Shaving Through History
Prehistoric people used clam shells, flint and shark's teeth to shave. Ancient Egyptians used razors made of gold dating back to the fourth millennium B.C., and Roman history speaks of razors used in the sixth century B.C.
The first folding straight razor was made in Sheffield, England, in 1680. A half-century later, straight razors were sporting decorative handles and hollow-ground blades were produced from cast steel.
The width of a straight razor blade is measured from the back of the blade forward to the cutting edge. It is generally expressed in increments of an eighth of an inch. The 5/8-inch width is the most popular blade size.
— D'Rock, Naked Armor Founder
All Blades Are Not Created Equal
It takes several steps to manufacture a straight razor. Different blades are constructed of different metals, while others have intricately ornate handles. The precise configuration of the blade is generally categorized by three factors: the shape of the point in profile, the grinding method used to shape the blade, and the width of the blade.
The most common examples of the blade point are square, round, French (oblique), Spanish or Barber's notch. Each of these has a slightly different profile in cross-section.
The method of grinding used on a blade determines the curvature of that blade when viewed in cross-section. The two main types of grinds are a hollow grind and a wedge (also called flat or straight grind).
Hollow Ground or Wedge?
Combining various types of points with different grinding methods leads to a variety of choices in blade types. When viewed in cross-section, a hollow grind gives the blade a concave shape on the sides.
In a wedge ground blade, the sides of the blade when viewed in cross section are linear, resembling a standard wedge.
A hollow grind results in a blade that is thinner. The grinding forms hollows or concave strips down the length of the blade shaft.
This thinning blade is more flexible than a wedge blade. The hollow ground blade can bend to match the contours of the face. When shaving, the hollow ground blade provides the user more feedback on the amount of resistance the blade meets when cutting the hair.
This feedback gives the user an indication of the sharpness of the blade. Most professional barbers prefer a hollow ground blade when giving a customer a shave.
The coarser your facial hair, the stiffer you'll want your blade to be. A hollow ground blade may be the best choice for the average beard, but if you're sporting a 5 o'clock shadow at two in the afternoon, you'll probably want a wedge blade.
This blade requires a bit more practice to master but will produce an excellent shave once you get the hang of it. These blades may not give as close a shave as a hollow ground blade, but they will cut through tough beard growth with far less effort and provide a smoother result.
A Sharp Dressed Man
Two of the three men of ZZ Top sported trademark beards. More power to 'em: A beard is a man's right if that's what he wants. If what he wants is a smooth face to put forward to the world, then a quality straight razor is what he needs.
According to Badger & Blade, a shaving routine should always be a time to take a breath, savor the warm water and the manly scent of shaving soap.
Life doesn't get much better than that.