DE or Straight Razor?
Well just a touch of background info before I delve into this topic head first. I started out, right from Gillette Mach III, right to a Pearlex handled Dovo 5/8th’s straight razor. No instruction, no background knowledge, and no real knowledge of honing & stropping. RIGHT off the bat I began getting superior shaves (to my mach III) – threw out my Mach III and never looked back. I purchased a straight razor, as the Mach III gave me terrible irritation, ingrown hairs, and just plumb didn’t provide me with a close shave… unless I REALLY wanted to put my skin thru a beating to get it. I liked the idea of having a setup that was wholly self reliant, and would be a permanent solution to my woe’s – without having to purchase new blades, worry about them discontinuing the razor handle/blades, etc. Not only was it practical in my eyes – but it had an incredibly manly “bad ass” appeal to it…. I was hooked.
About a month or two after having shaved with a straight razor my roommate at the time was quite interested in all this wet shaving hubbub, and decided to purchase a Merkur Futur, Col. Conk pure badger brush, and some Col. Conk soap. When it arrived, he was terrified to try it, as once he saw the “raw blade” that would be put up against his face, he pushed it towards me and suggested I try it first, since I had been shaving with a straight razor – this would be second nature. Well the first stroke I took with this razor loaded with a Merkur blade, I thought to myself “Damn, I must be doing this wrong, as I didn’t hear/feel this POS cut a damn thing.” Well – I touched the area, and stopped dead….. holy crap! Not only did it shave that area, but it was the closest I had ever experienced. A few minutes later, I had experienced a shave that simply embarrassed the Dovo Pearlex’s performance in terms comfort, closeness, quality, consistency, and ease of performance.
Long experience short – I realized my straight razor was not nearly as sharp as it could, and should be. After acquiring a plethora of straight razors, hones, pasted strops, razors honed by “pro’s” I finally got it down, and was eventually able to get superior, longer lasting shaves with straight razors, but it took quite a hefty dedication of time, effort, discomfort, and money.
So why use a straight razor?
Well it is my opinion and experience, that NOTHING, let me repeat, NOTHING will provide a closer, more comfortable shave than a properly honed straight razor. To hell with wacky gimmicky Feather Straight razors, Merkur Visions, Slant Bars, etc – the right straight razor will deliver them all a hefty plate of comeuppance. I also liken the straight razor to piloting a sports car with a manual transmission thru a volley of twisty mountain roads versus a double edge as romping thru the twisties in an auto-tranny 1960’s muscle car. Fun, but not too elegant, a bit clunky, not to precise, and surely no “passion” or excitement involved. The straight razor is an experience, a journey with a tremendous amount of personal satisfaction and accomplishment at the wheel. Many have/will try a straight razor and quit. Quite frankly, it is not a tool for everyone… heck for most people.
So if a straight razor is so good, why use a DE?
Well – compared to modern methods of shaving, a DE is leaps and bounds ahead of the pack. It is lest costly to operate, more fun, provides a significantly closer shave than the alternatives, with zero irritation (when done properly) and dramatically cuts down on ingrown hairs. There is also a very short learning curve; ridiculously inexpensive, incredibly sharp blades readily available (hear the toll of the convenience bell ringing?). You get up in the morning, lather up, run the thing around your face, end of story. When a blade gets dull – to the waste bin it goes. Simple, easy, cut and dry. A DE is simply a tool with which to mow facial hair. A Straight is more of an ornamental piece of history/art. Think a TV Dinner VS a home cooked meal.
Now I am confused… so what do I do?
Personally I use both, but without question use a DE more frequently. 8 out of 10 times I shave I use a DE, as it is just so quick and easy and works wonderfully. Straight razors I relegate to special occasions, times when I have a large block of time in the morning, or when I am just in the “mood” for a straight razor shave.
I personally feel that if you were weaned on a DE razor, you have a greatly diminished chance of being successful with a straight razor. If your current DE methods are providing you with outstanding shaves, you will be quickly deterred by the seemingly “mediocre” results you will achieve with the straight razor for a month – possibly MONTHS. By “cleaning up” with a DE after shaving with a straight, you cheat yourself for learning the areas that need more work, change how the hair is cut, etc and will never be truly happy with your straight razor shaves. To give it a go, means switching to a straight razor for UP TO 2-3 months depending on how quickly you pick it up, the razor, strop, your stropping abilities, how sharp the razor is, etc. Most guy who have switched to DE’s and are happy with their routine, cannot/will not sacrifice the quality of their shaves for a day, let alone month(s) to learn a new method – so for most of you who fall into this category, unless you have a DEEP desire, I recommend not taking the plunge.
Well I want to try a straight razor – what about a Feather?
Don’t. Listen, just don’t. Few things in the realm of shaving have been so “on and off” than this damn feather. I have packs of blades that are incredibly inconsistent (some will rip your face off and turn your visage into a blood bath and others will work wonders). The feather is also incredibly boring to use, much more so than a double edge. Also – due to the sharpness of this razor, it is SOOO easy to cut yourself time and time again. I got to the point where I was receiving wonderful, consistent shaves, and then every so often I’d get a blade that would just literally SHRED my face, which ruins the whole experience. As you can see from my SOTD’s, I just about never use the thing anymore. Some guys really enjoy them – they are good for certain gents I suppose, and they will provide a shave on par (closeness) with a straight razor, but the closeness of the shave will not last as long as a bona fide straight razor.
What do you want out of your shaving experience - Fun? Comfort? Efficacy? Self-sufficiency? Economy? Convenience? The simple fact of the matter is an outstanding DE shave is going to be about on par with a straight razor shave, but the straight razor shave will have more “lasting power.” If you are happy with your current DE regime I wouldn’t really suggest you deviate unless you have some major burr that needs cleansing I personally feel the straight razor EXPERIENCE is superior to that of a double edge across the bar, save for “Convenience” – but not so superior that we should prod the masses to swap their trusty DE’s for straight razors.