Grooming is a topic on which we occasionally touch for the simple reason that looking your best, whatever that may mean to you, is part of how you present yourself to the world. For some men, it means short-back-and-sides and a clean shave. For others, it’s that rolled-out-of-bed, rock star, free spirit look that actually takes quite a while to pull off every day.
And, while we have reviewed some great hair and skin care products that help to keep your skin and coif looking their best, today we are going to talk shaving. Strait-edge razors, badger brushes, and artisinal shaving soap blocks are pretty great, but this time we’re focused on the more pedestrian but widely used handle-and-blade kit. Your basic shave.
For so many of us shaving is, pardon the pun, a double edged sword. A clean shave (mostly) everyday (at least we try) can be tough on your morning and on your face. Even when going for the five o’clock shadow look, a certain amount preparation and work is needed. Perfectly rugged does not happen on its own, no matter what you see in GQ or Esquire.
Carving out time to establish your own shaving ritual is up to you – we prefer the shower. So then, the real questions are what to use and where to find it.
These days, you can pick up some face wash, shaving cream, and razors at pretty much any supermarket or well-stocked general store. And, for the most part, that stuff will serve you well. Indeed, mass-market shaving brands are part of a surprisingly finely-tuned industry that delivers fairly reliable quality.
However, while the quality may be pretty good when it comes to those well marketed brands, you definitely pay the price. So well-understood is the “give away the handle, pay for the blades” model that defines the razor industry, that it is typically used to explain the business approach of most products that have a low entry barrier price, but a high product maintenance/continuance cost. Translation: that starter pack is not too bad, but the cost of the replacement razor blades are akin to highway robbery.
Ever on the hunt for something a little better, more interesting, personal, and affordable, OTC recently examined two customer-concentric direct delivery shaving brands. Razors to you front door.
Harry’s is a well-known brand that helped to kick off the razor blade revolution. 800razors.com is less well-known, but in some ways a more direct competitor to the big well-established brands. Both provide a clean and comfortable shave.
The first thing to understand about the razor blade business is that whatever the brand, those things are hard to make and expensive on the wholesale end no matter the marketing cost. What these “Warby Parker of razors” really offer – apart from very good razors – is a more personalized customer experience, unique and distinctive brand propositions, and a direct from manufacturer/low markup business model.
Harry’s is the golden child of this market, and with good reason. They helped to define and shape the direct-to-consumer razor model and in doing so established themselves as the smart, savvy gents’ brand. The products themselves are distinctively branded and have custom designed features, like their razor/handle connection.
Harry’s brand identity was developed by Partners & Spade, the go-to company for cool menswear labels like Boast, Jack Spade, Warby Parker, Shinola, and J.Crew. The branded handles are elegant and clean and the shaving products feel great on the skin. Customized product and shipping packaging completes the overall distinctive Harry’s feel.
800razors.com takes a different approach to defining themselves in this competitive space. Where Harry’s is suave and modern-man cool, 800razors.com is mass-market positioned, seeking to capture the guy might otherwise run out to the store for milk and some blades that hopefully fit that handle thing in the bathroom. That said, they also have well-branded shave products and shipping containers that help to provide an equally cohesive and substantive product narrative.
The two companies’ narratives are different, though equally smart and compelling. Harry’s is for the intentional shaver; the man who wants to be distinctive and on-trend, but who also cares about convenience. 800razors.com wants the fire-and-forget guy. He’s perfectly cool in his own right, but what he really wants is a good shave and high quality shave products, delivered to his door when needed. Boom, done; none of that precious branding stuff that has to cost something somewhere.
The different approaches to brand identity also paint a clear picture.
Harry’s value proposition is that you are a certain kind of globally curious, urban, urbane guy when you use their products. The ironic woolly mammoth and puny name set the intellectual-oriented stage. 800razors.com is a value focused brand that is built around its e-commerce site, literally; the address is in their name.
Even the “800” razor handle follows a mainstream design language. It has a solid, familiar shape and heft that reminds you of other ubiquitous global shave brands. Well made, reliable, and modern but nothing fancy. Meanwhile, Harry’s standard Truman model is smooth and polished, almost sculptural – a different customer.
Over two months of regular use, both razors, shave creams, and after shave balm, not only did their jobs, they did those jobs far better than expected. Neither brand is better than the other, they simply have a few differences. And really, when we get down to brass tacks, what really matters is the shave. Do the razors get the job done?
In both cases, the simple answer is “yes.” You’re not going to go wrong with either brand. It comes down to razor style and the design and the type of products included.
The Harry’s razor has a smooth handle that some might find off-putting in the shower, but it always felt secure in the hand and very well-balanced. The Truman Set, which we tested, comes with the handle, three blades, a fantastic 4oz foaming shave gel, and handy travel blade cover. The distinctive blade unit is slimmer and flatter than what you might expect, which means that the blade head lays closer to your face than do other razors. We also tried out Harry’s new Daily Face Wash, which is a great addition to the lineup.
The 800razers.com Ultimate 5 Blade Shave kit came with the handle, four blades, 5oz shave cream, and 5oz aftershave moisturizing cream. The handle has a firm grip and feels solid and stable even when held in a variety of positions. Both the shave and aftershave creams are of excellent quality, smell great, and do a fantastic job smoothing, protecting, and moisturizing your skin.
Can’t decide which sounds like a match for you? Give them both a try and let us know what you think.