A straight razor is a razor with a long blade set in a handle and in traditional and current western versions the blade has the ability to fold into the handle. The straight razor is sometimes called an open razor or cut-throat razor.
During prehistoric times there is documented evidence that men used clam shells, stone or flint knives, and even sharpened blocks of iron to shave and cut their hair with. By the Bronze Age many cultures had developed razors designed specifically for shaving and by the 5th century B.C. razors were in common use throughout the world. These early razors were often constructed by the local blacksmith and the quality of the metal and edge could be extremely variable based on an individual’s given skill. It was not until the late 18th century that the first modern straight razors were introduced in Sheffield, England. In 174o Benjamin Huntsman developed the first hard grade steel suitable for use in the manufacture of blades and while this process was initially rejected b the English it was, albeit reluctantly, adopted by the French. Once the success of the French straight razor manufactures was readily apparent the English and eventually the rest of the western world adopted this process resulting the legendary “Sheffield Silver Steel.”
The straight razor was until the early 20th century the most common form of shaving and due to the skill and costs associated with using and owning them, shaving was usually done by a professional barber. It was not uncommon for men from all levels of society to visit the local barber on a weekly basis for a shave and hair cut. The introduction and mass production of an affordable safety razor, most notably by Gillette, in the early 20th century quickly changed this and by the 1950’s the straight razor shave was a dying art.
In recent years the straight razor has made a significant comeback as the desire for a more personal and ritualized grooming experience has manifested itself in modern society. Today many barbers proudly offer a straight razor shave and this trend shows no real signs of stopping. The retail consumer has also embraced the straight razor as they have become more affordable in comparison to the mass produced alternatives, particularly over a period of several years of ownership.
The straight razor is a time-honed tool, designed to give you an extremely close and accurate shave. There are many straight razors available on the market to choose from based on the steel used, functionality, scale materials, and brand. We will be talking about this more in the weeks to come. If you want to learn the different ways to hold a straight razor go here.