What is a 'dupe' men's fragrance (and should you buy one)?

What is a 'dupe' men's fragrance (and should you buy one)?

The cost of living crisis is real, and many men are looking for ways to save on their next scent purchase. Enter the copycat or 'dupe' fragrance.

Replica aftershaves promise to be just as good as the famous originals they're duplicating at a fraction of the original price, but can they deliver?

What are dupe fragrances and are they worth the hype?

The Bottom Line: Should You Buy Dupe Fragrances?

If you love fragrance, the answer here is easy. You shouldn't buy dupe fragrances.

Dupes reward copycats, not creators. Supporting independent fragrance houses is the way to ensure that fantastic scents keep getting made and that they're created in a way that's ethical and, frankly, interesting.

"Dupes reward copycats, not creators."

But there's a bit more to it than that. So, here's the full story behind the rise of copycat fragrances for men...

Dupes reward copycats, not creators

What is a "Dupe"?

A "dupe" in the world or men's aftershave refers to a fragrance that is similar to another, often more expensive, fragrance. The term is short for "duplicate," as in, a less expensive duplicate or copy of a luxury fragrance.

A dupe fragrance is usually created to have a similar scent, but at a lower price point, allowing consumers to enjoy a similar fragrance experience without paying a premium price. They've risen in popularity as e-commerce fragrance buying has become the norm. Most shops are wary of stocking fragrances that advertise in a legal 'grey area' (more on that later) but online, the barriers to entry are basically zero - pop up your shop and away you go.

For that reason, dupes are often referred to pejoratively as 'knockoff' and 'copycat' fragrances, but you can also find them called 'imitation', 'substitute', 'reproduction' or even 'inspired by (insert brand here)' fragrances. However they're sold, the basic premise is the same: it's a scent you've heard of, available for a much cheaper price. Sounds amazing. Is it?

The quality of dupe or replica fragrances varies significantly

Is the quality of a 'dupe' fragrance the same as the original?

The quality of a "dupe" fragrance can vary significantly, but as a rule of thumb you'd expect it to be lower than that of the original fragrance it is modelled after. This is due to the use of lower quality ingredients and less expensive production methods.

While some dupes can be close in scent to the original, the difference in quality is sometimes noticeable in the longevity and strength of the fragrance. But where they really fall down is in the more subtle elements of the scent. How does it change over time? What are the more sophisticated notes that separate it from the pack and made it a star to begin with? In short: what are the things that make the real scent something special? The first sniff might be very similar, but most dupes fall down in the longer run.

Of course, it's important to note that not all dupes are created equal and some can be closer in quality and scent to the original than others, but you're unlikely to find a perfect match - not least because that would entering some legal hot water...

Dupe fragrances have quality, ethical and legal concerns

Should you buy Copycat or Dupe Fragrances?

The short answer in our opinion is, probably not. Here's why:

Quality Concerns

As mentioned, to achieve their extremely low price points, "dupe" fragrances are often made with lower quality ingredients and production methods, which can result in a weaker, shorter-lasting scent or a more chemically development over time. But let's say you get lucky and find a scent you really like. There are still a couple reasons you might want to think twice...

Legal Issues

Dupe fragrances operate in a grey area: they're not claiming to be perfect clones, but they are often using brand names to advertise their products. Dealing with a company that isn't 100% above board in their marketing and legal compliance is something to think twice about. There might be a small risk involved, like no longer being able to get your favourite scent if the business is shut down. Or worse, legal action might happen suddenly, leaving your latest order stranded with no recourse for refund and your personal details on a server somewhere, likely about to be auctioned off as the company goes into administration. This is obviously a worst case scenario, it rarely happens, but it's worth being aware of.

Ethical Concerns

Connected to the above point, if a company is willing to play fast and loose with the law in its marketing, whilst also trying to keep costs as low as possible, there's a chance they might also be cutting other corners.

By purchasing a dupe fragrance, you may be directly or indirectly supporting companies that engage in unethical practices, such as using animal testing, exploiting workers, or not being environmentally responsible.

Supporting the original fragrance company doesn't mean you avoid these issues automatically, but if you do your homework you can at least get a credible answer on some of these vital questions and make an informed choice.

Not only that, but by supporting independent fragrance makers you're helping to support creatives - not copycats. This drives the production of amazing new colognes and aftershaves and supports the small businesses that make that possible. For us that's reason enough to avoid the world of copycat scent - and if you've got this far, we imagine you might well agree.

PS If you've reached this far we're guessing you might be ready to explore the world of non-Dupe independent scents - to start why not try our Discovery Set, pictured above?

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Some of our favourites...

Handmade men's fragrances, available direct in the UK and USA.

As seen in The Guardian, Wallpaper, Monocle. Recommended in British GQ's 'favourite men's fragrances' 7 years running. Read our reviews.

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