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When Polished, Everyone Thinks My $120 Derbys Are Their $820 Prada Cousins

Photo: Courtesy of Urban Outfitters

Since I was a teenager, footwear has been of the utmost importance. In high school, I had to have all four colors of the canvas Vans Authentic (coke white, classic white, blue, and black). And as I have grown and (sort of) matured, shoes, sneakers, and the like are what I feel most comfortable spending a lot of money on — or at least are what I’ve convinced myself are the most practical when it comes to splurging. Readers of my column know that I am generally drawn to simple, well-made things that, if properly cared for, will last forever. The same is true for shoes.

But, as column readers likely also know, I am not a fan of fakes. The real (and usually more expensive) version of anything is, in turn, usually better made, crafted using age-old technics by people who care. That’s a big reason why I splurge on finer brands of shoes and sneakers — because this craftsmanship generally makes them good investments that will age to perfection and not need to be replaced. Plus: I have a conscience! I couldn’t sleep at night if I was knowingly wearing a blatant knockoff and tricking people into thinking it was actually a designer piece. But what doesn’t bother me, apparently, is when that confusion happens naturally — when people compliment a relatively inexpensive thing I’m wearing because their naked eyes confuse it for a much fancier cousin. This happens almost every time I wear my Dr. Martens 1461 Mono derbys — when practically every compliment I receive is from someone who assumes they are … Prada! Except these bad boys — which, to be fair, still cost a not-measly $120 — are less than a pair of Prada socks! You can’t even get a Prada keychain for $120.

To be clear, I did not buy the Docs derbys (which are also available at Urban Outfitters and SSENSE) because I thought they looked like Prada. They honestly didn’t remind me of Prada until I encountered myriad admirers who thought they were Prada. I bought them because they are far more subtle than a lot of other Dr. Martens shoes that feature yellow stitching and the brand’s logo (details that, to me, make Docs too quickly identifiable). The Mono derbys have neither of those things; instead, they’re far more subtle, combining muted, tonal stitching and the classic three-eye upper of most derbys.

This simplicity and genericness is what clearly allows for the confusion, but I think what really gets people assuming my Docs are Pradas is when put them on after sending them for a serious polish at Cowboy Shoe Repair on Broome Street (the Docs come buffed, but I want to SHINE.) Freshly polished, they look even more like the $820 Prada version made with thicker soles and a naturally buffed leather that is of a much higher quality than that of my Dr. Martens, which means the Pradas will no doubt age better and last longer. But part of that leather is debossed with the Prada logo — which, while subtle, is still a logo, giving the Docs another edge if you prefer anonymous footwear like me. When asked about my derbys, I have no problem telling the truth about their maker. But otherwise, I just let the people assume what they want. No harm, no foul!

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When Polished, My $120 Derbys Are Mistaken for Pricier Prada