30 Days to a Better Man Day 30: Get a Straight Razor Shave

by Brett & Kate McKay on June 29, 2009 · 46 comments

in 30 Days to a Better Man

shave.jpg

Image from the Wisconsin Historical Society

At last! We’ve finally made it to the last day of the 30 Days to a Better Man Challenge. It’s been a tough 30 days. Hopefully, the tasks we came up with helped you stretch, grow, and become a better man. Today’s final task will both complete this process and reward your efforts during the past month. Today’s challenge is to get an old fashioned straight razor shave from a barber.

Why Get a Straight Razor Shave

It’s relaxing. The straight razor shave is the facial for manly men. The experience is definitely a treat. There’s nothing like a hot towel on your face or the manly fragrance of shaving cream to sap the stress right out of your body. The few times I’ve gotten a straight razor shave, I’ve fallen asleep because it’s so darn relaxing.

It’s manly. When you get a straight razor shave, you can almost feel the testosterone increasing in your body. It feels cool to be taking part in a ritual that thousands of men from history experienced. Plus, in a world where women are pretty much doing everything men are, a straight razor shave is one of the few activities that is still completely and exclusively male.

It’s dangerous. At least it feels that way. There’s nothing like letting another man hold a razor sharp piece of metal to your neck to remind you that you’re alive.

What to Expect from a Straight Razor Shave

Cost. The barbershops that I’ve been to charge $20 for a straight razor shave. Some places will be more and some places may be less. But $20 seems to be the going rate.

The process. The two places I’ve gotten a straight razor shave had a pretty similar process. Here’s how it typically goes. You’ll sit in a cool barber chair, and the barber will tilt it back. He’ll start off putting a nice hot towel around your face to soften up your whiskers. After the first hot towel, some barbers rub cleanser on your face to open up the pores and to make sure your face is nice and clean for a good shave. After that, another hot towel.

Next, they might put some conditioner on your whiskers to soften them up, followed by another hot towel.

Now it’s on to the shaving cream. Most barbers have their own secret recipe for shaving cream that has been passed down for generations. The shaving cream will come from a heated dispenser. It feels really nice on your face.

They’ll then take the razor to your face. Because of health codes, most barbers use disposable straight edge razors as opposed to traditional straight razors. Some men would argue that you’ll notice the difference. Honestly, I haven’t.

After a first pass with the razor, you’ll get another hot towel. Shaving cream is reapplied, and another pass is made.

When the barber is done removing your beard, he’ll give you a cold damp towel to close your pores and then splash on some manly smelling aftershave.

Bada bing! You just got a straight razor shave. You’ll walk out of the barbershop feeling rejuvenated, relaxed, and uber-manly.

Today’s Task: Get a Straight Razor Shave

Today’s task is to get a straight razor shave. Not all barbers do them. So you’ll have to call around to find one that does.

For our bearded brethren, have a professional trim and clean your beard up. I hear some barbers have some nice shampoos designed specifically for beards that smell particularly manly.

Tell us all about your straight razor shave experience in the Community. And if you dug the barber, be sure to add his establishment and your review to our handy Barbershop Locator.

{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Luís Guilherme June 29, 2009 at 8:58 pm

What would a barber use if not a straight razor or a straight edge? Are there barbershops using safety razors? It’s not that common in Brazil.

Here you can get a nice shave for BRL 20 (about $10). The only barbershop close to home charge less than BRL 10 (less than $5!) but I always get out of there with lots of injuries, so I started shaving at home, using Mach-3. It’s not the same, I know, but at least I don’t get my face all red.

2 Bob Iger June 29, 2009 at 11:49 pm

Great idea, I tried it and it’s definitely the way to go. It’s certainly beats a Gilette razor burn at Mach-3 speeds.

Note that the barber I visit actually does use traditional straight razors and is trained for shaving male clients.

3 Andrew Barbour June 30, 2009 at 1:01 am

I had a few proper straight-razor shaves when I was about 17 or so, and they’re everything they’re made out to be.

I’ve got a nice Merkur double edge safety razor and a good badger brush for my shaving soap (from Occitane, they’re the only place I can find it in Korea), but perhaps I’ll get a nice straight razor as well. There’s a place nearby that sells them, and I am quite sure they’re the only place in Korea that does.

I like turning my shave into a little ritual. Turns it from an inconvenient chore into something so much more enjoyable.

4 Shane June 30, 2009 at 3:49 am

I’ve been shaving with a straight razor for a couple of years now. There’s a definite learning curve! At any moment you could look down to see your Adam’s apple doing it’s last lap around the drain. But facing death first thing every morning is a good way to enjoy the rest of the day. ;) Since I’ve been using it, I’d never go back to those horrible “safety razors”, which I find draw more blood and leave those unsightly little red bumps. Know this, it doesn’t matter how many blades are on a razor, it’s the first one that does all the work. In fact, I’ve made up a shaving gauge.
One blade: Man
Two blades: Timid man
Three blades: Sissy
Four blades: Panty-waist sissy
Five blades: Panty-waist sissy-boy milquetoast.
So there!

5 ephraim June 30, 2009 at 5:06 am

“Plus, in a world where women are pretty much doing everything men are, a straight razor shave is one of the few activities that is still completely and exclusively male.”

not to be super picky here or to harsh on your ‘last bastion of exclusively male things’ party, but the amount of facial hair on both sexes varies in a bell curve like fashion. which is to say, there are always going to be some women who have significant amounts of it, and before the invention of the safety razor (or electrolysis, laser removal, or those cream depilatory creams), i’m sure some of them had straight razor shaves, and probably some still do. to say otherwise, i think, wrongly promotes the idea that all women’s faces are naturally completely hairless, and obscures the huge amount of work that a significant number of women do to get their faces to look that way.

that said, i’m a huge proponent of wet shaving, and i’m hoping to ‘graduate’ from a double edge safety razor to a straight razor one of these days. maybe going to get straight razored by a barber would be a good introduction.

6 Dan June 30, 2009 at 5:10 am

Anyone know of barbershops offering this in New Jersey? I have yet to find one that does shaves and the barbershop locater doesn’t even list any barbershops in NJ.

7 Jazzy June 30, 2009 at 5:19 am

For my brother’s wedding day I took him and I to a barber to get a proper shave. Thought it’d be a great manly thing for us to do. Turns out we both have pretty sensitive skin and were red faced for the ceremony. May I offer this warning: Don’t get your first straight razor shave the day of important photographs or social gatherings.

8 Tyler - Building Camelot June 30, 2009 at 6:25 am

I got a gift certificate for a “real” shave for Father’s Day and I can’t wait to try it out. I can’t do it today but I’m going to schedule the appointment soon.

9 Andy June 30, 2009 at 6:49 am

I would love to do this, and tried a few weeks ago, but no barber in town will do it. I’ve asked two different barbers in a town of maybe 4 and they all swear up and down that no one in town will do a straight shave anymore.

10 Franklin June 30, 2009 at 6:56 am

As I understand it, straight razor shaves are not performed anymore from fear of lawsuits from people contracting AIDS. I don’t particularly think this makes sense but its the answer I’ve gotten far and wide.

11 AlexC June 30, 2009 at 7:55 am

I’ve been to a number of barbers around the country (and outside) and have never gotten a “really good” straight razor shave. Nothing I can’t do better on my own with a Mach 3 or a double edged razor.

I’m sure it’s because I have a tough beard. (In fact, most comment on it)….

That being said, it’s hard to beat the “tradition” and process.

12 Kyle June 30, 2009 at 8:01 am

Be sure to do some basic research before choosing just any barber to give you a straight shave. Because the popularity of straight shaves has fallen so much in the past few generations, many barbers have either never given a shave, or have not given one in many years.

So shop around; be sure to ask a barber how many shaves he has recently given, and if it seems like he’s bluffing move on to someone else.

I learned this the hard way – stopped by what looked to be a nice old barber shop in the Italian part of Boston, only to have my face hacked up and some lovely alcohol-based aftershave sprayed on the bloody remains.

There are still some skilled barbers out there, but their numbers are limited.

13 Brett June 30, 2009 at 1:02 pm

@emphraim-

Yes women have facial hair. Yes, maybe some women straight razor it off. But, I highly, highly doubt then any woman has ever walked into a barbershop, sat down in a chair and asked the barber for a straight razor shave. I get the impression that most women are embarrassed by their facial hair and would certainly not have it shaved in public!

14 Cutter June 30, 2009 at 1:06 pm

You can learn a lot from your barber. I mentioned to mine that I have my great-grandfather’s straight razors, and he honed them for me for free. I’ve been using a double-edged Merkur razor for a couple of years, but I’m having trouble getting the hang of the straight razor, so he offered to go over it with me in the shop sometime soon.

One of the biggest problems barbers have is that most younger guys nowadays go to salons. A barber told me that his clientele is slowly dying off and no new customers are coming in. Another big problem is many of these barbers are getting old & want to retire, but no one is going to barber college anymore. They get a basic hair cutting license & go to work at a salon chain. That means if they retire, the shop closes. Often in smaller towns, it’s the only shop within miles.

15 Michael D. Denny June 30, 2009 at 9:29 pm

I’ve been shaving with a straight razor for almost a year now, and I love it. To set aside an extra 15 minutes in the morning, and go through the ritual involved just sets my whole day on a better footing. It’s unabashedly masculine, charmingly anachronistic, and once you have the skill sets to do it right, an excellent shave. I even shave my head with a straight razor.

16 Ced June 30, 2009 at 9:34 pm

always wondered how hard barber college would be

17 Phil July 7, 2009 at 9:19 pm

Not for me. I can’t stand shaving, let alone paying an expert twenty of my own dollars to do it instead.

18 xlusiv July 10, 2009 at 7:09 am

There’s a place nearby that sells them, and I am quite sure they’re the only place in Korea that does.

19 R. J. Vincent July 11, 2009 at 10:21 am

Dan,

Cavalleri’s Barber Shop on King’s Highway in Haddonfield, NJ does straight razor shaves. While they use the disposable type due to health codes, everything else is traditional, the hot towels, the shaving cream, etc. It’s a great place for a haircut, too. Check them out.

20 Rob O. August 3, 2009 at 12:08 pm

The day before my wedding, my brother (whom I hadn’t seen for several years prior due to him being stationed overseas) & I went to get haircuts together. We scoured the town trying to find a barbershop that offered straight razor shaves. But we were advised that (at that time) nobody was doing them out of fear of AIDS. So I just kinda dismissed the notion and never really looked back. That was 13 years ago…

So last week, I called around to see if I could find a barbershop that does this now and on Saturday, I took the plunge and got that elusive straight razor shave.

Was it everything I’d thought it might be? Well, my face felt as smooth as a baby’s bottom and my goatee has never looked more precisely trimmed, but I’m not sure I chose the right barber to do the task.

There were no warm towels or fancy prepwork. No ceremonial stropping of the razor before beginning. No badger brush clinking in the little cup of soap to whisk up a warm lather. Really, none of the rituals I had expected to make the shave more of a big to-do were there.

What there was were LOTS of little nicks that stung like rattlesnake bites when she hit me (without warning) with the post-shave astringent.

Will I do it again? Yes. Now that I know there are barbers who’re beyond the dear of AIDS and I’m past the initial apprehension of having someone come at me with a big, gleaming piece of razor-sharp steel, I do think I’ll get a straight razor shave again – but with a different barber next time!

21 ejsilver26 August 18, 2009 at 8:59 pm

The Barber that I go to (Kanata Barber Shop), was the place that I got my vary first hair cut. I love going there. When I get a hair cut, the uses a straight razor on to do the edges at the end. He uses the nice, warm shaving cream, puts it on, then grabs the razor. I must say that it is head and shoulders above “First Choice” or any other second-rate place that cuts anyone’s (or any thing’s) hair. I take my dog to a specialist for her “spa days” (as the wife calls it), she goes to a “beautician”, so I go to the “Barber”.

One day I’ll get the full deal of a traditional Straight Razor shave from the same man that gave me my first hair cut. I think it will be realy special. I’m taking my son there, so he and I can do some minor bonding. the only thing that I’m not happy with is the new “stylists” that are there. I prefer to get my hair cut by someone that learned the trade the old fasioned way… aprenticing. I’d love to learn how to do it the “proper way”. Perhaps I’ll ask him for some straight razor shaving lessons… Hmmm…

22 Denise August 23, 2009 at 8:08 pm

I am a female Master Barber of nearly 20 years, To be a barber is to respect the straight razor, so many people think it is easy to straight razor a face, if you trying it on your own, you may require, many, many stitches. I was taught in barber school to use disposable razor blades, such as Tondeo or Dovo blades, they aren’t cheap but they are the best.

When I was in school I thought the best way to learn to use a razor, was to shave my legs, if I could shave around my knees and bony shins then I could shave anything. And I was right!!! lol These days, I only get clients who want their heads shaved and I truly love to do this service, it is my most proud accomplishment, and shaving the neck is a rarity I hear, but I believe it is the only way to shave the neck.

I find that shaving the face is not as good anymore with the new Mach 3 razors coming out, they give a closer shave with less razor burn, straight razors can leave the skin feeling raw, which is very unpleasant I am sure.

My daughter is a Master Barber and we are quite proud to be female barbers/stylist, we have the best of both worlds, we can do perms, colors, any female style and cut, but we have the edge of the common cosmetologists because we have the cutting edge, of being able to clipper cut like no ones business, fades, hi-tights, tapers and military fades. I am also certified in the Roffler style cutting, which is using the straight razor to cut all types of hair, and that too is a rarity.

I am a proud “barberette”!!! lol

23 Andrew October 10, 2009 at 9:07 pm

Getting shaved by a barber is a good experience that every man should try once. They’re tough to find in GA (you have to find someone who was grandfathered into it, as they don’t let new barbers do it). The guy I found used a disposable first and on the second pass used a traditional straight razor.

24 TJ November 11, 2009 at 1:55 am

What are disposable straight razors? Anyway, I go to a barber on the south side of Chicago who charges $15 for a shave or haircut. Old school Italian, they will do your eyebrows and nose hair too. The best part is the use the straight razor around your ears, neck, and side burns after haircuts too.

25 Mike November 11, 2009 at 11:26 pm

Where is a place that does straight razor shaves on the southside of Chicago? I myself use straight razors to shave. I have very sensitive skin. I use standard 5/8 thiess-issard singing blades, and a feather artist club dx. I used to have razor bumps even with the Mach 3 razors. Before my barber retired he explained to me about straight razors. I nolonger get bumps, and my face is smooth as can be. I reccomend learning how to use a straight razor. After a week or two you’ll have it down pat.

Mike

26 Peter November 29, 2009 at 4:16 am

I’m really impressed with the comments here. Great that all of us are in the same boat. I love to have a great shave using my straight razor. And my wife thinks it is sexy. I am also the one who hone my own razor. I get the stuffs I need at http://fendrihan.com. They have everything you need if you are into wet shaving.

27 Ben December 20, 2009 at 12:17 pm

getting a straight shave from a barber was a friday afternoon ritual for me for a long time….. but now i just do it myself. If you decide to try your hand at this STAY AWAY FROM E-BAY and buy a new shave ready razor(straight razor desings is a great place) along with the other things you will need.
its better than the multi blade cartridge stuff
you wont get it just like the barber did overnight you have to learn but its worth it!!!

28 Cat January 27, 2010 at 7:15 am

“Plus, in a world where women are pretty much doing everything men are, a straight razor shave is one of the few activities that is still completely and exclusively male.”

Sorry to burst your bubble, but guess again. Straight-shaving woman, right here.

And plenty more where that came from down at Straight Razor Place. Legs need razor-love too, you know.

Denise – “I find that shaving the face is not as good anymore with the new Mach 3 razors coming out, they give a closer shave with less razor burn, straight razors can leave the skin feeling raw, which is very unpleasant I am sure.”

Really? All those multi-blade razors drive my skin mad. A straight never does.

29 Eric June 5, 2010 at 12:26 am

Sounds awesome. I’ll definitely be trying it out later on once I’ve gotten past the aftermath of the teenage glory years of acne. Unfortunately it’s all electric shaving for now.

30 Thomas June 20, 2010 at 12:27 am

It is a really manly experience to have a professional shave. I have the luxury of a barber who performs shaves with straight edges and safety razors. I shave with a safety razor at home, so I always get the straight edge. It’s $15 for the cheapest shave, but you can pay up to $30 for the full treatment which includes a hand/forearm massage. They’re all worth every penny. Add a $13 haircut, and for a minor $28 you can get a very good shave and haircut. I always get both every time I go in, and since I’m a struggling college student, I always get the minimum shave, but it’s still a very relaxing experience. If you’re ever in Natchitoches, Louisiana come by the City Barber Shop. It’s in the barber locator.

31 Jake July 16, 2010 at 9:18 am

Brett and Kate,

I love your site; it’s absolutely genius. I have a question that either you or anyone else could answer. I was wondering if it is considered okay to use gold bond for the nether region in combination with some type of cologne for the neck. The reason why I am asking is because I currently use Degree antiperspirant and gold bond, but I get the feeling from people that I could be doing too much. Also for a little background, I’m going to be starting a new job in an office area.

Thanks,
Jake

32 Jake July 16, 2010 at 9:28 am

Lol, I intended for the previous comment to be posted under “essential men’s toiletries and grooming supplies”. Sorry about that.

33 Jo August 5, 2010 at 11:58 am

Most, almost all, women do not have to shave their faces…but *every other inch* of their bodies is expected to be hairless. When discussing women shaving, I cannot believe most of you automatically place a woman in a man’s position (i.e. shaving facial hair) when the object/target/location of shaving for each sex is completely different. I guess I appreciate the consideration, even if it is misinformed.

The wet shaving experience may be luxurious and enjoyable for men, but I would love to have this option for, say, legs. Even if shaving for me is more business than pleasure, I would love to have the option for a close, comfortable shave without all the nightmare side effects that result from using plastic razors, hair removal creams or waxing – youch!

Thanks for your website and all the helpful comments here. Good luck in your search of ultimate and exclusive manliness.

34 Kelhugs November 29, 2012 at 9:56 am

I’m a master barber here in Augusta, Ga, and i pride myself on hot towel straight razor shaves. If you’re ever in the area stop by my shop , and ill be more then willing to service you!! “Every thing hair Barber shop” 1959 kissingbower rd. augusta, ga across from pep boys

35 Johnson February 21, 2013 at 4:45 pm

I am proud to be a man who knocks his whiskers off every day with a straight razor, and I feel that it’s nice to see it regaining popularity in the world. It, along with many other things in modern life, had almost been wiped clean by the idea that being a man is an affliction, and not a gift. In a world where not even the Boy Scouts can be unmolested by feminine agenda, it is nice to have at least the thought that a man can have a few activities of his own.
It truly is a shame that some people can’t stand that, and have to try to take it all from us. The world has become their smorgasbord, at least let us have our crumbs.

36 JD March 11, 2013 at 6:38 pm

A buddy of mine introduced me to AOM website-you guys are great! I was reading the posts on the old school hot towel shave and as I was going to an event with the wife I finally decided why not. Got to say great experience! The trust factor alone of allowing a another man to put a razor to your neck is empowering all by itself but the whole experience really does put the kick back in your step and you walk a little taller on the way out. I though you guys were exaggerating but I was so relaxing I couldn’t stop smiling. Even better is the fact that there is a great little cigar lounge just down the block from my barber. It may have been my first, but won’t be my last. Thanks for the advice.

37 Merlee March 24, 2013 at 11:41 pm

Don’t be too sure that it exclusively male! And don’t be sure that faces are the only things to shave with straights. I enjoy hairless pits, legs, and brazilian shaves with my straight, and there is nothing manly about it.

38 Natalie Beardsgaard July 14, 2013 at 6:57 pm

Not to take away from the bastion of male exclusivity, but hello, lady barber here who is reputed to give one of the best straight razor shaves in Chicago. You totally forgot one of the best things about a really proper razor shave! Better skin. At least half of my regular shave guys (especially the once-a-weekers) report that their usually copious ingrown hairs have completely disappeared since getting to know my razor. Think of it as the manly version of getting a facial, because over time it both conditions your face and makes it tougher.

I also advise the dudes with stiff facial hair to to give their faces a scrub once or twice a week with something like Burt’s Bees Apricot and Willowbark scrub to buff down those little bits of skin that grow up around the hair follicle (helps to avoid those little pinpricks of blood that can happen during your home shaves).

And if you’re ever in Wicker Park, Chicago, come on in and get a shave!

39 Orselina August 10, 2013 at 7:28 pm

*grimace* Yet another (biological) female who regularly engages in straight razor shaves.

And no, it’s not my legs or pits. It’s my face.

My local old school barber is totally open and fine with me coming down everyone once in a while for a nice hot towel & straight razor shave. In fact, I’ll take that over a women’s facial any day. Is it traditionally manly? Do I feel manly doing it? YES and yes. Does that make it shameful or gross? Not in the slightest.

that’s why the “I don’t think any woman is walking into their local barbershop for a shave” comment was funny.

However, great article & great site, nonetheless.

40 Joe September 13, 2013 at 8:15 pm

Praise Jesus’ Name that He gave me a dad that was a barber. And Hair Stylist.

41 Nitesh vanjani October 30, 2013 at 12:28 pm

I hav got the problems that when i shave aft 2 to 3 dayz i get pimples..how to control it any useful advise wanted?

42 Kevin November 10, 2013 at 9:30 pm

Does anybody which barber shop in North Atlanta area that does the traditional shaving? I really miss the feel of the straight razer shave but I’m too afraid to do it on my own.

43 Graham Proud January 29, 2014 at 5:40 pm

I have just submitted the Bou’s For Men barber shop as a location – I hope it gets listed soon.

They have a terrific idea on their website – how about a pre-wedding shave and groom? Maybe a bucks party activity with a difference?

http://www.bousformen.com.au/#services-weddings

Check them out!

44 David February 23, 2014 at 5:45 pm

Really? 20 bucks for a shave? I get one every month or so for 5 bucks. Straight Razor shaves are the best

45 ishootfilm April 2, 2014 at 10:13 am

I bought my wife her own straight with a rose and silver inlay handle and she shaves her legs and underarms with it. She gets an extra couple of days before before stubble can grab a cotton ball. Only the knee caps are a slow go. I would never run mine over my face as fast as she slaps that thing over her legs.

46 ishootfilm April 2, 2014 at 10:14 am

All that to say that women can and do use them.

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