One hundred close shaves
by Gabriel Cross
Two years ago, I purchased my last package of disposable razors. It was an enormous value pack at Costco, so it wasn’t until about a month ago that the full consequences of this decision began to take effect.
I hate waste. I hate throwing things in the landfill, especially when those things are made from non-renewable resources. I especially especially hate throwing non-renewable resources in the landfill when they’re made of metals that are mined out of the earth in big open pits. That being said, hating waste also means that I must use every single disposable razor and throw it away before I begin my journey into the manliest green movement in history: the return to the straight razor.
Making the decision to use a straight razor has been the easiest part of the process by far. One does not, apparently, just pick out a new cut-throat and begin to shave with it. Since disposing of my last razor cartridge some time in September, I have been unusually shabby looking as I researched and assembled my new shaving kit (for a special event, I broke down and picked up a cheap, throw-away, one use Bic type razor).
For starters, there’s a lot you have to know about the design and maintenance of the blade itself. The quality of the steel, the options in shape, the reputation of the company, all these factors and many more go into razor selection. It isn’t like you can just pick up a new one at the drugstore if it doesn’t work out — you may be putting this piece of steel on your face for the rest of your life.
Next, you have to learn to hone and strop your razor properly. As I am discovering one painful experiment at a time, honing and stropping is one of those crafts that take 15 minutes and the rest of your life to learn to do properly. Even the selection of a hone is fraught with pitfalls and hazards. Assuming, stupidly, that one really fine stone would be enough (I figured it would remove the steel eventually — it might just take longer the first time) set me back another month of shabbiness. Finally, after a couple of painful shaves and one long but shallow cut, I did a little more research and discovered that I do in fact need a set of stones, from very rough to very fine. It would have taken me months to polish off enough steel to get a sharp edge with just the fine hone I originally purchased.
As the many, many videos and articles online that instruct you in the fine art of straight razor shaving will explain, it takes a long time to adapt to a new shaving system. One citizen of YouTube informed the internet that it takes 100 shaves to master the straight razor, and after many razor burns, a few knicks, and one qualifiable cut, I am inclined to agree. With a dozen or so down, I can finally shave without fear of burns and nicks but I am by no means a master. Just last week I found myself wondering how often a single errant stroke of the razor leads a man to change his facial hair style, since I had a huge chunk out of one sideburn and would have to reimagine my face to return to symmetry.
It may be another three months or so before I am a master of the cut-throat, but the new ritual and super-close shave have lent a sense of luxury to my toilette that nicely complement the 15 or 20 bucks a month I am saving on new cartridges for the Mach 3. Compared to a wet shave with a freshly honed straight razor, everything else feels a bit like beating the hair off your face with a stick. And I never have to face that particular waste in my life again.