A so-called cut-throat shave is simply the use of a straight razor to get what has been shown to be a much closer shave, which in-turn makes for a “higher-quality” shave. The straight razor is used in place of some of the more widely used shavers preferred by men of all ages in this day and age, such as electric shavers and those multi-blade razors which are claimed to provide the ultimate in close shaves.
Why the decline in cut-throat shaving over the years?
There’s a certain Western film entitled “My Name is Nobody,” starring the very lovable Terence Hill and Henry Fonda, kicking things off with a very long scene that features Henry Fonda’s character going into a barber’s and getting a cut-throat shave. It’s quite brilliant, detailing every single step of the way as they used to do it back then, but what you’ll find is that not much has changed by way of how one would go about getting a cut-throat shave these days.
That scene, including the element of danger suggested by the character’s pointing of his gun in the barber’s backside (risk of cutting), pretty much epitomises the tradition behind getting a cut-throat shave. The length of the scene is pretty much equivalent to the real-world, which is one of the main reasons for the decline in this kind of shaving, over the years. It takes a while – quite a bit longer than shaving with the other, more preferred options available today, even if you’d be doing it yourself.
How long you’d take giving yourself a straight razor wet shave depends upon your skill-level, of course and pretty much the same can be said for a barber who might be the one you pay to give you a straight razor wet shave. Naturally though, barbers are much more skilled at it, because that’s their trade. Unfortunately though there aren’t that many such people left, or rather there aren’t that many who are actually still in the trade. The skills they possess remain, but there just aren’t as many clients as there once were, hence the decline in the entire industry.
The advantages of getting a cut-throat shave
So if we’re to adequately answer the question as to exactly why every man should at the very least try a cut-throat shave, we’d have to discuss its advantages over other methods of shaving, which as we’ve already established seem to be favoured over cut-throat shaving because of the time constraints of modern day life.
Dispelling the time issue
One of the biggest contributors to cut-throat shaving being written off as a time-consuming chore is the fact that shaving in itself has become a chore. Who said you must shave in the morning, as part of your grooming ritual? Sure, it makes every bit of sense, because that’s when you’re getting ready for your day in many other ways as well, but we can turn the time issue right on its head by electing not to shave in the morning.
Shave, with a straight razor, any other time but the morning, such as when you come from work perhaps, after a session in the gym or perhaps even just before you go to bed. Make sure you’re not all the way tired though, because you need a good level of concentration in order to avoid nicking yourself…There’s a reason why it’s called cut-throat shaving, after all…
If you’re not at all convinced, then go a little bit further back in time and entertain the prospect of honouring the tradition of cut-throat shaving as it’s offered at a barber’s. Shaving yourself with a straight razor is largely believed to be a relaxing exercise instead of a chore, but don’t take our word for it. Try a cut-throat shave at a traditional barber who offers straight razor wet shaving.
Firstly, you’ll probably never want to go back to shaving in any other way, because of the quality of the shave itself, but we’ll get into a bit more detail about that in a bit. Secondly, getting a wet shave done by a skilled barber is an experience in itself. Ask people who just get their hair cut a barber’s and they’ll tell you a nice story about how they develop some kind of relationship or bond with that barber, as well as with other customers, especially those who are fellow regulars.
You get to come in for a bit of a chat or maybe even for some advice, enjoying what is essentially a social occasion in the same way you would enjoy something like visiting a bar for pint and the chat or advice that comes with it.
Handy hint: these kinds of cut-throat barbers are definitely hard to come by these days, but if you look hard enough, you’ll have no problem finding one. If you can’t find one at a venue that is clearly marked as a barber’s, you can try and find one at a nearby luxury hotel – they tend to honour such traditions.
Benefitting from a really close shave
When we speak about the quality of a shave, particularly the high-quality shave you get from the use of a straight razor, just how close it is will often be referenced. Try the straight razor and you might be surprised to find that an even closer shave than those multi-blade razors is actually possible! A razor head with more blades does not necessarily equate to a closer shave…
What a really close shave means is that there are no stray patches of hair left behind, with the sharp edge of the single blade making maximum contact with your skin. As a result, stubble tends to take longer to reappear and so you’ll often find that you don’t need to shave daily anymore, as you would with your cartridge razor. So, you maintain the cleanly-shaven look for a considerable period of time.
Old-school, lasting quality
The concept of shaving with a straight razor for the closest shave you can, might be seen as somewhat of a novelty to those who use modern day shavers, but its principles of delivering the best shave go back to the very beginning of male grooming. There weren’t any cartridge shavers back when straight razors started undergoing mass-production and there were certainly no electric shavers. What’s interesting about this though is that we consequently appear to have applied the opposite developmental trajectory to a piece of technology such as shaving equipment, regressing from the best that was on offer, only to be stuck with using less-effective solutions that end up costing us more in the long run.
There’s even a specific brand of razors that makes the yet-to-be-openly-challenged claim that their blades “may never need replacing,” ever, which speaks to the quality of the old-school. Straight razors were developed and gained popularity during a time when lasting quality was indeed a common selling-point, so in the long run you will save money by investing in a complete cut-throat, wet shaving kit.
It might set you back quite a bit when you make the initial purchase, but that’s why it’s referred to as an investment, because unlike with disposable shavers, these tend to last really, really long.
It’s not uncommon for discerning gentlemen to carry their own straight razor shaving kits or just the razor when visiting their favourite barber…
What bumps and burns?
We can talk all year about the tradition behind the cut-throat shaving culture, whether you visit a barber or if you do it yourself, but what it ultimately comes down to, by way of trying and sticking to cut-throat shaving, is the set of results you get from the activity.
We’ve already mentioned the reduced frequency with which you’d subsequently need to shave as a result of the extremely close shave a straight razor gives, but there’s another way of looking at that as an advantage. Those readily available shavers with standard razor cartridges come with multiple blades, but that’s not always as beneficial as it’s made out to be. Your skin dries out and gets irritated if effectively exposed to multiple shaving actions as each blade repeatedly passes over it, often resulting in razor burns and ingrown hairs. Let’s not even get into the discomfort this causes, often visibly manifested through those dreaded razor bumps and sores.
Razor bumps, sores, rashes and burn marks are often confined to those consumers who use multiple blade shavers, because ask anybody who appears to maintain a very clean shave what their secret to not having to endure these pains is and they’ll likely tell you that all they do is use a straight razor for a cut-throat shave.
Often getting different results to those which essentially eliminate bumps and burns comes down to the skill level of the person handling the straight razor. So, it’s all about finding the right equipment that suits your skin in addition to developing the right level of skill to get it right. It will naturally take some practice if you are indeed going it yourself, otherwise find a skilled wet shave cut-throat barber and your grooming ritual will never be the same again.