dupes week

Welcome to Dupes Week

Photo: Courtesy Walt Disney Productions

First, we should say what a dupe is not. A dupe is not a doppelgänger or a knockoff or an impersonation — at least not explicitly so. With our experience testing and reviewing lots of products that are just like other products, we aren’t particularly interested in those that are trying to be anything else. We prefer the thing that is simply itself, and in the process of being itself, just so happens to work just as well as — or sometimes, even better than — a fancier, more expensive, or more well-known product. It’s about function more than fashion, like a vacuum cleaner that’s as powerful as a Dyson but costs half as much, an incredibly Creuset-like cast-iron Dutch oven, or a pair of clogs from Amazon that your boss mistakes for No. 6. Welcome to Dupes Week at the Strategist.

The eco-friendly diapers cheaper than Honest Company’s

After using Honest Company’s chemical-, fragrance-, and synthetic-material-free diapers for his first kid, writer Steven John says that, following the birth of his second, he turned to Cloud Island — which also offers comfortable, absorbent diapers free of those worrisome ingredients. John admits that Cloud Island, as a brand, lacks the trust that Honest Company has built among consumers over the years — and that its diapers don’t come in as many playful prints or patterns. But they do cost ten cents less per diaper than Honest Company’s, which John notes “can add up to hundreds of dollars over the course of a year of diapering.”

The portable mic that turns any room into K-Town karaoke

“This is for sure the simplest way to re-create everything a private karaoke room has to offer minus the $300 bar tab,” according to writer David Lerner Schwartz. Part Bluetooth microphone, part wireless speaker, this so-called karaoke system even has a retractable holder for your phone — making it a fun surprise to whip out at parties, as well as an unexpected wedding or engagement gift, he adds. Just don’t expect a recording-studio-quality solo: “It’s really more akin to singing inside the trunk of a Ford Taurus than a large music hall.”

The binoculars that are as good as a telescope

Rena J. Mosteirin can see the Milky Way from her backyard at night and even has attended some meetings held by the Springfield Telescope Makers Society — a Vermont-based group that sets up homemade telescopes annually at Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site. But if you’re also interested in getting a closer look at celestial bodies, she recommends that you buy this pair of Nikon binoculars instead of a telescope. They’re easier to use than a telescope, she explains, and they still let you see moons and stars. Plus, she writes, “The beauty of binoculars is they fit right in your backpack. And you can also grab them to go bird-watching or whale-watching, or spying on your neighbors; if you happen to live next to a bear sanctuary, it can get pretty interesting.”

The resurfacing treatment that’s better than Sunday Riley’s

Though it’s a face scrub, not a lactic acid treatment, this NOTO Resurface Scrub leaves Robin Reetz’s face feeling softer than it did after she used Sunday Riley’s cult-y Good Genes. In fact, she writes, “I continue to be amazed at how babylike my skin feels with twice-weekly use of the stuff, which gets it smoother than did the Clarisonic, the $65 Tatcha Rice Polish, the $80 Drunk Elephant Babyfacial, and even the $125 exfoliator from La Mer I have used.”

The ceramic knives that are as good as a handcrafted Japanese chef’s knife

Hannah Howard owns a handcrafted Japanese chef’s knife, which she bought right after college and loves. “In my hand, it just feels right,” she writes; but “so do the colorful ceramic knives in this set of six that costs less than $24.” They don’t pick up funky smells, they’re featherlight, and they can even survive a trip through the dishwasher.

The workout tee that’s as versatile as one from Outdoor Voices

Searching for a T-shirt that she could both work out in and wear to work, Priya Krishna found an Outdoor Voices top for $55 that fit the bill — until it was replaced by this shirt from 32 Degrees, gifted to her by her mom. “In both cases, you basically get an exercise top disguised as a nice top. In both cases, the fabric is breathable and comfortable and doesn’t get damp spots at the armpits, perhaps due to a comparable form of cooling technology,” she writes.

The Apple dongle dupe recommended by the guy at the Apple Store

Steven John recently bought a new MacBook Pro, which has just two USB-C ports, and realized that he needed a bunch of Apple dongles in order to connect his external monitor and wireless mouse. Turns out the Apple Store guy recommended that he buy this hub adapter from Anker instead of a dongle from Apple, which he describes as “simply too expensive. The Anker model I use has two USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI port, and both an SD and a Micro SD slot — and it’s never given me any problems.”

The less expensive sheet set that feels like sleeping at a fancy hotel

“Apparently Italic uses the same manufacturers as the Frettes of the world before selling directly to consumers at factory prices, thus eliminating extreme markups,” writes Chloe Anello of this cotton sheet set. And after putting them head to head against a pair of (very expensive) Frette sheets, she concluded, “I actually slept better on the less expensive version.”

The eyebrow pen that makes brows looks like they’ve been microbladed

Using this drugstore brow pen from Maybelline, Crystal Martin says, “I get a naturally thick brow effect that is not unlike that of microblading. Without any of the pain (or $$$$).” Granted, it’s not permanent, or even semipermanent, like microblading is, but, “I’m here for a look — dark, dense, natural — and the pen does that better than any product I’ve tried.”

The workout gear that looks status-y but costs under $100

Our senior writer Karen Iorio Adelson surveyed trainers and fitness instructors to find the best athleisure dupes, and they recommended a bunch of less expensive options — including Forever 21 leggings that look like they’re from Carbon 38, Reebok shorts that recall Patagonia Baggies, and these patterned leggings that are “very reminiscent of these Lululemon Align leggings — but for less than a third of the price.”

The Amazon flatware that looks like Christofle

After admiring her mother’s Christofle dinnerware, Charlotte Klein found this Winco flatware that’s a “a near-identical version on Amazon, beaded detail and all.” She writes, “They’re not as heavy or substantial as the Christofle; each piece is not personally made by a silversmith in Normandy, France. But they’ve made me appreciate the idea of elegant flatware.”

The mattress that’s just about as comfortable as a Casper and costs a third of the price

Steven John owns, and loves, his Casper Wave mattress. But when it came to finding a mattress for the guest bedroom, he wanted to spend a little less without forgoing comfort. Enter this Signature Sleep Honest Elements Mattress. As he explains, “In both products, the mattresses breathe well, allowing excellent airflow that keeps you evenly cool and that draws away that moisture that might otherwise leave you feeling hot and sweaty or cold and clammy depending on the ambient conditions.”

The $6 dupe for Rosie Huntington-Whitley’s favorite eye shadow

Our beauty writer Rio Viera-Newton first learned about Hourglass’s Scattered Light Eyeshadow in the shade Aura while watching a video on Rosie Huntington-Whitley’s YouTube channel, but was shocked when she realized it cost $29 at Sephora, so she held off. Then, she went to Ulta: “When I tried its $6 Super Shock Wave Eyeshadow in the shade ‘Frog,’ I gasped — really, I did! Just like the Aura, this shadow gave off a super-buildable, subtle but beautifully prismatic shimmer — something you could wear as easily to a meeting as you could on your actual wedding day.”

The kids’ PJs that have the feel of Hanna Andersson’s

“Hanna Andersson offers great kids’ pajamas and a lot of other great clothing, too,” writes Steven John, and though the kids’ PJs from Primary don’t have the same fun prints, “After a couple of washes, Primary cotton PJs are just as soft as Hannas. In fact, if I were going just by the feel, I might not be able to tell the difference.”

The Dr. Martens that look like $820 Prada shoes (when they’re polished)

Dr. Martens Mono 1461

“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,” writes our columnist, and resident Cool Guy, Chris Black, before admitting, “I think what really gets people assuming my Docs are Pradas is when I 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).”

The Shark vacuum cleans as well as a Dyson

“What could really be the difference between cleaning your apartment with a Shark instead of a Dyson?” asks Margaret Rhodes. The answer: Not much. The Shark kept up with the Dyson in all of her tests, from vacuuming a low-pile Turkish rug to picking up a box of white sugar, and the Shark is a fraction of the price.

The $16 dupe for Tom Ford’s (sold out) lip blush

Tom Ford’s Lip Blush is a clear lip balm with gold flakes in it “that, upon contact with your mouth, transforms into a flattering pink,” says Or Gotham. It’s also sold out everywhere. But Winky Lux’s Flower Balm has a near-identical texture and effect, for just $16. “So if you’re looking for the type of cosmetic that would make your enemies feel bad about themselves, there’s really nothing quite like Tom Ford. However, since that option is currently really only available at a 100 percent markup on Amazon, you can find peace in knowing that there is Winky Lux.”

The cheapest air purifier that works just as well as the second-cheapest one

The air purifier from Blueair that Steven John bought “does a superlative job scrubbing the air clean in a space up to 430 square feet” for $525; it’s got three different air-speed settings and removes 99.97 percent of airborne pollutants. But so does this $200 Elechomes air purifier (though it only covers 350 square feet).

The Amazon fishing vest that looks high fashion

Robin Reetz was intrigued by “this $760 ‘technical canvas tool vest’ I saw on Need Supply Co. The luxury brand Ganni seemed to be doing something similar, albeit in shearling, and the look had also trickled down to Stussy.” But instead of spending hundreds on this trendy vest, she turned to Amazon: “It seemed to have a slightly oversize fit, mesh panels, a Yeezy-esque  neutral tone, and more pockets than I’d know what to do with. At $20, I felt like I could afford to give it a shot. And I was right.”

The best beauty dupes, according to Rio’s beauty-obsessed followers

$18 for 3

Rio Viera-Newton polled her beauty-obsessed Instagram followers to find the best beauty dupes, and they came prepared with tons of excellent recommendations, like this La Mer dupe. According to esthetician Sofie Pavitt, “The ingredient list is essentially identical (except La Mer has petrolatum). The only other big difference is La Mer has a lot of antioxidants. The seaweed alpha hydroxy acid in La Mer isn’t, in my opinion, a reason to spend the extra money on it. I would just use the Nivea alongside a cheaper AHA exfoliating product.”

The $30 sleeping bag that’ll keep you as warm a $150 one

Steven John owns seven sleeping bags, and his favorite is the Synthesis 20, from Sierra Designs, which costs $150. “But it’s also surprisingly similar to one that costs just $30, the Sportneer 20F Ultralight Mummy Bag,” he writes. They have a similar design, are nearly identical in weight, and “for the record, I’m 6’2” and I fit in both bags with ease, even with my head tucked into the hood, which can be cinched tight on both sacks.”

The esthetician-grade (less expensive) beauty tools that you can buy on Amazon

Anna Zahn, L.A.-based lymphatic massage specialist and founder of the spa Ricari Studio, recommends many “inexpensive gadgets you can use at home to replicate the results of pricey esthetician-grade or brand-name devices” to her clients, and we found some of her favorites, including this less-expensive, at-home high-frequency electrical-current treatment.

The ceramic dishes from World Market that look Insta-famous

After lusting after Year & Day’s blush-colored ceramics that she saw on Instagram, Kase Wickman found similar-looking dishware at World Market for a fraction of the price. “I’ve decided to go for a mix of the blush and stone pieces. I think they would look just darling on my Instagram … I mean, my table. On my table.”

The drugstore concealer that hides dark circles as well as Clé de Peau’s

Yes, Chloe Anello admits: Clé de Peau’s $70 concealer is really good at hiding dark circles under her eyes. But so is Maybelline’s Instant Age Rewind concealer: “My dark circles don’t creep through midday, and if I ever need a rare quick touch-up, it’s just a refresher; I’m not starting over as if I never applied anything to begin with. Plus I can feel more liberal in applying the stuff — I can purchase seven of them for the price of one Clé de Peau.”

The ecofriendly laundry detergent that costs 17 cents per pod

By switching to Dropps laundry detergent and dishwasher pods, Steven John estimates he and his family are “down to under $150 in combined annual laundry and dishwashing-soap expenses since we went the Dropps route. Plus, the pods come in 100 percent recyclable biodegradable cardboard packaging.”

The best Le Creuset Dutch oven dupes

“The reason to spend $350 on a Le Creuset Dutch oven is because you want it all: a high-performing enameled cast-iron Dutch oven that has a long legacy and will still look great on your stove in basically any color that you want,” writes managing editor Maxine Builder. “But if you’re willing to compromise on any one of these features (something that many, many home cooks are!), you can still get a very good Dutch oven that, technically, does everything the Le Creuset does,” and to find the best Le Creuset Dutch-oven dupes, she tested six options, including this Cuisinart, which she calls the best functional Le Creuset dupe.

The under-$50 mules a boss thought were No. 6

“My boss, the director of photography here at New York, is the type of person who serves sea urchin at her dinner parties,” writes Graylen Gatewood, explaining, “And so I guess it came as a bit of a shock last month when she glanced down at my feet and asked — in a way like she didn’t really need to ask — if the slides I was wearing were No. 6.” In fact, she was wearing these Vince Camuto wedge sandals, which she bought on Amazon.

The European-style vegan butter that tastes like real butter

“Unlike Earth Balance, which is, in my opinion, thoughtfully branded margarine, Miyoko’s is made out of real ingredients like coconut oil and cultured cashews (which gives it a great tang that’s slightly more intense than cultured butter’s and makes me think it’s good for my gut health),” explains Katheryn Erickson. It’s expensive, even when compared to fancy conventional butter, but she notes, “my Alabama-born best friend, who knows a thing or two about butter, was fooled into eating Miyoko’s for months by his health-freak boyfriend and was none the wiser. It’s just that good.”

Buzz Bissinger’s favorite drugstore skin-care dupes

“I am a skin-care price whore,” admits our beauty columnist Buzz Bissinger. But he’s started thinking of his $80 La Mer facial spray as “fine wine, only to be used on special occasions.” So for everyday use, he turns to this Olay mist. “It only features some 17 ingredients — my favorites being the white mint and refreshing cucumber water, which makes it feel slightly more bracing — but goes on effortlessly and is just as easy to carry around, as its bottle is basically the same size.”

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

Welcome to Dupes Week