A straight razor is a razor with a blade that can fold into its handle. They are also called open razors and cut-throat razors. Although straight razors were once the principal method of manual shaving, they have been largely overshadowed by the safety razor, incorporating a disposable blade. Electric razors of various types have also been an available alternative especially since the 1950s. Despite that, straight razors still hold a market share, and forums and outlets provide products, directions, and advice to straight razor users. Straight razors require considerable skill to hone and strop, and require more care during shaving. These methods were once a major portion of the curriculum in barber colleges.
The first narrow-bladed folding straight razors were first listed by a Sheffield, England manufacturer in 1680. By 1740, Benjamin Huntsman was making straight razors complete with decorated handles and hollow-ground blades made from cast steel, using a process he himself invented. Huntsman's cast-steel process was adopted by the French sometime later. The English manufacturers were even more reluctant than the French to adopt the process and only did so after they saw its success in France. Straight razors were the most common form of shaving before the 20th century and remained that common in many countries until the 1950s. Barbers were specially trained to give customers a thorough and quick shave.
Straight razors eventually fell out of fashion. Their first challenger was manufactured by King C. Gillette: a double-edged safety razor with replaceable blades. These new safety razors did not require any serious tutelage to use. The blades were extremely hard to sharpen, and were meant to be thrown away after one use, and rusted quickly if not discarded. They also required a smaller initial investment, though they cost more over time. Despite its long-term advantages, the straight razor lost significant market share. As shaving became less intimidating and men began to shave themselves more, the demand for barbers providing straight razor shaves decreased.