It all began with grooming services. You signed up with Harry’s or the Dollar Shave Club, and every month a cardboard box filled with razors and other shaving materials landed on your doorstep, for a dirt-cheap price. In hindsight, it was a total no-brainer: You saved bundles of money on a daily ritual—shaving—and managed to erase those annoying trips to the drugstore from your life once and for all.
Now, though, box-subscription services are multiplying faster than coked-up rabbits on a Viagra binge: Monthly boxes of everything from vinyl records (vynl.org) to crates of caffeinated products (energysupplyco.com) to bizarre collections of random trinkets targeted at mad, kitten-loving women (catladybox.com) are available for sign-up. No doubt we reached peak box-subscription absurdity when a startup called Washboard offered to send subscribers 20 bucks’ worth of quarters—for laundry, presumably—for the bargain price of $27. (Thankfully, it only lasted a week.)
Nevertheless, there are a lot of winning services out there—if you’re a smart shopper. So I went ahead and did the groundwork and found you the best options in three dude-friendly categories.
Mark Ellwood is the author of 'Bargain Fever: How to Shop in a Discounted World'
For the Clothes Shopper
$25–$28/month, depending on subscription length; sprezzabox.com
The best-known style category is what I call “sock-tie-plus” boxes. Each offers a pair of socks and a tie plus various accessories for around $30/month. If you’re a suit-wearing nine-to-fiver, they’re a great value: Each box costs pretty much the same as the tie if you’d bought it in a store.
For me, the standout in this crowded field is two-year-old Sprezza, started by reformed hedge funder Philip Sblendorio. It trounces rivals for two simple reasons. First, the value: For $28 per month, boxes have a guaranteed value of $100. Second, it’s aptly named (and no, I didn’t know sprezza was the Italian word for “effortlessly stylish,” either).
The monthly deliveries are NYC themed, like the recent travel-inspired Kennedy (as in airport) box, which included a Dopp kit, earbuds, and grooming products along with the standard socks and tie.
THE RUNNER-UP: Bespoke Post
$45 per month; bespokepost.com
For control freaks like me, Bespoke Post is terrific. Unlike a lot of the services in this category, it unveils the contents of its monthly so-called “Box of Awesome” before shipping, so you can opt out of anything that doesn’t interest you. (Smell you later, Himalayan salt block.) The downside: the massive cost, which makes it one of the priciest services.
For the Guy Who Lives at the Gym
WINNER: Carnivore Club
$50–$55, depending on subscription length; carnivoreclub.com
If you’re tired of endless trips to the butcher for more protein, why not opt for a couple pounds of high-class meats routinely delivered fresh to your door?
And we’re not talking freeze-dried jerky here, fellas. Carnivore Club taps a different artisan butcher to fill the box each time; one recent purveyor of mine was N’duja Artisans, which produces insanely delicious Italian sausages as well as exotic cuts like Wagyu beef salami. You could also find yourself with a box of delicious Jamón Ibérico from Spain, or low-fat, high-protein treats like buffalo jerky.
Sure, at $50/month, it’s pricey, but let’s face it: Like razors, good, muscle-building protein always needs replenishing in any dude’s apartment—so why not opt for the best?
THE RUNNER-UP: JackedPack
I’m definitely a fan of this service, which sends you a fistful of monthly supplement samples, like an assortment of workout boosters ranging from ProMax bars to the always hugely important whey protein (all, thankfully, from reputable supplement companies like Cellucor).
It’s a great way to try out new stuff you wouldn’t otherwise; and once you’ve checked a few boxes to show your preferences—whether your goal is building muscle or losing fat, what your favorite flavors are—these guys will start sending you full bottles.
For the Guy Who’s Seen Every Single Movie on Netflix
$11.99-$16.99, depending on subscription length; bookspan.com
This is the True OG of subscription boxes: a 90-year-old Book of the Month-type club that’s been updated for the Internet era. Each month, a panel of five judges personally picks one book; the lineup’s an assortment of bookish experts such as New York Times alum Bill Goldstein, and celebrities like Craig Ferguson. Once you see that month’s assortment, you can select which of the five you’d like to receive or skip that month if none appeal.
I like the eclectic assortment of reads that the approach ensures, from Sarah Vowell’s humorous essays to a CIA vet’s memoirs.
THE RUNNER-UP: Boxwalla
$49.95 every 2 months; theboxwalla.com
Boxwalla offers two distinctive entertainment options: one focusing on highbrow books, the other containing two DVDs from the tony Criterion Collection.
It’s a shamelessly retro approach—who buys DVDs in an era of Netflix?—but that’s exactly the point. And the service is all the better for it: Criterion’s mission is to preserve and restore obscure movies by introducing you to films you’ve never heard of, let alone seen. Think of them as a high-protein diet for your brain.
And a side bonus: The shipping boxes are made of cotton scraps instead of timber—definitely worth keeping for storage.
And a Couple of Extra Tips We Found in the Box...
Be your own private eye: The best way to check out a subscription service on your own, to be sure it’s legit? Stalk the company’s social media, checking for high numbers of followers and positive mentions, says Liz Cadman of mysubscriptionaddiction.com. Also, any reputable firm will post recent boxes online; eyeball a few to see if the goodies appeal.
Make sure you’re getting enough value: This differs across sectors, says hellosubscription.com box reviewer Brandy O’Grady. “For an artisan food box, be happy if the products’ value equals that of the box; but for fashion or grooming, expect two to three times the actual cost of the box.” Usually, the bigger the firm, the better the deal, since larger companies can buy in bulk. Also, a year commitment is often cheaper overall than
a monthly one—and you can usually cancel without penalty. On that note...
Cancel your cancellation worries: “It can be a hassle to cancel some boxes—for example, they might make you call them to do it,” Cadman says. “So always set up payments through PayPal, which lets you disable ongoing debits with no pesky phone calls or fear of blowback.