Recoil Issue 13
written by by John Schwartze photography by Patrick Vuong
Many of us may regard strait razors as something from a bygone era, reserved only for old-school barbers near retirement age or as weapons in gangster films…that is until you actually use one. I have extremely coarse, fast rowing facial hair and practically need to shave twice a day with an electric shaver, or else Bigfoot will start taking pictures of me. The first time I got a straight razor shave I incorrectly assumed, as may people might, that a single blade wouldn’t yield a closer shave than a multi-blade disposable razor. I was way wrong. My face hadn’t felt that smooth since before puberty, and my second-day stubble was on par with what my face felt like after using an electric shaver. We ventured over to Long Beach, California, to have our friend Pedro Zermeno, owner of Razorbacks Barber Shop, show you how to give yourself a damn close shave with a straight razor. He’s been in the business for 27 years, so he knows his way around a sharp instrument. It can be time consuming to go through all the steps, so for most it will just be something you do on weekends to simply enjoy the process. Shaving is usually about as fun as flossing teeth, but here’s a way to turn a daily ritual into something cool with the kind of result thst are well worth the effort. Your wife will think so too.
First of, you are going to want to work some good pre-shave oil onto your face and follow it up with a good coating of shaving cream. Brand preference is subjective, but something with aloe or vitamin E to soothe, lubricate, and prevent irritation are the types of properties these items should contain. Then, when the cream and oil are still applied, lay a moist hot towel over (or up to) your face. Since we suspect most of you don’t have towel warmers, run a decent sized wash-cloth or small towel under warm very water and hold that up to your face and neck for a couple of minutes. This helps soften up the face and hair as well as opening the pores. After you have done that, reapply the shave oil and lather.
Now you are ready to start shaving. Hold the blade at a-degree angle and start at the most sensitive area on your face since it’s nice and warm. Go with the grain to begin with because you’ll get a smoother, more comfortable shave. When you are done shaving your face and neckline, reapply another hot towel or washcloth for a couple of minutes. Then you can start at the most sensitive area again and gently work the blades side to side.
Grain direction and final steps
After you’ve shaven your whole face again in a side-to-side motion, you reapply the shave oil and cream. You’re then ready to go against the grain because the hair is short enough that it won’t get caught, which causes nicks to happen. When you have finished going against the grain over the entire face and neck, rinse of and slap on an aftershave splash with low alcohol to keep your skin from drying out. Then apply a moisturizing aftershave balm to prevent irritation and close up your pores. Sound like a lot of work? It certainly is but nothing done right is easy.
For razors, Pedro favors Feather and Merkur, but there are a lot of good razors out there to choose from. Let’s say you just shave on the weekends with your straight razor – how often should you sharpen it? If it is a fixed blade, you’ll want to sharpen it at least every other week. You want that blade sharp! If you are not experienced with sharpening, have it professionally done. That way you know what you are getting and won’t run the risk of bending the blade, which is an easy way to cut yourself. There are also many strait razors available with disposable blades.
Your shaving arsenal
Speaking of cuts, any generic nick relief powder should do the trick to stop bleeding. This is a delicate art that is going to take time to master. If you are hesitant about doing it, you can always go to a shop like Razorbacks with experienced barbers who can fix you up without having to worry about self-inflicted-wounds. Looking to get started? Turn to page 138 for our straight razor buyer’s guide to see what fits your style and budget. For other supplies you need, Razorbacks are purveyors of Imperial Barber Products, and their line of shaving products are among the best. Good Luck, fellow blade runners.
Text for pics:
Before: It’s five o clock somewhere, namely the shadow of my face in desperate need of a good, sharp, razor.
After: Electric shavers? We don’t need no stinking electric shavers!
Razorbacks Barber Shop 562 433 4444
Imperial Barber Products