During most of my life, shaving has been something of an expense for men. You had either two choices, and that was it. Spend a ton of money on a decent electric razor, or drop twenty-five dollars on disposable razor cartridges. This is assuming you weren’t one of those rare men that knew how to use a safety razor or straight razor. Dollar Shave Club.
I was one of those who used disposable razor cartridges. And if you wanted a decent shave that wouldn’t cut your face up, you had to pony up some cash. A 4-pack of Gilette or Schick razor cartridges would typically cost between twenty and thirty dollars. They claimed the blades would last up to a month; for me, they only lasted a week, maybe a bit more. And like me, millions of men probably thought, “there HAS to be a better way than this!”
A better way: Dollar Shave Club.
Enter Dollar Shave Club. A company started by Michael Dubin and Mark Levine. Like me, these two guys wanted a better, less expensive way for men to get that close, comfortable shave. And in 2011, they did something about it. They gave the company a name based on what it offered: shaving blades for one dollar (three after shipping.) The blades arrived monthly to the user’s door, paid for on a subscription-based system.
One viral commercial later, and Dollar Shave Club took off like wildfire. Dubin and Levine had Gillette and Schick executives shaking in their loafers, and for good reason. After the viral commercial was released they received 12,000 orders in 2 days. And they got over 2 million subscribers since their membership launch, with almost a quarter of those users being women.
But what is greatness without enemies?
But, as anyone who knows anything about business goes, monopolies rarely stay monopolies for long. Before long, Gillette was offering their own subscription-based service to compete with Dollar Shave Club’s. In 2013, another subscription-based razor website called Harry’s launched. The space is no longer one company raking it all in for themselves. Now it’s several players, all fighting for a bigger piece of that pie. And behind all that, there’s still electric razors. Safety razors and straight razors have also seen a slight increase in use. But we’re not going to talk about them.
Battle of the razors. Who will win?
Today, we’re talking about the battle royale for the king of men’s grooming products. Dollar Shave Club vs. Harry’s vs. Gillette. Which one will come out on top?
Today, I will be picking winners based on four different categories. Price, quality of shave, craftsmanship, range of products, and pitch. Let’s see if Dollar Shave Club can beat it’s two top competitors, then.
Category number one: Price.
This is probably going to be the first thing that people think of. This was the main selling point for Dollar Shave Club when it initially launched. Now that there are some competitors in the field, let’s see if they’re still top dog in this category! And remember, these are American prices. So to those living in Canada and other countries, your price may differ somewhat.
Price of Dollar Shave Club.
As I’ve already said before, this was Dollar Shave Club’s main selling point when it launched. Their most basic package runs for, drumroll please; one dollar. Big surprise, huh?
Their basic razor, the Humble Twin, has two blades and a basic lubrication strip. They have two other blades, each of which are a bit pricier than that. The 4X has four blades, and costs $6 per shipment, shipping included. Their finest blade, The Executive, costs $9 per shipment…again, shipping included.
So nothing in Dollar Shave Club’s trio of razors costs over nine dollars. The razor handle comes with the first shipment of cartridges for any of the razors. And if you switch razors, they will send you a new handle compatible with your new cartridges.
Price of Harry’s
Harry’s set out to beat Dollar Shave Club at their own game, so let’s see if their price stacks up. Starting your patronage of Harry’s will set you back $15 for their most basic package. It features their ‘Truman’ razor handle, a bottle of their shave gel (4 oz.) or shave cream (3.4 oz.) and two of their razor cartridges. The cartridges are the same for both of their razor handles. Five German engineered blades, a flex hinge, a lubricating strip, and a precision trimmer. The razor handle alone costs $9.
Harry’s other handle cost
Here I pointedly say ‘handle’ because the blades are the same for either one. Their ‘Winston’ razor handle is a nicer, more durable version of their first razor handle. But I’ll go over that later; right now we’re talking cost. And this one will set you back $25 for the handle, two blade cartridges, and their shave gel or cream. And if you just want the handle, it costs $20.
All very nice, but we’re talking blades here!
Harry’s razor blade subscription is a teeny bit different than the one for Dollar Shave Club. You can order the blade in packs of four, eight, or sixteen. The four pack comes to two dollars per blade, plus $3 for shipping. The eight pack costs $16, which comes to $2 per disposable cartridge. The 16-cartridge bundle costs $28, which is their most cost-effective option. This option puts the price at $1.75 per disposable head. Both the 8-pack and 16-pack have free shipping.
The not-so-subtle-named Gillette Shave Club is Gillette’s take on the subscription-based model. It was started to take back some of their lost customer base from Dollar Shave Club. It features three different ‘shave plans’ each with a different razor head. Their claim is that one cartridge from each of their plans can last up to one month.
Blah blah blah…let’s go over prices!
Gillette’s Mach 3 Turbo Plan costs $3.50 per cartridge, with 5 cartridges in every shipment. Their Fusion Pro-glide (probably their most common razor) plan costs $4.90, with 4 heads every renewal. And their priciest one is the Fusion Proshield Plan. This one is $5.62 per cartridge, with four in every shipment. Gillette also apparently includes the razor handle and their shaving cream with your first shipment.
Winner of the price round: Dollar Shave Club!
Bells and whistles of each one aside, this round is about one thing and one thing only: cost. And the Dollar Shave Club beats both of the others by quite a bit in that category. Their initial main strength of low-cost razors still carries them above the competition with price! Now, let’s see if the Dollar Shave Club can keep their early lead in out next category.
Category number two: shave quality
I’ll be going over a few different aspects in this one, all of which are important to an amazing shave. How close of a shave do I get every time? Does the razor work with the contours of my face? Is my shave comfortable as well as effective? And probably also the most important question, does it cut my face? For this round, I will be judging only the most basic razor from every side, for the sake of simplicity.
Dollar Shave Club’s quality of shave
Their win in our first category, unfortunately, somewhat carries over to their performance in this one. I ordered Dollar Shave Club’s ‘Humble Twin’ razor a few months ago. I don’t shave that often, but when I do I always shorten my facial hair with a guarded clipper first. And several times now, every shaver’s worst nightmare has happened with this razor: it cut me. A few times the cut was so big I had to use a styptic pencil to stop the bleeding fast.
Blood in the wash basin
Dollar Shave Club has never really bragged much about their blades being good blades. The only exception I can think of is a blurb in their first ad video: “our blades are f**king great.” But I think the main reason why this razor tends to cut my face is it’s two-blade design. Short hairs get caught easily between blades when shaves…something anyone whose done it knows. If you don’t rinse the razor after EVERY stroke, these stuck hairs can be just as dangerous as the blades.
Aside from being cut by the razor, it has other weaknesses when it comes to shave quality. The blades don’t seem to be very effective, so I have to do a few strokes over every area. That means more time, more rinses, more shaving cream, and a more irritated face at the end of it all. And to top it off, the razor cartridge sometimes disconnects from the handle in mid-shave. I guess the lesson is: if you’re only paying a dollar, don’t expect a great shave. However, the big face cuts alone are enough to knock Dollar Shave Club out of the ring for this round.
Harry’s quality of shave
Harry’s may be more expensive than their more trendy counterpart. But in my opinion, the quality of their shave runs circles around Dollar Shave Club’s. Harry’s touts that their blades are German-engineered, and top of the line. The razor cartridge has five blades with a wide head, and the blades are pretty close together.
My shave with Harry’s razor was very close, and left me with minimal irritation on my face. Most of that irritation could be mitigated away by my go-to Paul Mitchell shaving mousse (I’ll talk about Harry’s shaving cream later.) My only complaint was that the razor was a bit hard to maneuver around my face, because the head was wide. Not a PERFECT shave, but a very good one. Certainly better than Dollar Shave Club’s.
Gillette’s quality of shave
Gillette is like the grizzled old war vet in those survival movies. There’s a reason that they were one of the top men’s shaving companies way before subscription-based razors were a thing. As I’ve said before, I’m only rating each company’s cheapest razor. Therefore, I went with Gillette’s Mach 3 Turbo.
This one also performed an excellent shave on my face. Three blades mean more rinses than Harry’s 5 blade head, but it was still very good. And while they might look useless, the Microfin comfort guard did make the shave more comfortable all around.
Winner of the shave quality round: Gillette!
This one was a VERY close match. However, Gillette had two things that just barely nudged it ahead. The first thing was the Microfin comfort guard, which in any other circumstance is irrelevant. But in this case, it makes just enough of a difference (when any difference is enough.) Harry’s razor heads had one too, but Gillette’s was just slightly better. The second thing was that the head wasn’t as wide. This allowed it to be ever-so-slightly more maneuverable than Harry’s. Chalk one up for the veteran!
Category number three: Craftsmanship.
“But isn’t the price and quality really the only thing that matters?” Well, no. There’s a reason I think the whole ‘shabby chic’ trend is stupid. Things that are shabby, or otherwise look shabby, are inferior to those that aren’t and don’t. In other words, don’t pretend you don’t want your razor to reflect the clean-cut look you get by using it. Three things fit into play here: appearance, durability, and effectiveness of build. In this category, the razor handle will be just as important as the razor.
The craftsmanship of Dollar Shave Club
Their most basic model is just that: basic. Not very ergonomic; basically a bent piece of plastic to hold your razor cartridge. Their next one up, the 4X, looks a little bit better, but not unlike anything you would get from Schick or Gillette’s cheapest collection of razor handles. Their most expensive selection, The Executive, looks fancier than the first two, and is a bit shinier. However, it’s hard to discern what any of tem are really made of from their website. The description of each one is just a collection of snarky, loosely-related one-liners designed to make you laugh.
On their website, Dollar Shave Club states that their blades are made ‘overseas.’ The ambiguous answer can only lead me to believe that they’re made in China. According to Money Magazine’s website, they don’t even make their own razors. They are simply rebranding razors made by Dorco. Wow, that’s something I didn’t know before.
The craftsmanship of Harry’s
In my opinion, this is Harry’s strongest area. Their cheapest razor handle, the Truman, doesn’t look too bad. On their website, they proudly say it features a rubberized texture and a weighted core. These apparently both allow for maximum grip and control. And having used the Truman, it certainly holds it’s own. It’s also available in four different colors: total orange, nautilus blue, or olive 107 (I didn’t name them.)
Their next step up razor, the Winston, is probably the most beautiful shaving tool I’ve ever seen. I really can’t put the description any better than Harry’s already did. So, I’m going to copy it right from their website: “The ergonomic body is made of die-cast zinc and polished chrome for a handsome finish and a rubberized grip for optimal control.”
Apparently, part of the Winston’s design was inspired by the safety razors of old. The texturized rubber on the body is made with a diamond pattern (called ‘knurling’.) And, as if that weren’t enough, you can get the Winston razor handle engraved for personalization.
There’s a plethora of information you can get about their razors by going to their website. It seems their razors are so good they don’t need to sugar-coat their quality with snarky one-liners like Dollar Shave Club. Not only that, you’ll learn a ton about physics and metal-work. Not every day you can learn tht just from a razor presentation!
Gillette’s razors looks nice, are beautifully colored, and get the job done well. However, there really isn’t anything about any of their three options that stands out. They make a big deal about their lubrication strips, but really, if you have good shaving cream, those are kind of pointless.
However, Gillette’s most expensive option, the Fusion Proshield, does have something unique when fit with a Proglide handle. The Proglide has something called ‘Flexball technology.’ The Flexball is an extra that allows the razor head to move side to side seamlessly, as well as up and down. But, to be perfectly honest with you, I don’t see how that would necessarily improve your shave.
Winner of the craftsmanship round: Harry’s!
If you feel like I’m biased with this decision, then go ahead and debate me. But the sheer amount of time and care put into the craftsmanship of their shaving products makes Harry’s the winner. Gillette would probably come in second, and Dollar Shave Club a distant third. After all, presentation is a part of craftsmanship as well as performance and durability. And Harry’s absolutely nails every aspect of this category.
Category number four: range of products!
Technically, you could make the case that these next two categories don’t really speak for the razors themselves. But I feel it’s foolish to ignore a product range, especially when you’re grading a company as a whole. If you were grading a tuxedo store, would you just look at their coats and make your decision that way? Or would you do your job right and look at their vests, pants, ties, and everything else too?
Dollar Shave Club’s range of products
Now this is one area that the one-scrappy men’s razor startup really excels in. Razors might be Dollar Shave Club’s most well-known service, and their bread and butter. But now they have a whole arsenal of men’s grooming products!
I won’t go individually over all their products…that would simply take way too long. Perhaps I’ll do that in a future blog. What I will do is briefly go over every one of their product lines, and gloss over what’s in it.
Dr. Carver products
Probably the most noteworthy line other than their razors is their line of Dr. Carver’s products. These are meant to be complimentary to your shave, and help improve it. This includes things like shave butter, post shave cream, pre-shave oil, ‘miracle’ repair serum, prep scrub, and shave dew.
Their next line is the ‘Wanderer’ cleansing products. These are meant to go in your shower, and make your body cleansing routines (bath or shower) even better. It includes shampoo, conditioner, body cleanser (energizing or calming,) body soap bars, face cleanser, and a lathering shower cloth. You can also by them in bundles for a minor savings.
Boogie’s is Dollar Shave Club’s own line of post-wash hair-styling products. This line includes hair pomade, hair paste, hair gel, hair clay, hair fiber, and hair cream. Pretty much something for any kind of men’s hairstyle out there. Except the man bun. There’s only one thing appropriate for those: gardening shears.
Big Cloud’s products
Big cloud products are for people who want to protect their skin against the elements, and keep it looking nice. This includes face moisturizer, hand cream, lip balm with sunscreen, and lip balm without sunscreen. The only thing missing seems to be an actual sunscreen…that would sell pretty well, I’d imagine.
One Wipe Charlies
This was a bit of an odd move on Dollar Shave Club’s part, in my opinion…odd, but effective. Their One Wipe Charlies are their very own line of flushable bathroom wipes – as in, to wipe your ass with. This product line has only two products, which are the same thing just packaged differently. You can buy one container with 40 wipes, or a pack of 20 individually sealed wipes. Don’t giggle at it – you never know when ordinary toilet paper just won’t cut it.
Harry’s line of products
Harry’s has a much more minimalist product line than it’s cheaper competitor. Their big selling point is, and probably always will be, their blades. But as far as other things…well, they don’t really have a lot. Harry’s also sells shave gel, shave cream, post shave balm, daily face wash, face lotion (with SPF 15,) lip balm (also with SPF 15,) a travel kit (basically a bag to put grooming stuff in,) and a stand for your razor. Again…nowhere near as much.
Gillette’s line of products
I’m not even going to begin listing all of Gillette’s different razors. But this is about different products, not just razors.
Again, they sell razors…many, many razors. But they also sell shaving foams and shaving gels. Once again, they sell MANY different variations of each, but this is about product line range, not just sheer number. Gillette also sells deodorants, antiperspirants (yes the two are different things,) and body washes.
Winner of the range of products round: Dollar Shave Club!
Harry’s couldn’t even begin to complete with the sheer product range boasted by it’s cheaper competitor. And Gillette has plenty of products, but they’re just different variations of the same six things. Dollar Shave Club goes above and beyond with products to meet almost all your bathroom needs. Chalk up another win for them!
The final round: Pitch!
I’m not talking about vocal or sound pitch. I’m talking about the thing businesses tell us in order to get us to buy their product over the competitor’s. When it comes to pitch, how it’s delivered is just as important as what’s delivered; something any business expert knows. Let’s see who can clean up in the final round.
This is a very strong point for them. After all, their pitch is pretty much what catapulted them into corporate stardom.
Dollar Shave Club came out swinging, with plenty of attitude and jokes, in equal proportion. The first time I watched their viral ad, I laughed…several times. Which is more than I ever laugh at commercials! They made the strong case that men have been overpaying for razors for decades…something I agreed with wholeheartedly. Before I had even used their product, they had bought and sold me. An effective pitch if there ever was one.
Laid back…but somewhat lacking
Their whole attitude seems to be a sort of relaxed, casual, funny sort of vibe. And that’s something that appeals heavily to people, especially younger people. However, actually explaining the finer points of products is something that leaves a lot to be desired. A good example is the Executive razor on their website. It says, “The final frontier…it’s like a personal assistant for your face.”
That’s in there as an actual selling point. The rest of the info about the razor is fairly basic. They don’t go into beautiful, elegant detail about the build and shape of their razor, like the next contestant.
Harry’s most likely took one look at their cheaper competitor’s ad, and said “okay, we’ve got to go in a TOTALLY different direction.” And they sure did. Where Dollar Shave Club’s whole thing seems to be light-heartedness and saving money, Harry’s took the more ‘elegant’ approach, if you will.
One look at Harry’s website, and you’ll see what I mean. Not only do they talk about their razors being cheaper than big razor companies (they are.) They go into exquisite detail about how well-crafted and how functionally beautiful their products are.
Best of both worlds? I think.
While they spare nothing in selling the razors themselves, they don’t skimp on humor either. The very name of the company is a joke in itself. On their website, their ‘about’ says this: “By selling directly to you online, we’re able to shave away the excess and offer a great shave at a price accessible to every Tom, Dick and…(sorry, we couldn’t help ourselves).”
So in short, Harry’s does an excellent job of capturing their audience, but also convincing them why they are better. And they do so without distracting with jokes.
I think most of you know how this one is going to go down. There’s a reason why a scrappier company was allowed to get in and shake things up. For years, the big razor companies’ pitch has been the same thing, over and over. Spend big money to hire celebrities and athletes to endorse their products, and show it on TV. Dollar Shave Club even took a shot at this kind of advertising in their viral video ad. And I laughed, because it’s true.
A glaring weakness
Now, I’m not saying they don’t spend any time selling their products’ finer points, because they do. But they don’t quite do it with in the exquisite, beautiful way that Harry’s does. Harry’s gives the impression that they put love and care into every one of their products. Gillette pretty much just says ‘this razor has this, for this.’ And it doesn’t resonate with the audience.
Winner of the Pitch round: Harry’s (by a nose!)
“B-but, Dollar Shave Club’s ad made me laugh a lot!” That’s great….but that’s kind of all it did exceptionally. Harry’s delivered the humor, AND it delivered the information both very well. And for that, it scoops the win in this round.
Let’s tally up the score!
Okay, now that the categories are all finished, let’s look over the final count.
|Company||Dollar Shave Club||Harry’s||Gillette|
The final score is: a tie!
Gillette just couldn’t compete well enough in all five of the categories to come out on top. But it looks like Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s tie for king of the subscription-based razor company! Each company has very specific strengths and weaknesses. So, after getting the information you read in this blog…go with which one makes you comfortable. Hell, if you love Gillette, go with them even! Personally, Harry’s was my favorite, but this wasn’t about me. This was about the best shave for men all over the world!