Living On the Edge

straight razor

Over at The Art of Manliness blog, Brett & Kate McKay recently capped off their “30 Days to a Better Man” series with an article extolling the manly virtues of that tapped into a soft spot I’ve long since had.

Y’see, the day before my wedding, my brother Rich (whom I hadn’t seen for several years prior due to him being stationed at a USAF base in the Philippines) & I went to get haircuts together.   We scoured the town trying to find a barbershop that offered old-fashioned straight razor shaves but we were advised that (at that time) nobody was doing them out of fear of AIDS.   So I just kinda dismissed the notion and never really looked back.

That was 13 years ago

On a whim last week, I phoned around to see if I could find a barbershop that does this now and on Saturday, I took the plunge and finally got that elusive straight razor shave I had backburnered for so long.

Was it everything I’d thought it might be?   Well, my usually-stubbly face felt as soft & smooth as a baby’s bottom and my moustache & goatee has never looked more neatly & precisely trimmed.   And to be sure, it was a distinctly masculine-feeling thing to do.   But…

I’m not sure I chose the right barber to do the task.

There were no hot, moist cotton towels or fancy facial prepwork to soften my whiskers.   No ceremonial stropping with that ominous schtick, schtick sound of the cold, glinty steel razor being dragged across a timeworn piece of leather to finely hone its edge.   No bushy badger brush clinking in the old ceramic cup of soap to whisk up a warm soapy lather.   Nope, my first ever old-fashioned straight razor shave sadly featured none of the quintessential rituals that would’ve made it so much more of a momentous venture.

There were, however, lots of nicks that stung like fierce little rattlesnake bites when the barber hit me (without warning!) with the thankfully unscented, but nonetheless very potent post-shave astringent.

Still, if you were to ask me if I’d get a straight razor shave again, I’d say “Yes!”   Now that I know that some barbers do offer this service again and I’m past the initial apprehension of having someone come at my tender face with a big, gleaming piece of sharpened metal, I do think it’ll happen again — but with a different barber next time!


  1. , that's pretty funny.

    I just moved to Egypt and I went into a barber to get a beard trim. It took about 45mins and included all the traits you missed out on. They also combed my hair and gave it a little trim for free and including tip it cost me less than $4!!!

    I just expected some guy to get the electric trimmer and trim my beard up a little so was suprised at all the attention I got.

    I didn't fee very manly though to be honest. It was actually a bit too Metrosexual for my normal scruffy personality, but i'll go back when the time is right 🙂

  2. Man Rob, you're a great writer. I felt your pain for a second with those nicks.

    In the eighties when I was in the Army many of the local barbers would use a straight razor to give a shave and to shave around the neck and ears. I can remember this old guy we called shaky. His hand shook like crazy holding that razor but so did the one one top of our heads. It's like he shook our heads in unison with his shaving hand because he never cut us. Good memories.

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