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Reflections on Pearl Harbor Day

The Much Maligned and Often Misunderstood One Pass Shave

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by , 09-26-2012 at 03:57 AM (15708 Views)
Lately, I've rekindled my relationship with the one pass shave. When I first started straight shaving, I often wondered why barbers (even back in the old days) would seldom do multiple passes but the denisons of SRP seemed to classify any shave that only involved a single lathering of the face as a half-hearted effort of sorts. As ridiculous as it sounds now, back then I actually felt a tinge of guilt if I didn't do at least 2-3 passes. It was as if I had betrayed the confidence of my SRP brothers and dishonored the straight shaving world.

I was a bit reluctant at first to explore the one pass shave. I have a fairly thick, coarse beard and my early attempts at the one pass shave put a real damper on facesturbation. I'd sneak a single pass shave in every now and again but generally the results were fairly unimpressive. My standard daily shave was two passes (North-South, then South-North). Then one day, it occured to me that perhaps the marginal one pass shaves I had gotten up to that point could be the result of razors with a less than stellar edge. It seemed logical to me that if it took multiple passes to remove all the stubble, perhaps what I really needed more than additional passes was a touch up hone. I set about the task of testing my theory and it seems to be holding up just fine. A single North-South pass with spot touch up around the chin area seems to be more than adequate for the workaday shave. What's more, a razor with a crisp edge on it will render a near catfish belly smooth shave worthy of hours of facesturbation.

The advantages soon became clear. A single pass shave is the perfect compromise on those days when the bed just doesn't seem to want to let go of you. No need to check down to the nearest safety razor, just pick up a straight with a known good edge, give it a quick stropping and you're done in a few minutes. Since anything past "all stubble removed" is largely subjective anyway, the results are fairly comparable. I promise you'll still be the cleanest shaved guy in the office at quitting time. In fact, one of the few differences I have noticed is that after a one pass shave I generally get visible stubble around 8:00 PM as opposed to 9:45 PM when I do multiple pass shaves. Even this isn't really a detractor, here's why: If you've shaved with a straight for any amount of time at all, you've probably figured out that a shave over heavy stubble tends to generally just feel better than without. With the one pass shave, I can duplicate heavy stubble every morning, without ever taking a day off. I've also learned that the single pass shave is an excellent tool to assess a razors edge. Just about any razor can render a great shave in two, three or four passes but to achieve the same or similar results in just one pass requires a very keen edge. It's a beautiful thing, it really is. Apparently a close, quick, comfortable shave CAN be achieved with a single pass provided the edge on your razor is nice and crisp.

Don't get me wrong, on the weekends, I'm still very fond of making my shave an event with a long hot shower prep and two or three passes, tunes in the background, etc. However, at least for the moment the much maligned and often misunderstood one pass shave seems to be just what the doctor ordered for work days.
mackie, MickR, dslazar9 and 17 others like this.


  1. Ryan82's Avatar
    [I]"If you've shaved with a straight for any amount of time at all, you've probably figured out that a shave over heavy stubble tends to generally just feel better than without. With the one pass shave, I can duplicate heavy stubble every morning, without ever taking a day off."[/I]

    Can you elaborate on the above statement? I'm not sure how you equate the results of a multipass shave w/heavy stubble with a single pass shave w/minimal growth....
  2. 1OldGI's Avatar
    It was a general statement that in my experience anyway, thicker stubble makes for a better "feeling" shave. Kind of like when you take a day off from shaving the next day the shave always seems that much better. One pass shaves naturally result in a bit more stubble after 24 hours than 3 pass multi-directional shaves. Thus producing the heavy stubble shave without skipping a day.

    For me at least, if I do the full up 3 pass shave, the next day's shave is in most cases merely academic. The heavy stubble effect is absent because there's just very little stubble. Although these are certainly good shaves, the day after a 3 pass shave is just a glorified touch up because there's nothing much to cut.
    kwlfca likes this.
  3. glopezz05's Avatar
    I have found that with my safety razor, a 2 pass shave is very quick and produces great results but I still need to shave every day. With my Dovo singlette I can do a 2 pass shave and not need to shave the next day. No, I don't have a thick or extremely full beard.

    The difference is significant and I expect it to me more so when I get a "real" straight razor.
  4. pcg's Avatar
    I've found a one-pass on days that I'm rushed is "okay," but a second pass remains superb. And I assure you that my razors are sharp.

    I love the one-pass concept, but in practice, alas, two passes are better than one... And three are magical. There are no shortcuts.
  5. Pyrateknight's Avatar
    I am still learning my second pass but I have been finding that my first pass has been getting better and better with each shave. I think it's one of those by the time you get back to experimenting with just the single pass your skill has far surpassed where you left it at in memory.