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What Is a Straight Razor?

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  • Written By: David Bishop
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 27 October 2016
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A straight razor is a single-bladed shaving instrument that folds in half for safe storage. In some areas, these are known as open or cut-throat razors. Straight razors were the norm for most shaving applications until the development of safety razors and electric shavers during the 20th century. Some barbers still use straight razors to give their clients a cleaner look. Many men feel that straight razors provide a better shaving experience and still use these instruments, despite more convenient alternatives.

Men use straight razors for a variety of reasons. Some enjoy the daily ritual of preparing the shaving soap and razor and taking their time to get a close, clean shave. Other men have difficulty with disposable razors or razor cartridges not shaving closely enough or causing facial blemishes such as shaving bumps. Straight razors and accessories have become a popular luxury gift for men for Christmas or Father’s Day. Used properly, a straight razor can provide a great shaving experience, but it requires a good deal of training and maintenance to use this instrument properly.

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Using a straight razor can be a labor-intensive process. Unlike a disposable razor, the blade remains in continuous service and must be sharpened regularly to retain its edge. Dull or damaged razors are typically honed using a whetstone to achieve the desired sharpness. Once the blade has been sharpened, the owner must run the razor along a leather strop before shaving to help smooth out the edge and keep it in shape. The care and maintenance associated with straight razors compel many men to return to more conventional types of razors.

Once the razor has been honed and stropped, the user must use a great deal of care to shave the face and neck cleanly without injury. Unlike more modern razor designs, the straight razor does not have any sort of guard preventing it from cutting deeply into the skin. The user also must learn how to hold the razor at the correct angle and how to maneuver the blade around different areas of the face. This method typically takes more time than using a disposable blade, because many straight-razor owners use shaving soap and may pause to strop the razor a few times during the shave. The extreme sharpness of the blade and lack of any protective features means straight razors can be hazardous items in the home, particularly to curious young children.

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