Your Ultimate Guide to A Military Shave

May 13, 2019 6 min read

Your Ultimate Guide to A Military Shave

Naked Armor

This May 18, America celebrates Armed Forces Day. It’s a day to honor our gallant men and women serving in all three branches of the military.

Published by Naked Armor

During this day, we highlight the role of the military in keeping the peace and we honor the bravery and dedication of all those who have served and continue to serve in the Armed Forces. It’s also a day for the military to showcase its top of the line equipment and skills in protecting this great nation of ours.

To mark this celebration, Naked Armor takes this occasion to highlight one of the basic aspects of military life-at least for enlisted men-and that is the Military Shave.

What is the Military Shave?
Why did the Military Require Men to Shave?
History of the Military Shave
Critique against the military shave
What’s the best razor to use in a military shave?
How to do a military shave?

What is the Military Shave?

At its most basic, a military shave is simply the kind of quick shave that one does when serving in the armed forces. Modern military tends to expect male soldiers to be clean and presentable at all times, even when in the field. And when it comes to grooming, they expect them to be clean shaven.

It’s explicitly written into their manuals. For instance, the US Navy’s Blue Jacket Manual says. “You should be neat, clean, and presentable at all times…. Beards are not permitted except when medically authorized, and then only until the problem clears up. If you wear a mustache, keep it trimmed and neat. Don’t grow your mustache below the top line of your upper lip and do not allow it to extend more than 1/4 inch beyond the corners of your mouth.”

That’s why every morning, they are expected to include shaving in their routine. Showing up with a 5 o’clock shadow will result in a dressing down from their superiors.

Outside of the armed forces, the military shave is a grooming style that has been increasingly offered by barber shops nationwide. It’s still a quick shave, bordering under five minutes, but it gives you an ultra-minimalistic shave, so that you can look sharp and presentable.

Hix Magazine credits Italian master barber Joseph Abbatangelo for developing this technique. He created this to market his shaving gel which he said must be used for this technique rather than standard shaving lather.

Whether or not you decide to buy into his pitch, the characteristics of a military shave remains essentially the same: it’s a no-fuss and quick shave, that gives you a clean-shaven mug to get you through the day.

Why did the Military Require Men to Shave?

It all started during World War I.

It was during this time that chemical warfare was introduced in the battlefields. To counteract this, the military required its personnel to use gas masks.

In order to be effective though, gas masks had to be sealed tight against the wearer’s skin to avoid leaks. But if the soldier was wearing a beard, the gas mask won’t fit properly, exposing the soldier to the toxins.

So soldiers had to be clean-shaven. The Army bought Gillette razors and blades to give out to its soldiers, and since then becoming clean-shaven has become mandatory among the enlisted services. Meanwhile, the military contracts made Gillette very rich, and further solidified its hold on the then burgeoning shaving market.

But there are other practical reasons for shaving in the military. During the war, personnel were bunked closely in barracks. Because of their close proximity, disease-carrying lice would easily jump from one personnel to the other by burrowing into the hair. Shaving facial hair was a hygienic way of reducing the transmission of disease among personnel.

Tactically, it was also an advantage for men to have no facial hair. On the battlefield, clean-shaven soldiers had an edge in a fistfight with the enemy because they had no hair for the enemy to grasp. This is also one reason why cropped military haircuts are favored over other hair styles.

It also helped foster military discipline. When the troops look all the same, it can make them function more efficiently as a cohesive unit.

History of the Military Shave

As a tradition, however, shaving in the military has its roots that go far back before World War 1.

The most famous account is when Alexander the Great told his men to shave off their beard before going to battle.

Then again, in the days of the early American Republic, Army soldiers were required to shave three days a week, especially when they were stationed in the garrison.

Mustaches were also disallowed. Before the Civil War, only soldiers assigned to cavalry regiments were allowed to wear one.

By the time Civil War rolled along, regulations were changed to allow senior officers in the Army and Navy to wear beards and mustaches. But the regulations stipulated that the facial hair be kept short and neatly trimmed.

When World War 1 came along, with its new and deadly methods of warfare, the military had to adapt and went back to shaving it all off, a tradition that continues on to this very day.

Critiques Against the Military Shave

But for all the practical reasons why a military shave is necessary for an enlisted personnel, there’s also the occasional complaint against it.

Razor bumps, that pesky skin condition which results from hair strands growing inward into the skin layer, is a common complaint against shaving.

Among African-American enlisted personnel, razor bumps is a common problem. That’s because their hair is curly and often tends to grow inward. The condition is painful and itchy that’s why most men with curly hair tend to avoid shaving and instead wear their beards long.

For military personnel, however, that’s simply not possible. But there are ways to get around this rule. One way is to get a no-shave kit. It’s basically asking the army physician to certify the soldier for an exemption from shaving because the razor bumps have become a serious medical condition that needs to be treated.

The only hitch is, it’s not easy to get one.

So they end up being forced to shave using Army issued multi-blade razors. And because multi-blade razors aggravate the condition, they’ll have recurring bouts of the razor bump break-outs.

So What’s the Best Razor to use for a Military Shave?

Simply put, a straight razor is best for a military shave. It reduces the incidence of razor bumps because it only has a single sharp blade. There are no extra blades which can tug curly hair and force it even to grow inward.

Straight razors cut cleanly, because they’re made of high grade steel with a very sharp edge. This means that blade friction will be lessened so that the skin isn’t irritated.

In the early days of military shaving though, straight razors were actually the preferred tool to use when shaving. That’s before Gillette came in and saturated the market with its multi-blades. In fact, there’s a demand for army vintage razors these days. Not only are they valuable heirloom acquisitions, but they also give any modern multi-blade cartridge a run for its money.

How to Do a Military Shave?

Once again, we take our cues from the Abbatangelo method:

Step 1: Prep your face by washing it to remove any dirt and build up, while getting your stubble wet.

Step 2: Put some shave lather cream, or gel, and apply it deeply into your face, massaging it against the grain.

Step 3: Take your straight razor (or safety razor, if you prefer), and shave following the grain of your beard. For those who don’t know what a grain is, it’s the direction that the hair grows.

Step 4: If you want a more closer shave, relather the area again and shave across the grain lightly. That means shaving from the cheeks to the nose and mouth.

Step 5: Rinse your face with cold water to close the pores and splash some aftershave to kill off the remaining acne-causing germs on your face.

See, it’s quick and easy! Even if you’re not in the military, you can still follow these steps to get a quick but efficient shave every morning.

Quality Razors

Of course, the whole shaving experience can be made even more comfortable with the proper set of tools.

Here at Naked Armor, we pride ourselves with crafting world-class quality straight razors which give the closest shave ever.

Designed as a hybrid of the full hollow and half-hollow, our razors offer the best of both designs. They give a clean and close shave, whether you’re in a hurry or you want to shave at leisure.

In fact, when we sponsored a Naked Armor shaving kit to a lucky Navy veteran during a Veteran’s Day Celebration, he loved it so much that he couldn’t wait to try it. That’s how good our straight razors are.

If you want to check them out, visit our site for the full inventory.

More Naked Armor Stuff to Read

How to Prevent Razor Bumps
Which Razor is Best for Sensitive Skin?
The Bela Straight Razor: A Joy To Be Held

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Back on the Bearding Block: When Veterans Grow Out Their Beards



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