In Part 2 of this Pragmatic Shave series, we looked at Harry’s shaving products. But before I’d heard about Harry’s, though, I looked into Dollar Shave Club because they were the first company I’d heard about the wanted to provide subscription-based shaving supplies. So let’s see what they have to offer.
As with Harry’s, my first exposure to the Dollar Shave Club [DSC] came through targeted advertisements on Twitter and Facebook. Initially, I just ignored the ads. But after I investigated Harry’s site and decided to give them a try, I thought that I may as well click over to DSC and see what they had to offer as well. Their website header says, “Shave Time. Shave Money,” but the tagline in the main content area is almost like a very succinct mission statement: “A great shave for a few bucks a month.” Simple as that.
DSC gained quick popularity with the very cheeky and very well done video on YouTube in which the CEO makes a very bold claim about their blades and goes on to explain why you should get your shaving supplies from them. Warning: the claim involves the F word, but they do censor it. The ad is catchy and really quite clever; it’s a good hook. And if you’re like me, once you watch it, you’ll want to explore their site a bit more.
Where Harry’s has taken the contemporary, minimalist design approach for their site and branding, DSC has taken a more retro approach, and a somewhat simpler or more basic approach as far as the packaging goes. The basic corrugated fiberboard box is just big enough to hold the contents without a lot of empty space and isn’t really “adorned” so much as it is merely printed on. That what would you expect? You’re not paying for fancy packaging. If you want that, you can go to the local department store chain and get that from “Big Shave” companies (as DSC would call them).
Unlike Harry’s handle and cartridges that arrived each in their own dedicated and almost over-designed boxes, DSC’s handle came in a thin, clear, completely discardable plastic sleeve, and the cartridges came in a fairly standard looking clear plastic holder. But not to be completely “brand-less”, they did wrap the cartridge case in a simple cardboard sleeve with their logo printed on one side, the website address printed on the side and a saying on the side opposite the logo to remind you of their very intentionally clever nature:
Browsing through the “Fresh Blades” category of their blog, it seems they might change out these sleeves with different slogans from time to time. “Face Offs. Good for hockey, bad for old razors.” “Shaving cuts don’t bring out the color of your eyes.” And so on.
So enough about their marketing and branding. Let’s first talk about the “shave butter”. If you’re used to shaving cream or gel that lathers up quite a lot and coats your face in a fluffy white mask, you are in for quite the surprise. “Dr. Carver’s Easy Shave Butter” is a non-lathering gel, and you probably need less of it than you think. The first time I used it, I put a quarter-sized dollop on my hand hoping that would be enough. It turns out it was actually more than enough. Next time I’ll try a nickel-sized dollop. I’m not sure if it makes a difference, but I started with my face wet, splashing some warm water on it before beginning. The butter is almost just that: butter. It’s very slick and spreads out very easily. It lubricates your face and lets the razor glide where you need it to go. If you tend to get razor burn, you need to try this. They sell a big 6 oz. tube of it, and also a 3 oz. travel-sized tube.
Now let’s talk about the handle, which is rubberized and very grippy. In terms of design, it is almost night to Harry’s Truman’s day. The Truman handle is a single, completely smooth arc of hard plastic whereas DSC’s 4X handle is a wavy line of knobby rubber. And while the head of the handle is metal and the whole thing seems sturdy and solid enough, the grip of the handle feels quite cheap. Although, when I think about it, the grip material probably isn’t too different from the average toothbrush handle. Rather surprisingly, I found the handle was actually a little slippery while shaving. I’m not sure I can attribute that to having a trace of shave butter residue on my hands or not, but I certainly didn’t expect it given the almost all-terrain tire design of the grip. As far as concerns the shape of the 4X handle — and despite the feel of the material – it is very comfortable in the hand, albeit just a tad short to be a perfect fit for my hand. Honestly, if the handle were just another centimeter longer, it would be perfect.
As for the cartridges, they were a very pleasant surprise along with the shave butter. I know that I get a better shave from Gillette’s 5-blade “Fusion ProGlide” cartridge than with their 3-blade “Mach 3” cartridge. So while I wasn’t completely sure what to expect with this 4-blade cartridge, I honestly did expect a slightly worse shave. Part of my expectations were driven by my experience with Harry’s blades. Because I had to go over parts of my face multiple times with that 5-blade razor, I had already begun to think that maybe the “less expensive” razor plan very possibly was the “cheap” razor plan; maybe the “Big Shave” companies really were better in this arena. One good sign from the beginning, though, was the space between the individuals blades: it looked like it should rinse out very easily and not get clogged up with whiskers. I tend to shave against the grain, and from the very first stroke of this razor, I was hopeful. The shave butter was a noticeably different medium and I’m sure that helped. But the blades were as sharp as I would’ve expected from my Gillette or seemingly even my safety razor. For the most part, I only had to make one pass and I had a great shave. I doubled back over a couple parts to be sure I got everything, but it was nothing like the nearly complete re-shave I had to do with the Truman handle.
I was sold. I didn’t see any reason to keep my Gillette or bother worrying about buying the $3.00+ refills for it. I was a bit disappointed because I did really like Harry’s Truman handle, but the poor cartridge design was a deal breaker. This solution was better and less expensive all at the same time. Of course, as soon as I think about how inexpensive something is, I have to wonder where the components are made. So I tried to find on DSC’s website if they said where their products were manufactured. All I could find was a statement that said their razors were manufactured “overseas”. I figured that was China. And while I’m never terribly keen to purchase outrightly things made in China — especially if I readily can find a sufficient or superior American-made equivalent — I still was pretty much sold on this shaving solution. But don’t stop here. I still have more to come.