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 Le Creuset-like cast-iron casserole dish, or a just-as-good alternative to a (gut-wrenchingly expensive) status hair mask. Welcome to Dupes Week at the Strategist UK.

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.”

“While some of my more questionable T-shirts gather dust — like those from my regrettable foray into tie-dye, circa summer 2020 — these Pro Club ones have only got better with age”, says Strategist writer Chris Mandle. He adds, “over the past year, every time I met with friends, people thought my substantial-looking, thick T-shirt must have been Noah, or Fear of God — one friend swore she had been eyeing up the exact same thing in Dover St Market. Little did she know that my version gave me change from a 20.”

We spoke to eight industry experts to track down a Peloton dupe (one that, crucially, comes with great resistance options, a screen, connectivity to fitness apps, and fitness-data tracking). Bowflex’s bikes offer a “smooth and sturdy ride” — just like Peloton bikes — according to Dr. LA Thoma Gustin, an American physical therapist who counts Camila Mendes and Madelaine Petsch as clients. She likes the C6 model for its flexibility with workout apps (a bonus compared with Peloton, whose functionality depends on a subscription to the brand’s own app). With a Bowflex, you’re not locked into any particular subscription commitment; it works with Peloton, Zwift, Explore the World, and beyond. This not only keeps things more interesting but could also cut some longer-term costs. Plus the lack of a screen keeps the price way down.

When it comes to headphones, few are as easily identifiable as the Apple AirPods. So when we decided to run a Dupes Week at the Strategist UK, we were keen to find out whether there was an (actually good) dupe for the popular earbuds. We spoke to tech writers, a YouTuber with hundreds of thousands of views on his headphone reviews, and several cool people, including a ballet dancer and a creative director. If sound quality is the most important attribute for you, two of the experts flagged the Sony XM3 headphones. These are not the latest model (that would be the XM4s, but at £250, this is not a suitable AirPod Pro dupe) but tech writer Jordan Bowman says they specifically outperformed the AirPods in sound quality, and the noise-cancelling was superior to other models.

Contributor Sandy Yu forsook cheap tights for several years, steadfastly trusting in Wolfords. However, in the dead of winter during the lockdown, and nobody to impress with her tights, she opted for something “a little less strenuous on my bank account.” She was delighted to find that the tights by sustainable brand Swedish Stockings were a perfect Wolford dupe — and they didn’t ladder half as easily.

When Sandy Yu and her husband were trying to decorate their rented flat, they wanted to add character on a budget. While scrolling through Made.com, they came across a chameleonic lampshade. She writes, “My husband and I both have degrees in art, we often find ourselves attracted to uncommon materials that play with light. Whilst researching furniture to buy, we came across this Made.com lampshade that had an unassuming iridescent reflective interior. It was white and minimal with clean lines on the outside and subtly colourful on the inside, refracting light to emit warm and cool hues depending on the time of day, like an analog Philips Hue. It was a £32 purchase that made our rented home a reflection of who we were — a way to imprint our personalities without risking our deposit.”

Contributor Vicky Spratt was devoted to Creme de la Mer to help soothe her “untreatable acne.” But the cost was unsustainable: £130 every three to four weeks. In search of an alternative, a comment on an article from 2015 led Vicky to Mario Badescu’s Seaweed Night Cream. It was significantly cheaper than La Mer and it worked just as well. She wrote, “I woke up looking fresh and dewy. It kept my spots at bay. I still had a ‘rich-person glow’ but I was no longer spending like one.”

Photo: retailer

Contributor Monica Heisey wanted a non-alcoholic nightcap that still felt luxurious. She tried enjoying booze-free drinks — “warm apple cider, fizzy water with lemon, a ginger ale — but none had the special-occasion aura I was looking for.” Then a friend recommended Three Spirit, a U.K.-based company that makes plant-based alcohol alternatives designed to replicate not just the look and flavour of a cocktail but the feel of drinking one as well. She writes, “It feels like a grown-up good-night drink — not as grandmother-y as herbal tea but less likely to induce a hangover than a traditional nightcap.”

Contributor Kate Pasola has been vegan for three years, and has uncovered a slew of flavour-boosting ingredients and worthwhile dairy dupes. She shares her favourites, including the results of her quest to find a decent cheese substitute. “I’d tried Violife (off-puttingly coconutty), Sheese (which bore an unfortunate resemblance to coital fluids), Applewood (too smoky for many dishes), a bunch of indie brands (usually gluey), M&S (oddly musky), Sainsbury’s (which refused to actually melt), and Tesco brand (which melted instantly into near liquid). Without fail, when melted, they added nothing but misery to mealtimes. But one day, while eating the wonderful vegan pizza in Whole Foods (Piccadilly Circus branch) and marveling at how the cheese melted, I decided to … just ask the chef. She told me Follow Your Heart’s Mozzarella Shreds are Whole Foods’ go-to pizza cheese because of their satisfying stretch capabilities.”

Photo: retailer

Contributor Nathan Ma rates Superdrug’s glycolic tonic so highly that he buys it in bulk to bring it back to Berlin. He writes, “at £7 for 100ml, the tonic is about half the price of Pixi but just as effective. It peels away dead cells and dirt from a long day of sweating, which means it clears the root cause of my heat rash from the inside out, and leaves my face fresher, brighter, and visibly renewed. It’s a skin-care staple in the colder months, too: As my summertime tan fades every autumn, the tonic gives my face a healthy glow and even tone (without lightening my complexion) well into winter. I used to pair Pixi with a vitamin C serum for a soft, uniform brightness, but the serum gradually left my face dewy but pale. Since switching to the Superdrug Tonic, I’ve phased out the vitamin C serum — without leaving behind the healthy glow.”

Cubitts may have been the best-rated men’s glasses (four of our 12 experts recommended the brand to us when we polled them), but contributor Emma Cooke tipped us off to Goggles4U, which sells a pretty convincing dupe for just £25.

“It sounded sketchy, but I’ve never let that keep me from a bargain,” Cooke writes about stumbling upon the discount website. “I clicked through and it looked surprisingly legit, though the prices defied logic. They have the exact same range of styles you’ll find in most major opticians at a fraction of the price — there are currently 2,427 options in their women’s section, starting from £4.95 and coming in any kind of look you want.” Her preferred frames, she noted, “are a dead ringer for Cubitts’s Grafton frames.”

Our beauty columnist Rio calls the Briogeo Don’t Despair, Repair mask a “solid dupe” for her beloved (gut-wrenchingly expensive) Christophe Robin Prickly Pear Recovery mask. She writes: “After about four uses, I noticed my hair felt smoother and less tangled, and was air drying beautifully, instead of turning from wet into a scary broom.”

Strategist writer Chris Mandle found that his beloved Chilly’s bottle wasn’t quite big enough. While trawling through Amazon, he spied this dupe by Japanese brand Kankei. It was a hit. He writes: “The water stays cool and crisp, even after several hours out of the fridge (or left in the bag with my tennis kit). I’d estimate the longest it sat around was about six or seven hours, and even then the water was perfectly cold. Next, I tried it on a trip to the seaside. In May, we’d gone to Broadstairs to escape the city (and to sample the much-buzzed fritto misto at Flotsam and Jetsam), and for the journey home, instead of lugging a few M&S canned cocktails in my bag, I decanted a bottle of Rioja I’d picked up from Affinity Brew on the way back to the station. Like the water, the wine stayed chilled, and we drank it on the way back to London.”

The Strategist UK is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Read about who we are and what we do here. Our editors update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

Welcome to Dupes Week