A Guide to Mastering the Cut Throat Shave
Time for a Really Close Shave. And Don't Slip!
Anecdote alert: on our way to the office this morning, we spotted a guy sat in a striped chair getting a straight-razor shave by a tattoo-sleeved, bowler hat-clad barber who was so good at wielding said tool he must have been doing for a couple of decades at least -- and we’ll happily admit it was one of the coolest things we’ve seen on our morning commute. But we’ll also admit we’re a little bit intimidated by these pieces of kit, especially the idea of using them on ourselves, and here’s why:
Reason No.1: What if you had a couple of snifters the night before followed by eight hours of broken sleep? Using a straight-razor can’t be safe in that scenario.
And reason No.2: There must be a reason the grooming world has become monopolised by safety razors, and it’s probably to do with this old-fashioned utensil not having a place in the time-starved modern man's vanity cabinet.
But then we realised something: a) some things are worth exercising patience for and b) if you’re going to learn any new skill, what could be cooler than cutthroat shaving? The answer: nothing - and the cool thing is just one of the winning tickets from the good news tombola.
Rocking a single blade is kinder to the skin than PETA is to animals. They’re awesome at handling those awkward spots around the nose and corners of the mouth. And, if that ain’t enough, you’ll get to kickstart your days with a real sense of satisfaction before admiring your skills in the hallway mirror next to that portrait of your super-handsome Great Uncle John.
So, without further ado, here’s how to master this instrument and give yo’self a perfectly-close, single-blade shave.
“Grooming? Completed it, mate.”
Step 1: It’s All In The Prep
When you’re in a rush and all you can find is one of those orange disposable razors your ex left on your bath, by the taps, you can be forgiven for making your own shaving cream out of shower gel. But not with a straight-razor. With one of these, you need to prep the right way. That means jumping in a hot shower, letting the steam soften your facial hair, and then cleansing the parts of your face you’re gonna shave. Once this has been ticked off, slap a bit of shaving oil about, but don't wash it off. Think of it as a lovely-jubbly layer of lubrication. Then, the second you step out of the shower, apply your shaving gel or cream. It may sound a bit long, but it’s mega-relaxing.
Step 2: Get Your Angles Right
This is where the skill part comes into the proceedings. First things first, phone your mum, find out where your pencil case from school is, dig out your protractor and learn what a 30 to 35-degree angle looks like because that’s where you’re gonna want to keep your blade. Any more and you’ll probably cut yourself, any less and you’ll tug the hairs out at the root and that’s just irritating - literally. The good news is: starting your shave at 30-35 degrees is actually pretty easy. The bad news is: maintaining this angle as you glide over the contours of your face is harder than trying to understand Tolstoy’s Peace & War. But once you’ve mastered this part - boom! - your shave time is going to speed up like a NASCAR driver on the first race of the year.
Step 3: Tighten Up, Buttercup
Nicks. The problem with shaving is nicks. You know, catching your skin with a blade - those sorts of nicks. They’re the miniature-nuisance safety razors have built their entire fanbase on. That said, you probably still pull a bunch of weird, semi-frightening and skin-tightening facial expressions to avoid this happening, and straight-blades use the same principle -- to avoid nicks just pull your skin as flat and taut as you can. And the best way to do this is to take your non-razor-holding-hand and use it to pull your skin in the opposite direction to the razor. It will take a bit of trial and error to get this perfect because different areas of hair grow in different directions, but you’ll find the perfect technique in no time.
Step 4: Stroke Style
There is a right way and a few wrong ways to shaving with a straight-razor, which is a bit annoying. That’s why we’re going to talk you through the correct way, and it all starts with you making an entrance at the base of your sideburn and then working your way down your cheek, before repeating on the other side until all you’re left with is a strip of stubble from your top lip to your Adam's apple. Next up is your chin. To get a close, nick-free shave on this area, use your thumb and forefinger on your free hand to stretch the skin flat and then carefully shave perpendicular to whichever direction the hair is growing, working your way across. Then, to get a hair-free bottom lip, curl it into your mouth and shave against the grain in one smooth movement, scooping the blade to finish. As for ye olde top lip, pull a funny lip-stretching face, shave downward on each side of your nose until you are left with a distasteful square of hair we can only describe as "the Adolf”, and then quickly use your free hand to pinch-stretch your lip and remove this final patch before anyone has a chance to photograph you.
Step 5: Less Is Best
You don’t have to know what “razor-burn” is to know you probs want to avoid it. Basically, it happens when you re-shave a patch of hair with a straight-razor. To avoid this, try and keep your strokes short and precise - about a centimetre per stroke - and hope that you get it all in that stroke. If you didn’t get it all, wait until the end to get your vengeance. Oh and, yeah, make sure you use a tissue or flannel to clean the blade after each stroke. It’ll boost your chances of a “shaved first time” scenario.
Step 6: Inspector Gadget
Apart from winning the lottery on New Year’s Day, there most satisfying feeling on earth is finishing a cutthroat shave nick free and clean. It’s how your great-grandfather felt each morning. However, you probably won’t achieve this first time around. So what you need to do now is rinse your face with handfuls of warm water, dry yourself with a cold towel and then lean into the mirror to get a closer inspection. There’s just something about a dry face that lets you see all the strays you've missed. If there are any, simply slap on some more foam and shave the areas that have made it to the second round. Once done, use some balm or moisturiser to lock in the moisture in and protect your face dermis.
And with all that said and done, you’re ready to master the cutthroat razor on a bleary-eyed morning. We know it’s not as quick or easy, but that’s irrelevant. Think of it like driving: safety razors are like automatic cars, whereas a cutthroat razor is your chance to rip up the tarmac in a manual. Yes, they require a dollop more skill, but damn are they more fun and rewarding.
Thanks for reading. For more ideas on how to embrace the endless summer, chase the horizon and keep your skin sun-kissed all year round, follow us on Instagram and Facebook, and sign-up for a naughty-little newsletter below! (you’ll get a cheeky 10% off if you do).