Thrifty District: Shave Like a Man

Photo courtesy of
‘My Dovo Bismarck Straight Razor’
courtesy of ‘rpscott123′

Gents, let’s get into the economics of shaving. I consider my methods fairly normal, so I’ll use myself as an example. I’ve got a standard, three blade razor. I shave every day and a blade will last me for a little over a week.  Blades come in packs of 5, so every 7 weeks I need to buy a new pack. At $12 per pack, this costs around $90 per year in blades alone. Add the cost of shaving gel and aftershave and you’re looking at over $100 per year. When you multiply that by the number of years that the I’ll likely be shaving, it ends up being a few thousand dollars. That’s not insignificant.

This being Thrifty District, I have a cheaper solution, and a macho one to boot: wet shaving. Wet shaving is the way it used to be done, with a naked blade.  While this may seem kitsch and extravagant, shaving with a straight razor is extremely economical and the longer you do it, the cheaper it gets. As an immediate purchase, a straight razor is not thrifty. A decent blade (which you’ll definitely want) will run you $70-$150 at a minimum. Like I said, the price is steep, but think of it this way: it’s the only razor you’ll need for the rest of your life.

In the DC area, there are few shops that sell straight edges. The Art of Shaving at the Pentagon City Mall has the best quality and selection of razors, but you can also find them at the Grooming Lounge on L Street.

A cheaper option would be to hunt for straight edges at flea markets and antique stores. Your third option is the internet. There is a decent market for antique razors on ebay and a number of other websites. Used blades on the internet are probably the cheapest and best option as most are already restored.

Your final cost is a strop, a strip of leather and canvas that is used to hone the blade. I won’t go into technical details, but you need one of these if you want to keep your razor shave ready.  A good strop will run you $50-$100. Other than that, you should be fine with the gear you’ve already got. You can use normal shave gel and you don’t need to have fancy oils or expensive soaps.

Photo courtesy of
courtesy of ‘chrisamichaels’

In total, your initial expenditure for a decent kit will be $120-$150, if you buy second hand. It may seem like a lot for just shaving, but it pays for itself in a little over a year.  After that, if you put some work into maintaining your blade, you should only need to drop cash on shaving cream and the yearly honing. That’s a maximum of $30 per year as compared to $100 per year using an injector razor. If you shave for the next 30 years with a straight edge, that’s a potential savings of $2,400, a nice junk of change.

This is to say nothing of the other benefits of wet shaving. There’s the masculine aesthetic, which is practically equivalent to a straight injection of testosterone every morning. Also, wet shaving enthusiasts insist that you’ll a closer shave and less irritation (in my recent foray into wet shaving, I haven’t found either, but I suspect that I need to develop my technique before I judge).

There are, of course, disadvantages to wet shaving. Maintaining a straight edge takes work. You need to strop each morning, and, until you get the technique down, shaving takes some time. Plus, there’s a reason modern razors are called “safety blades.” Using a straight edge does introduce a certain element of danger into your morning routine, but this adds to the machismo, if you ask me. Besides, I’ve never heard of any unintentional, shaving related deaths.

So, weigh your options. Wet shaving takes a commitment, and it isn’t for everyone. If you’ve never had a wet shave, I’d suggest going to a legit barber shop like Camillo’s in Van Ness to experience it for yourself, and then decided whether or not you want to take the plunge. Just know this: buying a straight edge will save you thousands over your life time, its as manly as manly can get and enthusiasts swear by the quality of the shave.

Kirk is a Maine-born, military brat who moved no fewer than 12 times during his childhood. He came to the DC area in 2004 for his undergrad and decided that it was the place for him. Since graduating, he’s nabbed a job with the Fed and spends most of his free time hunting for cheap thrills in the city. Find out why he loves DC.

5 thoughts on “Thrifty District: Shave Like a Man

  1. This is my next purchase, right after a scotch decanter and a mahogany desk for my office…

  2. I used to shave like this but found it much more annoying than using disposable razors. Then I stopped shaving for a while and my wife wouldn’t let me near her because my facial hair never really grows into any identifiable pattern such as a decent beard or mustache and I just look unshaven all the time. Back to disposable razors for me!

  3. I’m sure this shaving method has become more popular over the last 20 years or so,because some men want to ‘live on the edge’ (pun intended), while still outwardly conforming to society.
    You don’t have to go this far! Just wait until you’re no longer working/too old to work, wear clothes solely for comfort, and say exactly what you want to, about anything you choose!
    Bye the way, this method of shaving, and all other wet methods should be carried out under a hot shower for maximum smoothness and best blood disposal. To quote someone else: :Yes I’m weird, but I’m saving up to be eccentric.”