Straight Shave


Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Ordinary Times. Relapsed Lawyer, admitted to practice law (under his real name) in California and Oregon. On Twitter, to his frequent regret, at @burtlikko. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

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42 Responses

  1. Avatar Tod Kelly says:


    That’s a thing?Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      Yeah, definitely a thing. You want it. If you haven’t been using it, start. You won’t go back, I promise.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        I realize you already shaved the beard, but oil is needed for that too. Mine’s also thick and wiry, and it softens and tames it.Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog says:

        Hm, I don’t use anything but hot water myself – no oil, no soap. Never had a problem with razor burn, save sometimes where the strap of my bike helmet goes, if I shave just before leaving rather than before breakfast. I use a double-sided safety razor, so theoretically the same sort of blade you do, just mounted differently (?)Report

      • Avatar Chasm says:

        I’ve gone back and forth on the shaving oil thing. I use a double-edge safety in a merkur handle (merkur or Wilkinson blades).

        The thing with oil is that, while it does lube the skin, it also keeps moisture from penetrating it, and that kind of defeats the purpose of a hot wet shave. I stopped using pre-shave oil on my face a couple of years ago and now only occasionally use it on my head if it is really dry or if I haven’t shaved it in over a week and the hair is long.

        Aftershave I use a tiny amount of Jack Black Aloe to cool, and after that dries I do use the JB skin oil, which is fantastic. Ultimately, everyone’s skin and beard is different and you should experiment with allot of different products to see what works best for you.Report

  2. Avatar aaron david says:

    I am actually jealous of you in this. I have a very short beard as I both grow facial hair quickly and will get razor burn pretty much from looking at any shaving tackle. I prefer myself clean shaven, but it really isn’t pretty.Report

    • Avatar Road Scholar says:

      It’s weird, I’m just the opposite. I’ve tried to grow a beard on several occasions and starting a few days in the itching drives me to distraction. I can actually see a red rash beneath the stubble. A clean shave clears it right up.Report

      • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

        Tough it out and a few days after the itching phase begins, it will disappear permanently. At least it is permanent so long as you keep the beard.

        I don’t want my morning routine to be any more complicated than it has to be. This is why I have a beard. About once a month or so I go to my barber (pro tip: a “barber,” not a “stylist,” in a “barber shop,” not a “salon.” He even has a checkerboard set up, though it is more of a statement than a practical accessory). He whacks the beard back to just past the itching phase.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      Learn to wear it. I believe they call that look rakish, if done right.Report

  3. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    I wanted to have a beard and mustache since I was thirteen. I wore some form of facial hair since I was twenty. From twenty-eight onward, I’ve worn a full beard and mustache. There was a brief exception in the spring and summer of 2014. My mother wanted to see my face again so I got a straight edge shave at my barber for mother’s day. You can get really close with a straight edge shave. The problem is that it takes a really long time to do it right. Before the safety razor and regular indoor plumbing, a lot of men would pay a barber to shave them every few days rather than do it themselves. Its easier now but still takes a long time.Report

  4. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    Tucked away in a drawer I have this bad boy, from my grandfather. I’ve never been brave enough to try sharpening it up and using it.Report

  5. Avatar Stillwater says:

    I like this post! I’ve always been apathetic about shaving because it’s such a dangole chore, but the spiritually frisky way you use the word “meditation” has me more than intrigued. I’ma buy me a straight razor in the morning. From Walgreens.

    Thanks for the post.Report

  6. Avatar Kazzy says:

    I’ve gone through various incarnations of bearddom and feelings on shaving. But I can say that, having had trimwork done with a straight razor in the hands of a talented barber… it is quite the treat.Report

  7. Avatar Jaybird says:

    May I suggest using product next time you grow a beard?

    A nice tea tree leave-in conditioner can soften your bristles and will smell pleasant until your next meal.Report

  8. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    Attend the tale of Burty Likko
    His skin was pale, he listened to zydeco
    He shaved the faces of gentlemen
    Who were billed by the hour and fainted again
    Did Burty
    Burty Likko
    The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

    An affectionate parody. Song to the tune of The Ballad of Sweeney ToddReport

  9. Avatar LWA says:

    I switched to a brush and mug about 20 years ago when I became irked at the amount of waste in shaving cans.
    A year or so ago i found an old double edged razor and bought a pack of blades. I discovered that I can get about 4 months use out of each blade.
    I dunno about the quality of the shave, but the near-zero waste has a nice aspect to it.
    I keep looking at straight razors, but haven’t had the courage to try one.

    This has me giving it some thought again.Report

  10. Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

    True Story – when I came home from college, I was looking for a barber shop and found one up the road from my tiny little apartment. The man inside was nice enough. He was an enthusiastic softball player. He used unfortunate but not horrible offensive terminology for minorities. He was older. Anyway, he used a straight razor on the back of my neck and it felt pretty good. I asked him about doing beard shaves and he said, “Nope. Stopped doing those when the AIDS came around.”

    So, just to recap: you can get AIDS from beard shaves apparently, but not neck shaves.

    It was only after going a few times that I realized he was cutting hair while drunk and that he actually only ever gave you one particular cut, no matter what you asked for.Report

    • Back in, it must have been 1988, I flew home for a job interview and forgot to pack my electric razor. I needed a haircut anyway, so I asked the barber to shave me too. He refused, because of fear of AIDS. Which was good to know, because I hadn’t realized he was planning to draw blood.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


      There are all sorts of old-timey hipster barber places now that will do shaves with a straight-edge razor but I think these places did go out of fashion for a while. Hipsters like turn of the century things though.

      Fun fact: Only Barbers are allowed to use straight-edge razors on other people. People with aesthecian licenses are not. I learned this at my barbershop and it takes significantly more hours of training to get a barber’s license.Report

  11. Avatar Miss Mary says:

    I would think that your chin and Adam’s apple aren’t any more difficult than bony knees and the back of your ankles. You totally make me want to try it, but your right about the rust and ladybits. I wouldn’t want to be enjoying a nice, hot bubble bath just to drop a straight razor in the tub. Ouch!Report

  12. Avatar ScarletNumber says:

    Typically women shave … cheek or thigh.

    I was really hoping you could work the word “braciole” into this paragraph.Report

  13. Avatar Road Scholar says:

    I’m searching for the best way to shave my noggin. About three and a half years ago I shaved my skull in solidarity with my wife when she was going through chemotherapy. (Cancer free three years, woo-hoo!) After the initial weirdness we both came to agree that it was a better look for me than the unruly gray mess with a bald spot that middle age had bestowed upon me.

    Problem is it’s like shaving a hairy bowling ball. There are exactly zero flat surfaces and you have to do it entirely by feel. The best solution I’ve found is a “Flex” disposable cartridge but I’m seriously open to suggestions.Report

    • Avatar greginak says:

      I shave my head. I just use an electric. I’m not even sure what brand. Yeah you do it by feel but it really does work pretty well. I shave my cranium while i’m utilizing the toilet in the morning. Two tasks while doing number…..well you get it. I call it efficiency. Just keep the razor moving over and over and everything will get done. Heads really shouldn’t have much that is flat.Report

      • Avatar Road Scholar says:

        What style of electric, @greginak ? I have one that has the cylindrical head but I’ve been wondering if one of those Norelco bad boys with the three floating circular heads would be the ticket.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        @road-scholar Its the kind with the pivoting rectangular head. I don’t think the circular heads work that well, i tried one years ago. The rectangular head is easier to mow up and down a head when you are reaching the back or sides that you cant’ see. The circular heads are harder to figure what it cutting when you are doing the back of a head i think. My current one is a panasonic but i’m not sure its much better or worse than other models.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      Congratulations to Mrs. Road Scholar on the recovery!

      I’ve not tried to shave my head with the straight razor; so far, early middle age has spared me the male pattern baldness that afflicted my father at my age. I would probably try it, though, after an initial shave exposed the shape of my head and I became familiar with it by feel and mirror-sight the way I’m familiar with my chin.Report

  14. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    I’ve been using a disposable-blade Feather razor for years. They take longer blades, which seem a better fit for a straight razor to me. I guess I don’t use the full length of the blade, so maybe the regular double-edged blades would be fine, but it just seems wrong to me.

    I go back and forth between oil plus cream, and just water. Just water sounds bad, but I really don’t notice all that much of a difference.Report

  15. Avatar morat20 says:

    I gave up years ago. See, I have very fair skin (not the outdoors type either) and VERY dark hair. I can get the best shave in the world, and I look stubbly even with baby-smooth skin.

    I also can’t grow a beard. (Goatee, yes, but apparently the part between the goatee and my hair lacks follicles or something. I grow a full beard, and it looks like I grew a goatee and a few hairs just migrated north).

    So I’ve stuck with either goatee or just used a motorized shaver. It doesn’t make much of a visible difference in the end, and the motorized shaver I have works quickly and well. If I’m feeling particularly interested in appearances, I’ll use a post-shave astringent thingy that adds about two hours until I look scruffy.

    Seriously, it’s annoying to LOOK stubbly and have smooth skin. Short of laser hair removal, I’m stuck. (Ironically, I’d be an excellent candidate. dark hair and fair skin is ideal for laser hair removal).Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      I grow a full beard, and it looks like I grew a goatee and a few hairs just migrated north.

      That’s me, particularly on one side, which makes it look even worse.Report

      • Avatar morat20 says:

        My brother, on the other hand. GRR. He’s three years younger than me, In addition to JUST getting his first grey hair a few years ago (I got mine at 18. Every doctor I’ve ever had took gallons of blood trying to figure out why. Premature greying is generally a sign of a problem), the man has got a ridiculously thick hair AND grows a full on Obi-wan beard whenever he feels like it.

        Doesn’t let it get that long, but it’s ridiculously thick and absolutely even in growth.

        OTOH, he’s got about two more weeks to enjoy it. Next round of chemo’s gonna make him Lex Luthor for the rest of the year.

        I’m gonna get him a fedora, because he ALSO can pull off any hat, period. I look like an idiot in baseball caps, and he could wander out in public wearing a top hat and people would be “Oh wow, he’s really making that work. Fantastic taste!”Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        My youngest brother is the same way! He’s had a full beard for years now, and it bugs me every time we hang out.

        I can, however, wear a hat, and I frequently do (usually a baseball cap, though). I’ve done this all of my life, but with my hair gradually divorcing me, I’ve become more enamored with my caps.

        Good luck to your brother.Report

      • Avatar aaron david says:

        My brother, with two divorces and working 20-30 hours a day, still has a full head of red hair. He’s pushing 50!Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        If he’s working 30 hours a day, he’s obviously using time travel technology to obtain baldness cures from the future.Report

      • Avatar El Muneco says:

        I have a mixed blessing… The hair on top is staying dark except at the temples, and isn’t either receding as much as my dad’s or going all curly like a wire-brush as his did, just a couple areas that look like devils’ horns when they get too long. On the other hand, I have a shadow at about noon rather than five-o-clock, and it /is/ grey, which coloration started at about age 30 and is (understandably) just accelerating. Oh, and I get ingrown whiskers after two to three days, so a full beard has never really been an option even if I didn’t have so much self-image invested in still being able to pass for under 40.

        As a result, I shave at least once a day except for Saturday, when I can rest. I’ve thought about a straight razor from time to time, but as often as I have to do it, I have to opt for maximum convenience and minimum bleeding. Which means an expensive cartridge with a lot of blades. It’s one of my little indulgences.Report

  16. Avatar Mo says:

    I’m a big fan of using an old school Gillette adjustable razor. All metal baby.