Watch any movie about pirates or American gangsters, and there’s a reasonable chance you will see a cut-throat shave at some point. Used to great cinematic effect to portray dominance, the threat of violence and fear, the classic cut-throat shave has almost completely vanished from everyday life in Britain. But this primitive form of grooming is making something of a comeback.
A growing number of specialist barber shops are offering a cut-throat shave at a premium price. But there’s no need to splash the cash to enjoy this dying art. With the right equipment and know-how, you can perform your own cut-throat shave safely and effectively — in the comfort of your own bathroom.
Having the right tools for the job is every bit as important for personal hygiene and grooming as it is for doing construction work. They are just different tools!
Your facial hairs will be easier to remove if your skin is warm and damp. It is therefore always a good idea to take a hot shower just before a cut-throat shave. Cleanse your face with a moisturising face wash, and exfoliate if you need to. With your face, still wet, apply a lubricating shaving oil before heading straight to the sink to start your shave.
Choose an unscented, moisturising shaving gel and apply it liberally to your face and the front of your neck.
Select a sharp, high quality blade
For a safe and close cut-throat shave, choosing a sharp, clean and high-quality razor blade is imperative. This is just you, some shaving gel and a simple, single-bladed razor, so you can’t afford to wing it without the best possible tools for the job. Get a feel for the blade beforehand, as you will need to proceed with accuracy and care when negotiating your ears and nose. If you’ve used the razor before, sharpen it with a strop before starting.
Get your angles right
There is a very small window of safety and effectiveness when it comes to the angle at which the blade meets your face. The optimum angle is between 30 and 35 degrees.
If you’re wondering what that looks like, start by placing the blade flat on your skin. Using the sharp edge as a pivot point, gently raise the blunt edge of the blade by about five millimetres — and shave downwards using slow, smooth strokes. Any more than that, and you run the risk of cutting yourself. Any less, and you will tug at the hairs — pulling some of them out and inflicting a great deal of pain on yourself.
Tighten your skin
A cut-throat shave is definitely a two-handed job. With your weak hand, pull the area of skin you’re shaving until it is taut. This will reduce the risk of causing nicks and cuts and make the process a lot more comfortable. Always shave away from the hand that is holding the skin tight — preferably with the grain.
Smooth and steady does it
Shaving the same area of your face repeatedly will result in razor burn. It is therefore very important that you use slow, steady and deliberate strokes when shaving with a cut-throat razor. If your blade is sharp and in great condition, you’ll never need to shave the same area of skin more than twice. Keep each stroke very short in length — around one centimetre is ideal.
Use a brush to re-apply shaving gel
By re-applying shaving gel with a quality brush, you’re ensuring your skin and facial hairs are always moisturised. This minimises friction and reduces the chance of razor burn. In addition, the action of continually brushing your face ensures any stray whiskers are removed to make way for smooth, uninterrupted strokes with your blade.
Wash and check
You can’t be sure that you have caught every stray hair until you can see yourself clearly in a mirror. It is therefore essential that you inspect your face closely, preferably after rinsing it with warm water. It’s also important to keep your face warm at this stage, as you may need to touch up your handiwork before you finish.
Once you’re happy with your shave, rinse your face with cold water, and apply a moisturiser to keep your skin hydrated throughout the day.
There is something exciting and primitive about a cut-throat shave, but it is not without its risks. A quality Dorco razor has its blades firmly fixed at the perfect angle for safe shaving. With a handheld blade, however, you are in full control of the experience — so planning and a great deal of care is essential.