Shaving With A Straight Razor For A Month: A Report

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 14.472% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

If you take out the eight weeks of post-heart attack recuperation, I have been shaving with a straight razor for a solid month now.  And I must say, the biggest appeal of it all is how toyetic the process is.
“Toyetic” is a made-up word that explained Star Wars’ appeal; it made lots of cool toys.  Whereas while, say, Independence Day is a fine movie on its own merits, there’s only one alien and it’s kind of ugly.  (Seriously, who wants to play with the Jeff Goldblum doll?)  And shaving with a straight razor appeals to men because it is not only stupidly dangerous and useless, but it is marvelously toyetic.
As witness! Before, my entire shaving kit consisted of this pathetic set in a shower:
Now, it consists of this fine, intimidating regiment:
And all of those items, my friends, are the topic of stupid debates, which men naturally love. What brand of shaving cream should you use… or should you use shaving oil? Is that badger hair brush really top-of-the-line?  How many times should you apply the hot towel to your face during a shave? What grip should you use?  All of these allow a man to have firm opinions about something that matters really not at all, which is of course a fine thing to have.
The thing is, I find myself shaving for pleasure, which is odd.  Yesterday, I completed work and went into the bathroom to treat myself – yes, to treat myself! – to a nice long shave. I call it my “blood meditation,” because you cannot shave quickly with a straight razor, and you’d be foolish to try.  No, no matter how hectic your life, you must slow down to match the pace of the shave – holding the hot towel to your face, lathering up in the cup, smooshing the lather into your face.
UntitledAnd, of course, the shave.  The shave teaches you to pay attention to your face with strange detail.  Before, if you’d asked me about my face, I’d have told you it was, well, a face.  But now I see it in angles; there’s my sadly soft cheeks, which tend to mush under the blade, and the treacherous hollows under my jawline, and the underside of my neck.  I pay attention to the directions my facial hair grows, for I must shave against the grain for the closest cut – and that, my friends, changes from inch to inch.  I now occasionally just touch my face gently, with the tips of my fingers, trying to recall which way my beard grows.
So much of the shave is in that approach.  Which way do I cut?  I keep changing my approach, looking for the perfect set of swathes that lead me to a face with no stubble whatsoever.  I haven’t found it; I think I’ve mastered it, then as I apply the post-shave witch hazel I find another thatch of cut, but not perfectly cut, hair.  And there is pleasure in seeking that perfection.
Do I cut myself?  Yes, of course.  And almost always in the same place.  For as I try to cut against the grain (which is to say, towards my ear) along my right cheek, I always find this awkward moment where I can’t cut all the way smoothly with my right hand.  It’s my elbow, my damnable elbow.  So I slow down, and slowing down lets the razor bite, and as such I not only have this same cut but you can actually see where the stubble is thicker after it.  I have to find a better approach, even as I am terrified to switch to try to use my trembling left hand, as others have suggested.
As for the name of my razor?  Well, many suggested – ha ha! – Sweeney, even though I said I do not want to cuddle up with a bloodthirsty razor.  No, I want a comforting razor, a razor that is redolent of 1950s barber shops and men in nice fedoras getting a fine shave before they head off to the office.  As such, several people wisely suggested “Floyd,” as in Mayberry’s own Floyd the Barber, and I think that is a most, most excellent name for a razor.  Floyd never wanted to cut anyone; he just wanted to even out your sideburns.

1 Comment

  1. James Morrow
    Mar 25, 2013

    I enjoyed reading this and i am not to straight razor shaving. What brand of razor do you use and how did you hone and strop it? i have seen things on Youtube. Thanks in advance

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