I’m a sucker for marketing.
Seriously, put a glossy coat of paint on a website with trendy colors and couple that with Silicon Valley design aesthetics and you can take my money.
From companies like Birchbox, Warby Parker, and yes, Harry’s (who’s co-founder coincidentally was also a founder of Warby Parker), you have a new wave of companies that are quickly putting the old stalwarts of yesteryear on their heels.
But when you push through all that sexy marketing, it’s the product that really matters…
Here’s the cold hard truth:
I wanted to love Harry’s.
I really did.
But the fact remains – it wasn’t a match made in heaven. Now before we get all negative on the review (as I will share all the unfiltered details below), I want to take a minute to really talk a bit about the background of why we are doing this review now (several years after Harry’s was founded) along with a proper unboxing.
Harry’s has been around for years
While many men reading this review will instantly attribute the genesis of the subscription shave box model with Dollar Shave Club and their insanely viral video, Harry’s been around for quite some time (founded in 2013).
Since inception, Harry’s has raised over $450 million dollars in venture capital funding according to Crunchbase.
What did they do with all this money?
Bought a factory in Germany that makes razor blades.
Not only did this allow them to lower costs and pass on the savings to you the consumer, but also control the quality of the product as they come off the production line.
Fast forward to today, we approach this review as a razor company that has fully worked out the kinks so to speak in their production process and ultimately attempt to deliver a fine razor blade that competes with more established companies like Gillette, Schick, Dorco (maker of the Dollar Shave Club blades), and others.
But first, let’s talk about what you get when you place an order with Harry’s:
Unboxing Harry’s incredibly cheap (and impressive) starter set
When you go over to the Harry’s website, you are met with a few options. You have your selection of the trial razor that costs only $3 bucks, the Truman Set ($15), and the Winston Set ($25):
Based on our findings, the cartridge that is included for each of these options are identical.
What really separates one set from the other is the finish of the razor handle (Winston features a die-cast zinc body with chrome finish whereas the others feature a textured rubber grip), along with the inclusion of extra cartridge razor blades.
Since we were buying this ourselves (Harry’s didn’t give us one for free nor are we being paid to write this), we went with the cheapest plan – the $3 starter set:
Immediately upon arrival we were awestruck in the packaging.
Unlike having to go to the drug store and purchase a razor blade that is under lock and key (and one of the many reasons the founders of Harry’s created their company in the first place), we were blown away from the attention to detail.
In a simple 6.5” x 10” box, you see the design aesthetics from their site carry over to the packaging:
And a simple logo on the side as well:
These aren’t boxes that announce to the world in a bright color that your shave subscription arrived – they are minimalist and to the point (note: the shipping details were on the reverse side).
When opening the box, you are met with a simple ‘Hi There’ card:
Along with a nice message on the top fold:
This is seriously way more personal than waiting for a clerk at the local drug store to come over with keys and let you pick up your refills.
Within the box you have two items – a bag containing all the shaving goodies along with a note from the founders:
Close-up of the note should you want to give it a read:
Now within the bag you will find the razor, shave gel, travel case, and a few notes on changing of the blade coupled with shaving tips:
What’s nice about the packaging is that nothing is contained within the rigid blister packaging that you may be accustomed to when opening cartridge razors (i.e. no heavy-duty scissors required).
Instead, you will find the razor itself in a nice quality box. As mentioned earlier, if you are giving Harry’s as a gift, there is no denying its incredibly beautiful presentation:
This little line on the side of their box reminds us of Apple’s ‘Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in China’ that’s emblazoned on the back of every iDevice:
Again, a nod to the fact that Harry’s bought the German razor factory Feintechnik in 2014 (source).
The Truman razor we received features a rubber grip (which performed well when induced in a wet shaving cream environment) along with a simple H’ on the handle:
This terrific grip was further reinforced with the tire-like markings on the underside of the razor:
When looking at the head of the razor, you will find 5 blades that will do the cutting along with an edging tool that is located on the top of the razor to keep your sideburns and other details in check:
It’s important to note, that when Harry’s first introduced their razor to the world, that this edging blade didn’t exist.
It’s great to see that they listened to their customers and made this modification on future blades (surely something that can be done due to their vertical integration when owning parts of the supply chain).
Comparing Harry’s razor to shaving systems
We get that it’s hard to really get an idea of how big or small, heavy or light a razor may be when reading an article online.
All too often you fall victim to having this vision built in your head on how the product will feel only to be left with disappointment upon arrival.
Therefore, we wanted to take a quick minute to show you a comparison of Harry’s razor versus the other guys (namely Gillette and Merkur).
When looking at the length of Harry’s razor compared to others, you will notice that it’s just a tad bit longer:
Why should you care about this?
If you are a bit larger of a guy with bigger hands, the longer handle will make it much easier to control when shaving. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about fumbling the razor, especially if you are shaving in the shower.
This is also important given Harry’s weight.
When putting this on the scale, we found that Harry’s razor was by and far the lightest (41g) of the three (we expected the Merkur ‘Barberpole’ to be the heaviest given it’s a razor of a different class):
And for comparison the Gillette Fusion ProGlide weighed 50g while the Merkur weighed a hefty 110g:
When looking at the cartridge heads themselves, Harry’s razor does appear to have both a substantially larger lubricating strip along with wider set blades (you will see why this could be a problem for some men in just a minute):
The width of the razor heads was nearly identical, making it easy for men to convert from one shaving system to another.
We estimate that both Harry’s and Gillette’s razor head width is about 1.625” give or take a few hundredths of an inch:
Finally, we want to talk about the pivot head of the razor.
Harry’s pivot head is on par with other razors in its class.
When pressed down, we could achieve nearly a flat surface.
Why does this matter?
A well performing pivot head will ensure that the razor will easily conform to the contours of your face:
And for argument’s sake, here is a look at Gillette’s razor:
For the bald-headed readers out there, the Harry’s razor does not feature a flexball type of head that moves side-to-side.
Of lesser importance when compared to the actual razor, the starter set we got our hands on included a blade protecting case which fits beautifully on the Harry’s razor:
The attention to detail with even the mini-mammoth is remarkable for such an affordable razor.
Along with a 2oz shave gel infused with aloe (note: shave gel was made in the USA):
The sub 3.4oz liquid rule enforced by TSA while traveling will make this combo great for road warriors:
Reviewing Harry’s shave performance
As beautiful as the Harry’s razor may be when it comes to packaging, it unfortunately falls just a bit short when it comes to performance.
Once the box has been recycled and the newness of the product begins to wear off, the daily shaving ritual begins to set in.
I’ll be the first to admit, shaving isn’t the most fun process in the world, especially if you are running late to work or have kids running around.
But the simple fact remains:
A razor that performs poorly can make your shave immensely worse.
While far from being the worse shave in my life (that one is reserved for the time I had to use water and a disposable razor while working at a job in high school that didn’t allow facial hair), Harry’s just didn’t excite me.
For starters, my beard grows in a bit on the thicker side, therefore for the men reading this who have medium or thinner whiskers, you may not experience the same results…
…but for the guys who have thick and coarse beards, pay attention.
Secondly, my skin is also mildly sensitive – it’s the reason why I like using a beard trimmer like the OneBlade instead of a razor on occasion to give my skin a break.
Here’s a look at my beard before shaving:
I went ahead and liberally applied the Harry’s shave gel:
And then went ahead and made the appropriate passes:
Here is a closer look at the cheek while shaving:
The head of the razor did seem rather large when shaving the mustache:
The razor covered my whole mustache making it tough to get a clean pass. Therefore, I had to rely on the edge trimmer for the area directly under my nose.
There were no clogging issues when rinsing the cartridge head – this is likely due to the wide set blades:
But where I really had problems with this razor was when it came to shaving my neck.
As you can see, the hair on my neck grows in an upward direction (therefore I shaved with the grain as one should):
Immediately once I was done shaving, there was severe irritation all around my neck area.
To put it bluntly, my neck hurt pretty bad.
While I did everything that one should do while shaving (showered beforehand, ensured a supple surface prior to blade exposure, going with the grain, etc.) I just simply couldn’t get past the irritation.
The best way I could equate the performance of this blade is with that of a disposable razor.
Passable but not pleasurable.
Here’s how my neck looked a few minutes after I was finished shaving:
As you can see there were a handful of small cuts that left a bit of blood – not good.
The cheeks however were still in fairly good shape:
When reflecting on the shave, one notable characteristic that seemed to be missing was any help from the lubricating strip. While not necessary for every shave (after all, they tend wear off after a few shaves anyways), it didn’t provide that general slick feeling when the razor passes on your skin.
In a word, the shave experience was…
But can you get past the irritation with the great savings?
Cost of Harry’s replacement blades compared to others
No matter the subscription model you go with through Harry’s, the cost per blade remains the same at $2 bucks per blade – which makes it relatively affordable…
…but how does that stack up to competitors?
Likely not as much in savings as you may initially think…
To put this in comparison, when purchasing a 12 pack of blades from Gillette (yes, it’s a higher investment cost), you would be paying roughly $2.37 a blade (or $28.50 for the 12 pack).
Furthermore, with Schick, you will pay roughly $2.16 a blade (or $26.00 for the 12 pack) for the Hydro 5 refills.
When you compare Harry’s to others in the market, while it might seem cheap from the onset, if you can afford the larger packages, it’s really not a significant cost savings as one may believe.
Final thoughts on our Harry’s razor review
Overall, I feel it was generally a mixed bag.
The razor itself evoked some nasty irritation that I haven’t personally experienced in some time and was akin to that of a disposable razor.
Given that this is set at a $3 price tag, I think I had a bit higher expectations simply due to the perfect marketing execution that Harry’s employs.
If you are giving this product as a gift to someone else, from the onset they will absolutely love it.
Seriously, it looks amazing.
But, will they renew their subscription?
That’s a toss-up.
If you or the man you are buying this for has a pretty thin or medium bristled beard, they will likely have far better results.
If you are on the fence and don’t mind spending three bucks to give it a shot, you can sign up through their website.
Shawn Burns is the founder and senior editor of Tools of Men. He started this site with the goal of teaching men proper grooming habits and sensible style. Shawn’s expertise includes in-depth product reviews and how-to articles. Shawn was recently featured in the Wall Street Journal for his expertise.