Classic Hacks: How To Shave With A Straight Razor

Before the advent of safety and electric razors, most men shaved with a straight razor. If you’d like to bring this grooming skill back from antiquity, all you need is an open razor, a damp cloth and some shaving cream. Here’s how it’s done.

We originally posted this hack back in 2008, and the basics remain the same — just as they have for hundreds of years (fun fact: the first folding straight razors were manufactured in 1680.) For best results, you’ll want a mug, a shaving brush, shaving soap, aftershave, the straight razor itself and a leather strop to keep your blade sharp. But the most important thing is the shaving technique.

Start by dampening your face with a hot, wet cloth which will open your pores and make shaving easier. Then lather your face with shaving cream. You can use an old-fashioned shaving brush for this but your fingers work just as well — simply lather your hand and then apply to your face. Now it’s time to dice with death by applying the razor to your throat.

For the best possible control, you need to hold the blade between the handle and razor at a 30-degree angle to your face. Don’t use a pinched grip like you’re holding a pencil or dart — instead, try to hold the handle between you middle and index finger while steadying the blade with your thumb.

Shave with the grain (i.e. — in the direction of your beard growth) in short strokes, pulling your skin taut and letting the weight of the blade do the work. In other words, don’t apply pressure! Some areas may require a reapplication of shaving cream, as shaving dry is definitely best avoided.

Even though a straight razor looks dangerous, it’s really not too different to using a safety razor — the blade is just larger and fully exposed. Provided you don’t try to shave sideways, the chances of sustaining an injury are incredibly small.

There are benefits to using a straight razor that go beyond feeling like you’re in Mad Men: in addition to saving money on razor blades or replacement cartridges, you’ll also get a closer shave which means less razor burn.

You can see a more detailed guide in the video below.

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