I Hate Beards
Sorry, hipsters. I hate beards. It may have to do with my personal cougar-y tastes and my desire to have my boytoys look as much like boys as possible. Admittedly, as I’ve gotten older I’ve downgraded from “won’t fuck you ‘til you shave it off” (which caused several men who’d had beards for years to dispense with them abruptly) to “long stubble is ok.” However, I still like to see as much naked guy-face as possible.
Thus, the shaving of men’s faces is important to me.
My editor suggested an article on the trend amongst hipster and alt dudes of shaving vintage style, and at a dinner party the same night, I discovered that my housemate is actually a total classic shaving cognoscente.
So I’ve recently learned some tips about modern-day shaving with old-fashioned tools, and now I shall share them with you!
First of all, don’t just decide to buy a straight razor and learn to shave with it. The learning curve is really, really steep, and hey, it’s your face you’re chopping up. There are tons of resources about straight razor shaving out there, and reading them may discourage you altogether. Straight razor shaving is an art and a developed physical skill, so you’ll want to be willing to learn it just like you would learn a new craft, a new sport, or a new hobby. Hudson’s FTM Resource Guide has the clearest, easiest-to-read introduction to the process I’ve found. I like the tutorial on artofmanliness.com, too.
The people who do learn the skill swear by it, and it’s terribly sexy. I like this straight-razor-shaving demo, out of the millions on YouTube, because the baby-faced prettyboy is totally my type, and I like what he says about brushes made from unborn badger fetuses.
A great suggestion from my housemate is to go get a straight razor shave from an expert barber at a real barber shop to see how you like it. In San Francisco, you can get a shave from master barber Sal Cimeno at 1512 Barbershop—he’s wildly popular on Yelp, and reviewers speak very highly of the pampering value of the traditional wet shave experience with hot towels and lather.
If you find you like the experience, you’ll need more than just a razor—you’ll want a strop (the leather or canvas strap you use to straighten and polish the blade), shaving oil, a shaving brush (SOOO expensive!), and shaving cream or shaving soap (you can contact these guys at egentlemen.com for a free consultation about choosing the best product for your skin type). Pre-shaving oils help create a barrier between skin and razor; glycerin-based creams or soaps applied with a badger-hair brush soften your beard-fur and lift it away from the skin.
A key piece of information is to go for gradual beard reduction, not a clean shave in a single pass. The craziest piece of info I got was that a razor can be TOO sharp for shaving—if it’s TOO sharp, it catches on every tiny irregularity on the skin surface, and hacks you up. This description of a Thumb Pad Test for appropriate sharpness makes me curl up like a shrimp and flinch, but if you’re thinking about shaving with a straight razor, you already have a totally different relationship to razors and other knifey-bladey things than I do. Personally, doing bloodplay with an X-Acto on my boyfriend was a huge heebie-jeebie-facing exercise for me—I can’t even touch a straight razor.