This month’s guest post comes from Lynn Abrams. I think of Lynn as “Mr. Straight Razor” and was one of the “early adopters” (maybe the earliest adopter!) for using the Internet as a resource to gather like-minded shaving enthusiasts into one spot to share experiences.
Hello, my name is Lynn Abrams and I am the founder of The Straight Razor Place (SRP), the first and original straight razor forum on the internet. I would like to thank Mark for the opportunity to participate in his blog and share what has been an amazing 10 years in the development of wet shaving and straight razor shaving.
I started shaving with a straight razor in 1973 after my grandfather took me to a barber for a straight razor shave. The shave was so smooth and close that I didn’t have to shave for two days. I was so hooked that I purchased a straight razor within a week. It was a Cutlery World razor, probably made by Dovo and I still have it today. During this time, the only known places to purchase straight razors, brushes, strops or soaps was from either Cutlery stores or Knife shops. So for the next 25 years or so I shaved with that straight razor on and off, depending on whether I could get it sharpened properly. I was using a cheap shaving soap in a coffee mug and an old boar’s hair brush. I used to send the razor off to various cutlery shops for honing and about 50 percent of the time, the razor came back with an edge fit for shaving. During this time, I was also in business and like most people; I was absorbed in the day to day pace of a busy job and family. Shaving was a necessary evil and definitely looked at as a chore. I was out of the house after waking up in 30 minutes and on the road to a busy day of work.
It seems like yesterday, but in 1999, I began looking on the internet for information on how to hone/sharpen and maintain my straight razor. At this time, I was on a mission to back off of the hectic daily pace of life and enjoy my straight razor complete with a hot towel treatment whenever I could. All that I can tell you is that it was very frustrating to search the web every day only to find an occasional question and answer on a knife forum or to hit the mother lode at the time and find Arthur Boon’s article which contained some great information about straight razors, their use and care. There just was no place where you could discuss straight razors or wetshaving or ask questions to. Information was extremely limited.
So I had this idea. Yahoo had a function called groups and I figured that if I started a straight razor group, there would be a place to preserve knowledge about the art of straight razor shaving. This turned out to be one of the more fun ventures that I have undertaken in my life. When the group started, I asked my 3 sons to join so that we could have a few members and began soliciting people buying and selling razor on ebay to join as well. It started out very slow, but by the end of the 1st year, we began putting together some great information and discussion regarding the use of straight razors, identification of them, their care and of course, how to sharpen one. I realized that my quest was taking shape, but I really had a long way to go. I began purchasing every ebay razor I could get my hands on and with the help of a gentleman named Don Walters; I started to learn how to hone my own straight razors. I can’t begin to tell you the level of excitement I had when I was able to shave with the first straight razor I sharpened. It was like catching a fish on the very first fly I ever tied. Well that was many thousands of razors ago and to this day, I have not lost the enjoyment that comes from making straight razors shave ready for myself and other people. It is the basis from which we decided that every new razor sold would be honed at no expense to the buyer at my shop so that people would have every opportunity at success when using a straight razor.
If you ever get the chance, check out the old yahoo group Straight Razor Place and start reading from the beginning. You will quickly recognize just how far we have come. You can see where we had the assistance of John West, a thirty year collector of straight razors who enlightened us about which razors barbers liked best, razor values and razor history. We had people like Ray DuPont, deceased, who was the founder of Classic Shaving show up as an early ebay vendor when he first started the business. Ray was one of the first people to offer a full variety of products channeled directly to the wet shaving population. It has been amazing to see the variety of people from all walks of life that have come into this environment and many are still around today. The membership has now grown to almost 30,000 members on the .com site and the Yahoo site remains in operation. The mission remains to spread the world and share the art of wetshaving and straight razor shaving. It is all about changing the chore of shaving daily into a pleasure that people can look forward to.
One of the things that I am most proud of is that Straight Razor Place has not only grown from its humble origin into the most credible source of straight razor information, but it is a place that has a pay it forward mentality. The membership is without question, one of the most helpful and generous groups of people on the planet. SRP does not allow any vendor or individual to be trashed. They also do not allow any selling or special interests in the forum other than the vendor section. There is a great Wiki there for people to research and help build information. It is just an amazing collection of people and after 10 years, it remains a place that I like to visit every day.
So where are we today? There are hundreds of specialty vendors offering great products to the wet shaving population. We know about great brushes and strops and sharpening stones that were not available years ago. We have more available information and assistance to new people than ever in history. The amount of soaps and aftershaves and colognes available today is staggering. We have people all over the world making custom straight razors and restoring vintage razors. We have razor manufacturers coming back into the business. Where there were a few hundred listings on ebay 10 years ago, there are now thousands. We have people recognizing the positive effect of not having to throw out plastic disposables every week and helping the environment. We have many bloggers out there helping to spread the word and aiding in the introduction and evaluation of new products. We see straight razor use showing up in news stories all over the country. If you look on YouTube, you will find hundreds of videos from people sharing their experiences and providing help in using all wet shaving tools. In addition, there are now wetshaving and straight razor forums that have started in many countries and quite a few here in the US. It has been most gratifying to see this kind of growth and especially in the last several years. A lot of the people who started forums had their beginnings at SRP. We may never get to mainstream, but there are millions of people enjoying the benefits of all kinds of wetshaving today and happily spreading the word.
This is all a dream come true for me and considering where we have come from, I can say mission accomplished. To me, it will never be about the vendors or individual recognition. It will always be about sharing the information
and helping people to enjoy shaving and grooming along with providing them answers to all their questions. Let’s continue to make this a world where people look forward to the next shave.
Thank you to all the wonderful people I have met over the last 10 years and let’s look forward to the legacy we have created. We all continue to learn something about this sport every day and it is a journey well worth experiencing.