Believe it or not, men have been shaving (or tweezing) for at least 100,000 years. It is now commonly thought that men who lived in the stone age would use clamshells as tweezers and start pulling out their beard hair long before modern razor were invented. Although we’re not entirely sure why they started doing this, we do have clues as to the origins of shaving and why it was traditionally important, especially for soldiers and men on the battlefield.
About 60,000 years ago, men began truly shaving by using sharpened obsidian and/or pumice stones, not simply tweezing by using clamshells. When we fast forward to the era of the ancient Romans, we begin seeing shaving as a sign of boys transitioning to men. The Romans also shaved because it was advantageous on the battlefield, considering a beard was something that could easily be grabbed and manipulated.
The point is, shaving tools and implements have gone through huge and adverse changes throughout history. What started with a simple clamshell transitioned into obsidian, pumice stones, and eventually, the shaving tools that we’ve come to know and love today.
But, this leaves an important question: Which modern shaving tool is the best?
Which Shaving Tool Works Best?
Before we can really choose the perfect shaving tool for you, we first have to define what the “best” tool really is. There are a few criteria that many men look for in their shaving implements. So, here are some categories we’ll be going over today:
- Closest Shave
These are arguably the most important and common considerations that men make when choosing their preferred method of shaving. Therefore, we’re going to be rating each shaving tool we talk about today (Electric shavers, safety razors, and straight razors) on their ability to perform in each of these three categories. So, let’s begin!
Interestingly enough, electric shavers might be older than you think. Patents for electric shaving devices go as far back as the year 1900, although they did not hit the mainstream market until the 1960s. Electric shavers are usually “bladeless” in a sense. They often consist of a metal gate or mesh that allows thin hair in, while a rotating set of ceramic or metal pieces on the interior slice the hair in a scissor-like action.
Let’s look further to see how electric shavers perform in each of the three categories that we discussed earlier.
Do Electric Shavers Cut Close?
The simple answer is…no. Electric shavers don’t shave as close as other shaving methods we’ll talk about today. Electric shavers have always been about convenience as opposed to getting the closest shave possible. Although the technology and methodology for creating effective electric razors is constantly improving, compared with traditional straight or safety razors, electric razors fall short of getting a close clean shave.
The reason why electric shavers don’t shave closely is due to the nature of how they cut the hair. Instead of slicing the hair with a blade where there is only one contact point between the hair and blade itself, electric razors require two contact points due to their scissor-like cutting motions. The metal gate has to hold the hair still while the moving ceramic or metal piece chops the hair. This leaves a portion of the hair (the width of the metal gate) uncut on the surface of your skin.
Electric shavers get 2/5 stars for closeness.
Are Electric Shavers Convenient?
Here is where the electric shaver really shines, it is probably the most convenient of all the shaving methods on this list. Electric shavers are portable, rechargeable, and can be used just about anywhere and at anytime without the need for shaving cream, water, or anything else. There are even models of electric razors on the market with small vacuums that keep the excess shaved hair from falling on your clothes or making a mess. The only trick is keeping your shaver charged.
Esssentially, if you are looking for a shaving or grooming method that can be used almost anywhere cleanly and easily, look no further than an electric shaver.
Electric shavers get 5/5 stars for convenience.
Are Electric Shavers Comfortable?
Electric shavers are some of the most comfortable shaving solutions on the market. This is partly due to the fact that they don’t shave as closely, meaning that your hair won’t be able to grow into the skin and cause irritation or ingrown hairs. Also, electric shavers never require sharp blade-to-skin contact, which can be menacing to inexperienced shavers.
The only reason an electric shaver would be uncomfortable is if it 1) isn’t charged enough, meaning the motor is not strong enough to slice hair, and instead, pulls it. Or 2) if the ceramic or metal blade that does the cutting action is dull, bent, or compromised, which is rarely the case.
Electric shavers get 4/5 stars for comfort.
Safety razors became popular in the early 1900s as a way to allow average ordinary people to get close shave at home without the skill necessary to wield a straight razor. Traditionally, men who wanted a shave would visit a barber shop where a master barber would use a special lather, crop, and razor sharp blade (straight razor) to cut away the hair. As you can imagine, this razor sharp open blade was quite dangerous to use for anyone not trained or used to cutting hair around their own necks. So, the safety razor was born.
Keep in mind that there are multiple versions of the safety razor: The traditional single-blade safety razor, and the more modern multi-blade razors, which we’ll be talking about today since it is most common.
Do Safety Razors Cut Close?
Believe it or not, multi-blade safety razors offer the closest shave possible, even when compared with straight razors. How is this possible? The answer is due to the multi-blade design of modern safety razors. As the razor is dragged across the skin, the blades work in unison to both pull the hair out and away from the skins surface, and chop the hair at the skins surface. Because of this unique action, as the skin settles, the hair actually falls below the surface of the skin, offering the closest shave you can possibly get.
If you want the closest shave possible, definitely opt for multi-blade razors. Which is why these razors get 5/5 stars for the closest shave.
Are Safety Razors Convenient?
To shave comfortably, safety razors often require certain conditions to be put into place. Firstly, these razors require some kind of lubrication (shaving cream, water at the very least, etc.) unless you happen to like razor burn and a bloody neck. They also don’t offer anywhere to put excess hair, meaning you’ll often have to wash and rinse the blade multiple times throughout your shave in the sink, which requires you to be in a restroom with shaving supplies.
Because of these things, multi-blade safety razors only get 1/5 stars in terms of convenience.
Are Safety Razors Comfortable?
With the right shaving tools (shaving cream, fresh sharp blade, etc.) the act of shaving itself can be quite comfortable. However, if any one of these things is missing, then the shaving process can become really painful. Without lubrication of some sort, the blade will be catching and slicing each imperfection on the skin, and without a fresh sharp blade, the razor will be pulling the hair and not slicing it.
Not to mention, because these razors typically cut the hair below the surface of the skin, the chances that irritation and ingrown hairs occur is going to skyrocket. Personally, I avoid these types of razors solely because of how much irritation they cause to the skin on and around my neck. However, for the closest shave possible, they can’t be beat. Safety razors earn 2/5 stars for comfort.
Straight razors are the oldest and most dramatic of the shaving methods we’ll be talking about today. After all, with movies like Sweeney Todd and other dramatizations of this shaving method, it’s easy to see why. Straight razors are by far the most traditional, yet dangerous, method of shaving because you are essentially holding a razor-sharp unguarded blade to your neck the entire time. However, they may be more relevant than they seem considering the history and old-timey look of them.
Straight razors were invented around the late 1600s and quickly became the principal shaving method across the civilized world. In fact, they remained this way until the mid 20th century.
Do Straight Razors Cut Close?
Straight Razors lie between electric shavers and multi-blade razors on the spectrum of how close they shave. I turns out that straight razors, due to the single blade design, simply cut hair at the surface of the skin where the blade is dragged across. There are no multiple blades that pull the hair out before they cut it, and no scissor-like motion that leaves excess hair uncut.
Straight razors still provide an extremely close shave, almost imperceptibly close compared to safety razors, which is why it gets 4/5 stars for closeness.
Are Straight Razors Convenient?
Straight Razors are arguably more and less convenient than their multi-bladed cousins. They still require lots of conditions for a perfect shave (such as lubrication, water, etc.) however, because they have a single blade, they are still able to shave relatively well without these things. It just takes an enormous amount of skill to do so without serious injury or irritation. A sharp straight razor can shave hair well without lubrication, and because the blade is an open design, it does not require running water to wash the excess hair out, just wipe it off the blade. It’s also fairly portable.
That being said, I would certainly not try to shave with a straight razor without good conditions, and never when I’m in a rush because mistakes can be dangerous. Also, special leather crops and sharpeners are used to keep the blades perfectly sharp, which may be difficult to manage. Because of these reasons, straight razors earn 2/5 stars for convenience.
Are Straight Razors Comfortable?
Interestingly enough, the comfort of a shave with a straight razor depends more so on you and your skill level with it than anything else. It is certainly possible that a straight razor can shave just as comfortably, if not more so, as an electric shaver depending on conditions and skill.
Also keep in mind that straight razors are single blades. If kept sharp, and with proper technique, this means that there is far less probability for irritation or ingrown hairs with straight razors than there is with multi-blade safety razors. This is why straight razors get 3/5 stars for comfort. (with higher comfort depending on proper technique)
Which Shaving Tool Works Best?
The shaving method you chose will depend on how much you value the closest shave, most convenient shave, or the most comfortable shave respectively. All the shaving utensils mentioned (electric shavers, safety razors, and straight razors) have their respective strengths and weaknesses. Do you value convenience above all else? Then electric shavers might be for you. Want nothing but the closest shave possible? Try a multi-blade safety razor. Want the most balance and control between all of the points mentioned? Straight razors might be your thing.
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