Trending: the ol’ fashioned straight razor

According to Wikipedia, men have been shaving for thousands of years. The first implements used for this purpose were shaped pieces of flint and obsidian, and later, copper blades. Eventually, as the practice became more refined, steel blades were specifically designed to cut hair. The straight razor, and the barber that wielded it, remained the ultimate technology in the world of shaving for ages, and faces everywhere were treated well.

Then not long ago, technological industry and the hectic lifestyle it necessitated changed all of this. Shaving became a quick morning nuisance and razors had to keep pace. Safety razors with an ever-increasing number of blades took over, and they are still the dominant tools for male grooming.

Within the past few years however, single-bladed safety razors and old-fashioned straight razors have started to make a comeback. Online communities like straightrazorplace.com, and stores that make the bygone luxury of a good shave accessible to everyone, are popping up like stubble on the face of our eclectic modern culture.

 

 

One of these relatively new stores is The Art of Shaving. The manager of its Chandler Fashion Center location, Robert Lopez, is on the front lines of this developing trend.

Today, he says, convenience is the key factor for most people choosing a razor. For this reason, razors with three, four, even five blades that can slice layer after layer of hair in one simple stroke are ubiquitous. But the effects of this approach are often unpleasant.

“They range anywhere from acne issues and razor burn, to really bad ingrown hairs. It’s a lot more common than you would think,” he said.

According to Lopez, the solution that more and more men are discovering is taking their time when shaving, and for some, using fewer blades.

It’s no secret that a straight razor is more difficult to use, and one doesn’t need to be a professor of physics to know that the more blades there are rubbing one’s skin, the more friction it will produce. Therefore ideal shaving should be an exercise in patience and control.

“They’re definitely not for a guy in a hurry,” Lopez said. “A straight razor is the only kind where you can see the blade contact, so you’re a lot more mindful when using it.”

But according to Lopez, mindfulness is catching on.

“Over time, a lot of guys realized that they’re willing to slow down. … I’m definitely seeing an increase in this interest in the older methods of shaving,” he said.

So how are people rediscovering these older methods? Lopez says it’s mostly simple word of mouth from men who have experienced the benefits first hand. The effects of a good shave are so immediate and noticeable that guys love to share what they’re doing.

He also thinks the media has a large role, recalling, “After ‘Skyfall’ came out, straight razor sales exploded. … It just looked so cool when James Bond was using it.”

Like Agent 007, massage therapist Ryan Vanhoy’s job also requires him to look his best. He says he won’t let anything other than a single-bladed razor anywhere near his face.

“I can’t think of a closer shave, and after some practice and help from shaving cream and warm water, there is no razor burn,” he said. “It’s a bit more expensive, but it’s totally worth it.”

The Art of Shaving sells many varieties of razors, from multiple-bladed ones with weighted handles designed to counteract the carelessness with which most men shave, to single-bladed safety razors that require undivided attention. They also sell straight razors, ranging in price from about $50 to over $300. This is more expensive than a cartridge razor at the initial purchase, but a good straight razor will last generations, and the superior quality shave is a higher priority for people like Vanhoy.

For some, including Alternative Energy Technology graduate student R.L Harris, placing quality over convenience when deciding on a razor is simply a matter of maturity.

Harris unapologetically summed up the growing trend of looking to the past for male grooming, proclaiming, “Shave like a grown-up; dump the cartridges.”

Reach the reporter at shmartin@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @shmartn09