the cakes-and I imagine still do) — they looked like hockey pucks and fit into a standard shaving mug.

17 Brian Milner January 31, 2008 at 1:19 am

“4) go for bread reduction”

Woah Nellie! You got a typo there. :)

18 john January 31, 2008 at 8:47 am

Let me tell you the biggest advantage of using a safety razor. My safety razor will cut through a weeks growth as easy as a days growth! Cartridge razors get all clogged up when I use with over 3 days growth. I love my safety razor, but you have to be careful and make sure you don’t move it side to side. I bought a swank looking merkur futura adjustable safety razor about a year ago and love it! Like I said the best part is how it will mow down a weeks growth without clogging like a disposable razor cartridge, not to mention the cheap blades.

19 Shashank January 31, 2008 at 10:58 am

My dad taught me to shave using a safety razor. I still have my granddad’s safety razor, his brush and I used it before I came to US.

@Bob… I hate aftershaves that doesn’t sting!

20 Derek January 31, 2008 at 1:50 pm

@ first comment, Bill Alley:

“The war going on between the conformists and the individual reveals one clear point: what did nature intend men to look like?”

Blah blah blah. It always amazes me how men like you will decry the same pressures that keep women shaving off their very natural hair. If you want to have a face like beast, that’s cool. But don’t come down on clean-shaven men because we like to kiss our women without leaving a rash on their face. Laziness does not equal manliness.

Or does it?

21 A P January 31, 2008 at 1:52 pm

Try dry-shaving with a bowie knife. That’s the definition of man right there.

22 fprintf January 31, 2008 at 2:13 pm

Re: the comment about about shaving with the grain. Actually it is quite common to shave against the grain. I recommend and for the real info from the hobbyists who are really into wet shaving.

I learned initially about wetshaving from a digg post suggesting a video series from a user called “mantic59″. The trick with a safety razor or a straight razor is multiple passes for beard reduction. 1st pass, with the grain. 2nd pass, with or across the grain, 3rd (and 4th passes if you want) goes against the grain.

The downside to all of this, once you have a really smooth shave anything less, such as a single pass disposable shave, will seem awfully stubbly. So prepare to spend 10 minutes every morning the rest of your life!

23 mdpdb January 31, 2008 at 2:40 pm

equating that which is natural with the good is something ethicists and other philosophers call “the naturalistic fallacy.” case in point: if it were really true that natural things are good, we should all eschew modern medicine and die of cholera in our twenties.

sound like fun? :)

24 Animesh January 31, 2008 at 2:46 pm

Some wrong data there….

Shaving Gel Can (Nivea, 10 inch long) can be bought for $1 to $2 if you strike the right deal at Long’s Walgreens Walmart etc. Gillette Mach 3 Turbo cartridges can be got for about $2 per cartridge if you strike the right deal.

One cartridge of Gillette goes about 4-6 months for me, if you don’t wipe it after shaving. I shave twice a week. A can of gel goes for about a few years. The cost of cartridge + gel, compared to the monthly rent is negligible. It doesn’t even compare to the phone bill.

Finally, i do agree that brushes and lather gives a better experience after shaving. I have a plastic brush working since past 9 years and it is still white as it was. Further, some brushes have Horse’s hair as bristles too. But plastic one works well too!

25 gus January 31, 2008 at 3:04 pm

Scraping the fuck out of your face every morning is not only barbaric it prematurely ages your skin because skin living cells are removed, you end up looking old after your face toughens over the years. I’ve nearly always shaved electric and never had a problem that was not regular maintance related. (replace the foil) I’ve used numerous models. Some work a little better than others but it’s the best shave and least abusive solution.

Try this, scrape your elbow or finger with an emery board every day for a month or two and let me know if a callus forms. Saving with a razor does the same thing to your face over time.

(ok, b 4 you flame, I recognize that everyone _IS_ different, I had a roomate and him using any electric shaver was like using a 8′ chain saw to cut down redwoods. It just didn’t work very well. He also had to use a two throw aways to get the job done right. )

26 Tom January 31, 2008 at 3:05 pm

What does everyone here think about shaving oils like Somersets? I started using it when I was travelling and now I can’t go back to canned cream.

Has anyone tried both the oils and the cake w/ badger brush? How do they compare?

27 Yogi January 31, 2008 at 3:13 pm

Just don’t shave at all thats what I do and I’m not only saving the environment but I look like a badass.

28 gary January 31, 2008 at 3:15 pm

Shaving cream? Lather? SOAP?! How is that manly?
I haven’t bought or used a dollop of lather or soap for my shave in at least five years. Hot water. That’s all I’ve used. And disposable .50 Bic razors. No irritation, no smell of glycerin, and no more nicks or cuts than when I used cream. Just a teeth-gritting splash of Old Spice, and I’m done.

The only non-manly thing about using cream is that its messy, which is a common attribute to most manish activities.

If you really want a fancy shave, just go to a barber who still has a barber Pole out front, and get a tradition hot shave with a stropped straight razor. That is manly.

29 Leisureguy January 31, 2008 at 3:32 pm

One benefit of traditional shaving (whether with straight razor or single-bladed safety razor) is that most men start to *enjoy* the morning shave. It’s true that this mode of shaving is easier on the skin and can give a smoother shave, but it’s the benefit of enjoyment (from something that was once a chore) that means most to me. And this is from a guy who most of the time wore a beard simply to avoid shaving.

30 Leisureguy January 31, 2008 at 3:39 pm

One point I should make regarding double-edged blades. For reasons not fully understood, a shaver’s response to a brand of blade varies widely from shaver to shaver. A wonderfully sharp and smooth blade for one shaver will be condemned as a terrible, dull blade by another. The only way to find the blade that works for you is to try a wide variety and find out by experience. (“Not working” generally means that, for you, the blade seems dull and pulls at your beard instead of cutting smoothly.) To that end, you can get sampler packs of blades: a package of a variety of brands, with 5 to 10 blades of each brand. This is a key step in finding a better shave, so don’t neglect it.

31 kav January 31, 2008 at 4:10 pm

Real men don’t shave, they growl at the mirror and scare the hair off their face.

Seriously, though, the straight razor ritual is king. There’s a sense of accomplishment. It’s a daily reminder that you’re alive. A man can hardly shave with a straight razor and not feel more confident.

That, and I hate to give my money away for overpriced disposable cartridges.

32 Albert Ross January 31, 2008 at 4:12 pm

>>Try dry-shaving with a bowie knife. That’s the definition of man right there.

That’s for limp wristed effetes. I smash one of last night’s beer bottles on the rocks near an ice cold stagnant puddle out the back. A great edge and the slime acts a stubble softener.

33 bjarne January 31, 2008 at 4:48 pm

you’re right, been doing it for 10 years as well, never wanted to go back the new way of doing things, a very good shaving soap is the Tabac soap, should be on your list of recommended soaps :-)

34 Kyle January 31, 2008 at 5:05 pm

>>Try dry-shaving with a bowie knife. That’s the definition of man right there.

I use a Ka-Bar when I’m camping…,2,3,7&categoryName=Military/Tactical

35 Jimmy Mac January 31, 2008 at 5:07 pm

What about shaving IN the shower? Been doing that with a safety razor and plain old soap (lever 2000) for about 10 years now. Best shave ever. For best results (don’t freakin laugh, it’s the truth) I make lather by using the soap on my chest. Rubbing it around in the chest hair makes a great later. Seriously.

36 Bob January 31, 2008 at 5:23 pm

I’d have to argue with saying that a straight razor will give you a closer shave over the DE razor (most people who say this shave with straights and have never shaved with a DE), almost everyone I know who has shaved with, and are skilled with, both instruments will tell you that they can get equally close and comfortable shaves with both, some people even claim they can work a closer shave with their DE since its “easier”. You’re not missing out on anything with a DE as opposed to a straight, especially with decent blades like Derbys or the frightfully sharp Feathers.

37 Matt January 31, 2008 at 6:29 pm

Gus-scraping the skin cells off your face is actually good for your skin and will keep you looking younger. It forces your skin to rejuvenate and make new cells. This is why women use creams, scrubs, and chemical peels to burn or rub off the top layer of skin of their faces.

38 bbwdating January 31, 2008 at 6:36 pm

My grandpa had a beard.

I am Coco, a very sexy plus size woman. “TxFunChick1″ is my handle at the bbw chat club “”. Catch me there to find more about me and my videos.

39 Brett McKay January 31, 2008 at 7:50 pm

Wow! Lots of great comments. I’ve learned a lot from you all.

40 Kevin January 31, 2008 at 8:03 pm

There is a new (at least in my neighborhood) store in the area called “The Art of Shaving” They sell badger brushes, kits with preshave oil, shaving cream and an after shave balm. They also sell safety razors, straight razors and ridiculously over priced handles for several cartridge razors. I received a starter kit for christmas and you do get a nice shave without the razor burn.

The company also has a website where you can spend quite a bit of money on your face.

41 How To Tutorials January 31, 2008 at 9:04 pm

How to get that perfect shave:

Introduction to Traditional Wetshaving:

42 Richard Ward January 31, 2008 at 10:33 pm

@ Bill Alley. You took the words right out of my mouth.

I mean, if we were supposed to remove it, then it wouldn’t come back again, right?

43 J.a. February 1, 2008 at 3:39 am

My father also had a salt stone to rub on his face after the wet shave. Now that was badass! You forgot to mention that was oldschool too.

44 Leisureguy February 1, 2008 at 5:45 am

The salt stone was probably an alum block, and quite a few shavers still use one after the shave. More info here.

45 Al Feldzamen February 1, 2008 at 6:09 am

Albert Einstein once said he used the same soap for washing and shaving, because he didn’t want to unnecessarily complicate his life. Remembering his, one day, when I ran out of shaving soap, I lathered up a bit with Ivory, and found that my shaving experience was exactly the same as with specialized shaving soap or gel!! So ever since, when having a set shave, I use ordinary soap. Try it. You’ll see it’s the same as those expensive “special” shaving soaps and gels.

46 pduff February 1, 2008 at 6:11 am

I bought one of the shaving soap bars 2 YEARS ago and it is still going strong. This one to be specific

A lot of great classic shaving tools can be found at

47 Robin Newberry February 1, 2008 at 6:42 am

There are some *excellent* hand made shaving soaps available on the web. I use a Bay Rum shaving soap made with goat’s milk ( – look in the catalogue under soaps).

48 danny February 1, 2008 at 2:11 pm

Shaving like your grandfather is overrated. Shave like your great grandfather instead:

49 Steve February 1, 2008 at 11:39 pm

On a day-to-day basis, I’m a ‘shave in the shower’ guy personally – a bar of soap and a three blad Shick disposable. The razors last for at least a couple of months with no noticable degradation in performance, and my wife thinks I’m smoother than a three year old’s face (we have a three year old nehew so she can compare) afterwards. Every couple of years i grow a full beard for the winter, and when it’s time to peel it off, I pull out a Rolls Razor that I bought years ago at an antique store. Not only does it do the job in two passes max, it is one of the neatest gadgets I own – built in stone and strop – basically a big piece of straight razor that mounts in the handle. You pull it back and forth inside the case with the stone side first, then a few strokes with the strip side and you’re good to go. Thanks for all the great comments – really interesting article too.

50 Shirley February 2, 2008 at 1:11 am

Best to you,to you best for easy bathing!

51 Shirley February 2, 2008 at 1:12 am

Our best product for old fathers is walk-in bathtub!

52 Chris February 2, 2008 at 5:20 pm

Would any of you guys want your woman to not to shave? Well, treat shaving as a method of returning the favor. Better yet, ask her if she want you to shave. Manliness? If you need to prove your manliness to others by not shaving then apparently there is a reason why you have to do it. It probably has nothing to do with facial hair but with how you think others perceive you. If you are that concerned (whether you want to look manly by shaving or not) then… it is not very manly to even care about it too much.

53 joe mom February 3, 2008 at 10:44 am

great article, thanks

i have 3 expensive electric shavers + mach2, mach3, fusion, shick, etc etc and i don’t get a pleasant shave with any of them, i’m gonna go ahead and try the old school way…

54 Hizzoner February 4, 2008 at 9:31 am

My grampa said shaving is for pussies – just shuddup and grow a beard you goddamn pansy.

55 rob February 5, 2008 at 7:23 am

I guess that I must have a particularly stiff beard. Evidence is that a mach3 cartridge lasts 3 weeks before it starts pulling from dullness.
A couple of factors to add, I shave my head (going bald, so the blade is not working that hard) only shave every other day, and have a goatee.
I am also one of those men that have never found an electric of any kind that did not rip my face off during use. I have been on the lookout for a decent safety razor for a while now.

hint: for those of you that deign to use canned cream, fill your sink with hot, hot water and drop the can in before you get into the shower.


56 bingo February 5, 2008 at 8:41 am

what should i shave my frank and beans with?

57 Warren February 5, 2008 at 11:35 am

When I was young, my dad taught me to use a safety razor. Great shave. As I grew up and moved out, I moved to the disposables until I started growing a full beard – which I kept into my late 30′s. Then back to disposables… When my dad passed away at 85 a few years ago, I found his old Gillete, gold plated, safety razor from the 1940′s along with his mug, badger hair brush and a couple tubes of Gillette shaving cream. It brought back a lot of nostalgia from when I was a little boy watching him shave. When I got back home, I brought all that with me and went back to the old-school methods and haven’t even thought of switching back. I find myself thinking of my dad every time I shave now. Great article. Thanks…

58 Ian Millard February 8, 2008 at 8:08 am

As an alternative treatment after shaving….

Wash your face with warm water. Make sure you remove all the remaining lather/soap.

Then use an aftershave cream or balm, or a gel. Nivea for Men or Gillette after shave gel will keep your skin in better condition than the alcohol-based perfumes.

It’s important to moisturize, especially if you’re outdoors in the winter. It also keeps us mature men looking a little younger.

59 Brett McKay February 8, 2008 at 6:43 pm

@Ian Millard:

Thanks for the tip Ian. I’ve used Nivea before and liked it.

60 PheerMee February 8, 2008 at 11:12 pm

If you really and truely want to shave like your grandpa and save money and reduce you environmental impact, simple use a straight razor, leather strap, and water (no lather)

61 Dan February 9, 2008 at 4:41 pm

It seems that one giant demographic has been left out of this discussion… the people who shave the most: people with shaved heads. I learned to shave with a safety razor and thought it to be fine until I came across Gillette’s Mach-3′s. I get the same exact shave from both razors on my face, but the Mach-3 does a far superior job on my head. No matter how careful I am with the safety razor, it doesn’t conform to the curves of my head like the Mach-3 can and I usually end up with irritation and/or nicks at the base of my ears and neck and on the top of my head. My balding father began shaving his head a few years ago and he even began using the Mach-3′s over his decades old safety razor because of the noticeable improvement in irritation.

As for the cost of the cartridges, I’ve found that I can get 3-4 great shaves out of each Mach-3 by simply shaving once I get out of the shower. I shave once every couple days, so 16 shaves from 4 cartridges @ $8-something a box comes out to roughly .50 cents a shave. If you take care of the handle of the razor, you can easily get many good years out of just one.

62 A. Human February 9, 2008 at 8:26 pm

You forgot to post a link to Mantic59′s educational series on classic shaving via youtube. Look it up, he is the master symposium of shaving knowledge and will improve your shave 10fold.

Also: I am a manly man and enjoy being clean shaven.

63 JR February 9, 2008 at 11:12 pm

Nice article. I may attempt implementing some of these ideas someday. But for now, I have a full on wild man beard, and I like it.

Anyway, as I was reading this I remembered a story about a guy who was seemingly obsesed with freezing things with liquid nitrogen. Car engine blocks, razor blades etc. I couldn’t find whatever article it was that I read about him, but I did find something that I think most here will appreciate. It’s an article that talks about how just drying your disposable cartridge blades can extend their life by more than double. Here it is:,1,2143390.story?ctrack=1&cset=true

64 Captain D February 10, 2008 at 4:27 am

Whoever said that shaving ages your skin is very wrong. Shaving is the same as a women who ex foliates their skin. The process of ex foliation removes dead skin cells and allows your body to create new skin. Without the removal of dead skin cells skin becomes tough and dark. Shaving allows your face to ex foliate. Research also shows that ex foliation of the skin helps prevents skin cancer. I also recently read that guys do not ex foliate the rest of their body enough.

65 Captain D February 10, 2008 at 4:29 am

Also the ones that say not shaving is very manly. It’s fine if you don’t want to shave, but most research shows women are attracted to clean shaven men. Also if you like the natural feel; try running your hand up a girls leg that has not shaved and see if you like that.

66 Brett McKay February 10, 2008 at 6:02 am


Thanks for the link. I saw a similar article a few months ago and started implementing drying my blades. I can vouch for its effectiveness. My blade stay sharper, longer.

67 Brett McKay February 10, 2008 at 6:04 am

@A. Human:

I’ll have to add a link at the end of the post. Thanks for the suggestion.

68 pickupjojo February 10, 2008 at 3:52 pm

Great tips, thank you so much! :)

69 Pete February 10, 2008 at 11:03 pm

“Albert Einstein once said he used the same soap for washing and shaving, because he didn’t want to unnecessarily complicate his life. Remembering his, one day, when I ran out of shaving soap, I lathered up a bit with Ivory, and found that my shaving experience was exactly the same as with specialized shaving soap or gel!! So ever since, when having a set shave, I use ordinary soap. Try it. You’ll see it’s the same as those expensive “special” shaving soaps and gels.”

You are so full of shit.

70 Dan February 11, 2008 at 12:11 pm

Albert Einstein also needed a nurse to tie his shoelaces and to wipe his ass for him.

71 Dubuque Home Insurance Quotes February 11, 2008 at 6:45 pm

Hi! Found your blog on yahoo – thanks for the article but i still don\’t get it, J.Kopler

72 Martin February 12, 2008 at 7:12 am

Nice article.

I just saw this razor in a swedish auction site, anyone knows how old this might be?

73 David Wessell February 12, 2008 at 9:25 am


Check at, I bet they can tell you more about it.

74 ken February 14, 2008 at 2:50 pm

someone mentioned using lavender soap or aftershave.
While we’re on the topic of manliness… DO NOT use lavender if you want to maintain your manliness. Lavender oil mimics estrogen and studies are finding young boys developing breasts because of using lavender in soaps and other things.
some say the effect is negligible in adult males, but I wouldn’t take my chances.

75 Denis J February 17, 2008 at 3:40 pm

This looks like a very interesting prospect, if what it says is true then all the water, shaving soap and brushes might be something for grandpa but maybe not for the newer generation.

76 TheAddict February 18, 2008 at 9:28 pm

I’m a fairly lazy bastard, and only shave when I have to. What this usually means is when I am working, once every three days, or when I’m not working, about once a month. I use a Gilette Mach 3, and the cartridges are useless after the second use, and vastly overpriced. I’m going to have to give this a shot. I assume that it will be as simple to keep the shape of the beard I keep with a safety razor as it is with a disposable?

77 Martin Olsson February 19, 2008 at 12:24 am

Excellent article! I have an old-fashioned pointy moustache, and I use classic tools to groom it. I even made my own moustache wax according to an old Hungarian recipe. A video and pictures are available here:

I hope you don’t think this is spam: I’d be more than willing to write a “real” article on moustache-grooming for Art of Manliness if you think there is an interest.

Martin Olsson

78 engvmcidw mbfnczjt February 19, 2008 at 11:56 pm

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79 Sam February 22, 2008 at 1:23 pm


On an outing to the local mall I discovered “C.O. Bigelow Premium Shaving Creme”. Outstanding stuff, the smell is wonderful and it leaves skin feeling extremely smooth. It’s got eucalyptus and it comes in a tube. Like the cremes mentioned on here a small dab on your finger will yield a generous lather. I found it at Bath and Body Works, and refuse to use anything else. Strongly recommended.

80 abvwpdsul dvcwuao February 24, 2008 at 2:32 am

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81 K. M. Jones February 24, 2008 at 6:52 pm

When I went to the barber and beauty supply store, the gentleman there showed me a “hair shaper” for less than $5.00 It had a removable tooth guide which I promptly threw away. It uses single sided razor blades, sold in a box of 5 for $2.99. Works and looks just like a straight razor, but I don’t have to go through the ritual of sharpening and stroping the blade, I just toss and replace once a week at the most. Best shave I have ever gotten. Just took a week to get use to doing it without nicking myself. and about a week after that for the “learning” nicks to heal. My wife loves the feel and look. In the mornings before I shave, I have less shadow than I use to come home with i the evenings when I was using the multi-blade disposables.

82 eqomc qgzix February 26, 2008 at 10:58 am

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83 katie February 26, 2008 at 12:07 pm

this is very odd do not right stuff like this ever agen!!!

84 Neon John March 3, 2008 at 12:55 am

Egads! The yuppification of shaving?. Chocolate, cookware and coffee are bad enough. Now shaving? I’m old enough to remember how GREAT it was when disposable came out!

Awhile back I saw something on the net about the new fad of safety razors. I sez, what the heck? So I dug out grand dad’s old Gillette. Damn! That hurt. Falling for the “cheap can’t be good” yuppy fallacy, I ordered one of those fancy import razors and blades. Damn, that still hurt! Back to the disposables.

Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years. A mug and brush are da bomb! No need for fancy, expensive soaps, though. Wallyworld sells Williams Mug shaving soap at $0.99 a chunk. That’s what my dad used and his dad and….. Still as good now as then. With one trick.

When you’re buying that soap, drop over an isle and get a bottle of pure glycerin. It has no odor, contrary to a claim in this thread. About once a week put a teaspoon full of glycerin in your soap mug. The effect is remarkable. It makes a lather that looks and feels like whipped cream.

Don’t wash out the brush after each shave. That just wastes soap. Just plop it back in the mug. It’ll stay wet until the next shave. A chunk of soap lasts me 2-3 months. I can’t tell enough difference between badger and boar bristles but then again, maybe I’m not SENSITIVE enough…..

Nothing beats shaving in the shower. Make it the last thing you do before getting out. Let the steam soften your beard during the rest of your shower. While lathering up the shampoo, give your face a good rub. This cuts the oil from the beard and gives it a head start on getting soft.

About disposable razors. The “problem” with them is that they’re very inconsistent. In a given package, some will be extremely sharp and some duller’n dirt. I’ve found that to be the case regardless of brand or price.

I buy the cheapest brand that I can find at the grocery surplus outlet. I rarely pay over a dime a razor. I take one swipe at my face with a new one. If it shows the least bit of pull or discomfort, it goes in the trash. Probably 2/3s of the package ends up that way. But when I find a sharp one, I baby it. It lasts me a month or better. The combo of Williams, glycerin and a steamed beard is super gentle on the blade.

Y’all can mutilate your face all you want with those old safety razors. I’ll stick with my carefully selected double bladed disposable.


85 drawlr March 4, 2008 at 10:03 am

I thought I was going to get a lesson on shaving with a straight razor; that’s what my grandpa used. That’s how men shaved for centuries. Safety razors are for the faint-of-heart.

86 Willofgod March 4, 2008 at 1:04 pm

I use my saftey ravor with shaving oil…. works wonders.

87 John T March 7, 2008 at 11:46 pm

When I learned to shave from my father and grandfather I did as they did and learned to use a straight razor. Sadly as I grew older and succumbed to modern conveninces I too changed over to a safety razor as my father did in his later years. My grandfather would never have considered such a thing and still used his straight razor even when his sight was almost gone.

88 Jeff March 13, 2008 at 8:09 am

You can use a straight razor around the edges of your beard. I currently do that, and before I grew the beard last year used a straight razor for quite a while for the complete shave. I would never go back.

89 Jeff March 13, 2008 at 8:12 am

Oh, and straight razor place is the place to go to learn how. Lynn, who runs the site, has some good videos available and sharpens blades as well.

For supplies, a good central location is They have everything you need for manly grooming :).

90 Johnny March 13, 2008 at 4:52 pm

For many years I went to the same old barber(who much to my dismay retired in his mid 90s). He would give me a good haircut and(when I got older) a straight razor shave. I noticed that the straight razor shave didn’t give me razor burn and just generally felt better.

Several years ago I bought a Dovo straight razor and the necessary accessories online. I used Colonel Conk’s Shave Soap( with a badger hair brush. I absolutely love shaving with a straight razor. The shave soap doesn’t have an over powering odor, and it goes well with my cologne.

Unfortunately I’ve since gone to a Mach 3(mainly due to not being a morning person). I can’t stand to use a disposable at all, the same goes for an electric(they tremble at the mere mention of my name). I’ve considered using the old double edge style razors but I’ve never tried it. I think I will soon be returning to my old methods, hopefully never again to depart.

91 Dan March 31, 2008 at 9:37 am

Two tips to save yourself a ton of money.

1. Buy a single pack of mach4s (or whatever brand you prefer) with the handle. Often the with-handle packs are cheaper than just the blades.

2. If you’ve used the blade a few times and you’re worried it’s not as sharp as it used to be, run it backwards over your palm a few times. There’s no risk of cutting yourself this way, but the rubbing action smooths the blade and coats it with a bit of oil from your skin.

Using these two tips I can spend a grand total of $10 a year on blades.

92 serge April 5, 2008 at 8:03 pm

Dan,are you crazy?
Do you want us to cut our hands?
Oil from your skin…what a bunch of BS.

93 Dan April 14, 2008 at 7:55 pm

Well I’ve been using it and it’s great. You won’t cut your hands because you’re going the other direction – away from the cutting edge. imagine you were shaving your palm. (heh.) now do the same movement backwards. see? no cut. i’ve been using it to great success.

94 Voice Of Dingchao April 16, 2008 at 8:46 pm

That’s very funny! The pity thing is that I don’t have a grandpa, so I can’t shave like my grandpa. Haha! I just shave in my style.

95 Codius May 1, 2008 at 11:47 am

To all who think that shaving isn’t manly, remember:

Some of the manliest professions require a clean shaven appearance. Soldiers, police officers, and firefighters are all (typically) required to be clean cheeked.

96 AJ May 5, 2008 at 4:08 pm

Baby oil works for me (it does eat up the rubber parts on the newer cyborg 20 blade razors out there). I clean up with hot water. I’ve never tried the safety razor thing. I might have to now.

97 Jon May 13, 2008 at 9:38 am

I’ve tried all of the methods listed above, from the straight edge to the disposable. The straight edge does work extremely well, but the maintenance and time spent on the blade is simply too much for me. I used a safety-razor for a while as well. The blades always start off wicked sharp. In shaving there is such a thing as “too sharp.” Usually takes a few uses to get into that smooth zone (I really hope I’m not the only one to experience that. Ha). My morning ritual went as such: shower, wait and dry off a bit (as my face would be a bit ‘puffy’ from the warm water), I would then apply olive oil (it’s what I have around the house anyways) to my beard (but just a little!), then use hot water to lather up some Col. Conk’s amber shave soap, and top it off with a few passes with an alum block (salt stone). Best shaves ever!

I must say, however, that I am fully bearded at the moment. I went on a camping trip for about a week and didn’t feel like lugging shaving stuff with me. I was surprised to hear from female friends that they really liked the beard. I do rigorously maintain the appearance by trimming and maintaining clean cut angles (done with a Gillette Sensor).

I think having a beard is just as manly as being clean shaven assuming you’re not just being lazy. Maintain that sucker! Think shampoo, regular edging, and combing. Whatever you do, do it with some dignity and pride!

98 Dr. Lao May 14, 2008 at 1:37 pm

Bravo for a great article!

I made the switch from an electric to a DE razor and have never looked back

Guys don’t know what they’re missing when they keep shaving with a five-blade rake and crap-in-a-can.

99 person May 14, 2008 at 3:25 pm

According to Lupo: “Cold water can keep your pores from producing excess oil, but they will never close. Alternately, steam won’t cause them to open, but it will stimulate the oil glands.â€?

100 Mark May 30, 2008 at 10:07 am

I tought this blog was about manliness? DE safet razors?!? Those are for pussies. There’s only one type of implement for removing a beard: a straight razor. Learn how to hone, learn how to shave with a straight, and THEN, my son, you’re a man.

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