Traditional shaving is typically the practice of shaving with double-edge (DE) or straight razor, together with a shaving brush. There’s no precise definition of a traditional shave, it’s more of an idea or concept. There are a variety of principles and techniques that you can combine into your shaving routine to achieve a traditional shaving experience. Use a quality shaving cream, whipped up in a bowl with a shaving brush to produce a luxurious, rich lather. Invest more time pre-shave to properly prepare the skin and hairs. Use pre- and post-shave oils and balms to soften, protect and sooth the skin. Taking time and care while shaving, and treating it as a ritual or experience.
A brief history of razors
DE razors, also known as ‘safety razors’, were developed in the mid-18th century as an alternative to straight (or ‘cut-throat’) razors, and as a safer and more convenient shaving method that could be used at home rather than requiring the assistance of a professional.
The first safety razor was invented in 1762 by a French chap called Jean-Jacques Perret. It was later further developed in the mid-to-late 19th century by brothers Frederick and Otto Kampfe, and marketed as, “The best available shaving method on the market that won’t cut a user, like straight steel razors.”
Things really kicked off in 1901 when King Camp Gillette patented a new variation of safety razor using disposable blades. This is essentially the type of DE razor still in use today. They have since been all but forgotten, following the introduction of the disposable cartridge razor system in the 1960s. Fun fact – King Camp Gillette wasn’t a king, that was actually his name!
The benefits of Traditional Shaving
Despite yielding inferior shaving results and causing skin irritation, modern man has succumbed to the mass-marketing of cartridge razors and abandoned the ways of traditional shaving.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a plethora of blades jammed into a plastic case to give the closest shave possible. You need only one. One sharp blade used with a quality brush and shaving cream or soap will, with a little practice, provide a much closer shave with far less irritation. The the whole experience will be much more enjoyable, as well as being cheaper and better for the environment. On that note, take a look at our Environmental & Ethical page.
When it comes to maintaining the sharp edges of a beard the benefits of using a single fixed blade, rather than half a dozen little blades on a pivoting head, really don’t need explaining.
For any man who takes pride in his appearance, traditional shaving is the epitome of male grooming. But if you’re not ready to fully commit to a DE razor right away, at least try applying some of the basic principles first; use a brush, switch to a nice shaving cream, and spend a little more time pre-shave to prepare the skin and beard. If you do the pre-shave preparation bit properly then your shave will immediately improve. A sharp, clean blade is also absolutely essential. With cartridge replacements being so expensive, the temptation is to eke them out as for as long as possible. Don’t.
Although traditional shaving requires a little investment initially, a decent razor – when looked after properly – will last a lifetime. The replacement blades are crazy cheap compared to cartridges. Shaving cream and soap will long outlast a can of gel. The shave will be closer and your skin will also thank you. Plus it’s manly AF and all looks great on the bathroom shelf.
See our Guide to Traditional Shaving and other information pages for more advice.