Amazon recently introduced a new line of cheap sneakers that looks an awful lot like Allbirds, the hottest sneaker brand of 2019. But are Amazon’s $35 generic-brand sneakers too close for comfort compared to trendy Allbirds? Depends on who you ask.
By now, you’ve probably heard about the hip all-wool sneaker Allbirds. Made from Merino wool, Allbirds feature breathable mesh, a reasonable price point of around $100, and a nice blend of comfort and low-key style, with a motto to match: “No flashy logos. No senseless details.”
As you would expect from a company based in San Francisco, Allbirds pushes sustainability as a selling point, noting on their website that they are benefit corporation that ships its products in 100% recyclable boxes and donates lightly used returns to the charity Soles4Souls.
Recently named as one of the startups where everyone wants to work, Allbirds debuted in 2014 and opened its first retail store last year, though it’s mostly an online-based retailer. The brand has become the favorite shoe of Silicon Valley, and its popularity soared to the next level when former President Barack Obama was seen rocking a pair at a Duke-UNC basketball game last February. As ever, Obama can make almost any outfit seem effortless stylish, as long as it’s not a tan suit. (Never forget.)
But startup culture being what it is, when any successful model is bound to be emulated, Allbirds is seeing more competition lately from apparent imitators.
As Business Insider noted, about a month ago Amazon began selling wool sneakers from one of its many house brands, 206 Collective — and their description and appearance are very similar to Allbirds. Amazon’s shoes, which start at around $35, boast a “comfortable soft wool blend and a memory foam insole,” just like the Allbirds.
Here’s a pair of Amazon 206 Collective wool blend sneakers, priced at $35 to $45:
And here’s a pair of men’s Allbirds running shoes selling for $115:
For women, Amazon’s 206 Collective wool sneakers are available for $45:
Here’s a similar-looking pair of women’s sneakers from Allbirds, for $115:
The Internet has taken note of the similarities. Investor and Tinder executive Jeff Morris, Jr. posted on Twitter yesterday that “if you build a product that works, Amazon or Facebook will copy it. People used to care. Not anymore.”
Amazon is now straight copying Allbirds.— Jeff Morris Jr. (@jmj) September 19, 2019
We have reached "peak cloning" in Silicon Valley.
There are no rules anymore - if you build a product that works, Amazon or Facebook will copy it.
People used to care. Not anymore. pic.twitter.com/73bDMgruMX
Some onlookers think Amazon is going too far, but judging by some of the delighted Amazon reviews of the product, which gleefully point out they love the cheaper prices, many consumers are just fine with it.
MONEY has reached out to Amazon for comment, and will update this story if the company responds.
We’ve included affiliate links into this article. Click here to learn what those are.