Lynn Abrams is getting men to shave with a straight razor

Monday, January 30, 2012
Lynn Abrams, owner of Straight Razor Designs, displays a portion of his straight razor collection Jan. 26 at his Cape Girardeau home. (LAURA SIMON)

Lynn Abrams is telling men to kick the can, ditch that safety razor and shave like you mean it. For the past 12 years he's moderated an online forum, straightrazorplace.com, for straight razor and wet shaving enthusiasts like himself. Today it has more than 30,000 members. Straight razor shaving is an old-fashioned grooming practice that's making a comeback, says Abrams. After being laid off from his job as an insurance executive, Abrams started a shaving supply company called Straight Razor Designs. Since moving to Cape Girardeau about two years ago, he continues to operate a brick and mortar store in Ohio and does a considerable amount of business over the Internet from selling shaving soaps to sharpening straight razor blades. Abrams personally tests all his company's products as well as hundreds of products from other companies in his basement bathroom, which he refers to as his laboratory.

Step 1: Beard Prep: Lynn Abrams prepares his beard before shaving by rubbing in a special spray oil to soften the whiskers and protect his skin.

Abrams also collects and restores antique straight razors. He previously had about 1,500 razors in his collection, but today has narrowed that down to about 500.

Q: How did you get interested in wet shaving with a straight razor?

A: When I was 21, I had just got out of the army. When I came home my grandpa took me to the barber shop and I got a straight razor shave. I didn't have to shave for two days, I was like, oh my God, this is great. I bought a straight razor within a week. I used that razor on and off for the next 20 years. Finally, one day, I'm an executive for an insurance company. I'd get up at 6, I'd be out of the house by 6:30, I'd be on the train, on the phone, doing emails. My whole day was rushing. I said, "That's it. I'm getting up half-hour early and I'm going to learn to use my straight razor and that's it. I can't be crazy like this my whole life."

Q: What motivated you to start StraightRazorPlace.com as a Yahoo group back in 2000?

Step 2: Wash: Next, Abrams washes his face with an olive oil soap.

A: I couldn't find any information on the Internet at all about wet shaving, straight razors, or sharpening. There was none. The site explores the anatomy of a straight razor, different styles of razors, things to look for when buying antique straight razors for use, questions to ask a seller when purchasing an antique razor online and a lot more.

Q: What process do you go through when restoring an antique razor.

A: I like to take the old ones and make them new again and usable. You don't know whose dad or grandpa who had it at one point, but the history behind them is incredible. If I spend a lot of time with them I can make them almost like new. But the key is just to make them usable. I sharpen them and disinfect them and test them and make sure they're OK for anybody who wants to try. It makes it fun. I like to give them to children who want to try it. The deal is, if I give them one when they can afford to buy one, they have to give it to somebody else who doesn't have the money to buy one.

Step 3: Soap: Using a circular motion with his badger bristle brush, Abrams whips up a luxurious lather in his shaving mug.

Q: What factors are contributing to the resurgence of straight razor shaving?

A: Somebody can get in and buy an old razor that's been redone for $50 or maybe $35. Then they don't have to spend 14 bucks every two weeks on cartridges. You're pretty much set. The children love it cause it's green. The old farts like me, say "I remember my grandpa shaving," or "I remember dad hitting me with his strop when I was bad." All the nostalgia comes back. The whole process of what you do here is so mellow. You change your whole outlook on life. Instead of rushing out everywhere, all the sudden your demeanor changed. It's relaxing. It's fun. You look forward to it. There's a million different things to try.

Q: How has the straight razor shaving supply business grown in recent years?

Step 4: Shave: Abrams says straight razor shaving technique is all about learning how to stretch the skin and manipulate the razor.

A: The men's wetshaving experience has gone from almost non-existence 12 years ago to a small niche industry today with even participation from corporate America. Procter & Gamble's Gillette bought a high end New York-based shaving boutique and product line, Art of Shaving in 2009, and since then, it's the fastest-growing brand in P&G's beauty and grooming division.

mmiller@semissourian.com

Step 5: Strop: Using a leather strop smooths and shapes the razor's edge so it's ready for the next shave.

388-3646

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