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The Strategist Guide to Shopping at Uniqlo

Photo-Illustration: retailer

A version of this story first appeared on the Strategist U.S.

Anyone who has shopped at a bigger-box store knows it can be hard to figure out where to begin. There are dozens upon dozens of options that all seem as worthy as the next, but the reality is that products from any given brand are not all created equal. When you shop as regularly as we do, you learn that many brands just do some things better than they do others. Uniqlo, we’ve found, is one of those brands — its massive inventory needs to be carefully picked through to find gems like its expert-recommended undergarments, affordable layers to buy in bulk, or celebrity-approved jackets. Here, we’ve corralled every single piece of clothing from Uniqlo for men and women that our writers and editors — as well as fashion editors, celebrity stylists, Alaskan cruisers, art directors, actresses, and other cool people like Chris Black — have recommended on the Strategist. One other thing we’ve learned from all our shopping at Uniqlo: Its website can be a bit wonky, so if you click on a product and it appears to be out of stock, be sure to check all colours and sizes before taking the website’s word for it.

For everyone

“Though it has three layers, including a built-in filter, the Airism mask is as breathable as we hoped,” we wrote after testing Uniqlo’s reusable cloth mask, which made our list of the best face masks you can buy online. Not only is the fabric lightweight (as its Airism name suggests), it’s also self-deodorizing and even has a UV-blocking mesh.

For men

According to Chris Black, two photographers, and one cool guy who works in coffee, Uniqlo’s simple and affordable Supima cotton boxer briefs are superior even to Calvins. “I wore Calvin Klein for a minute, but at this price and comfort level, I can’t pass up Uniqlo,” photographer Sam Schmieg told us. “They’re soft, breathable, and keep their shape well even after many washes.”

Publicist Jon Salas “lives and dies” by Uniqlo socks, telling us that this “no-show” pair is one of his favourites. “They’re super comfortable, durable, light, and breathable. And you just can’t beat the price,” Salas says.

When Salas isn’t wearing his low-cut socks, he told us, he wears Uniqlo’s Supima cotton ones, which he says aren’t “super-bunchy or thick but still manage to keep you warm.”

SLT instructor Patrick McGrath likes to lounge at home in these tank tops. They’re made from a thick cotton-poly blend that, crucially, isn’t “totally see-through when you go outside, which would be a deal breaker,” according to him. Right now, it’s only available in this grey, a blue, and a navy — all of which have only a few sizes left, so act fast if you like them.

Photo: retailer

Matt Schonfeld, a creative marketing manager at Rowing Blazers, bought two of these “light and breathable” tees in black about seven years ago — and told us they’re still in his weekly rotation. And Chris Black has recommended the white version for the man who works in a creative field and mostly wears jeans to work. The white version is low in stock at the moment, so we suggest acting fast.

Another cool-person-approved Uniqlo tee is its short-sleeved U crew neck, which Mickey Pangilinan, an art director at Apple, is a fan of for its “weighty material and nice texture.”

Back in the Before Times, Chris Black suggested this Uniqlo suit when a reader asked for help finding a sharp interview outfit that costs less than £200. Chris says the pants are “quite breathable and functional and look nice, too” and that the blazer “will dress the outfit up.” The fabric, he assures us, is “summer-appropriate, so you won’t show up drenched in sweat.” As for what to wear with the suit, Chris suggests the U crew-neck T-shirt above, to avoid looking overly buttoned-up.

This Uniqlo Oxford comes recommended by two stylish guys for its affordable price and pretty perfect fit. Griffin Funk, a designer at Apple, told us he prefers this shirt to the Maison Margiela Oxford he also owns, while writer Alex Frank says that Uniqlo has perfected the “starched-white-shirt look” and that he always reaches for this when he’s trying to look professional. The white Oxford is very low in stock, but its dark-blue sibling is available in a range of sizes.

Photo-Illustration: retailer

According to illustrator and co-founder of NYR Comics Lucas Adams, Uniqlo’s dry-tech sweatpants are “cut sleekly” and made from a durable fabric that he says will hold up for years. Part of their sleek cut, he told us, is that, unlike other sweatpants with ankles that are “unflatteringly loose,” these ones have hard-to-find cuffed ankles. They’re made with a sweat-wicking poly-cotton blend to withstand high-intensity workouts (or hot days lounging at home). These come in four colours, all of which are still available, but some of which are low in sizes after our year of basically living in sweats.

Writer and comedian James Folta is “not a big sweats guy,” but he makes an exception for Uniqlo’s Dry-Ex Ultra Stretch Active Pants, which are also stretchy, lightweight, sweat-wicking, and tailored in the leg and ankle. The pants, which have breathable, mesh-lined pockets, don’t make Folta feel like he’s “dragging around a blanket,” as he puts it.

Another summer-weight layer from Uniqlo is this linen “sack jacket” — or blazer with a roomier fit in the waist and shoulders — which comes recommended by Strategist writer Louis Cheslaw. It’s a slightly more polished option than the bomber above, and, according to Cheslaw, “the linen is breathable, so I don’t sweat when I wear it.”

Tyler Gaul, the founder of skin-care brand Protocol, calls Uniqlo’s Blocktech Parka “an ideal, old-faithful, grab-and-go water-repeller.” The lightweight jacket’s shell is water-resistant and windproof, and its interior features a moisture-wicking lining — all of which work to keep you dry inside and out.

Chris Black also told us he buys two or three of Uniqlo’s cashmere crewnecks every year. “It’s well priced and fits like it should, not too tight but not too baggy,” he says of the style.

For women

Strategist writer Lauren Ro bought the Beauty Soft Wireless Bra at 16 weeks pregnant and found it to be “so comfortable, you barely notice you’re wearing it.” It kept her boobs “supported and look[ing] natural” both during her pregnancy and beyond, according to Ro, who says she now slips into the bra while working from home, because its contoured, full-coverage cups have not lost their shape (even after months of use). It’s “just so easy to wear,” she concludes. Stock is currently patchy in smaller cup sizes, but there’s lots available for an E-cup and up.

Ro also recommends Uniqlo’s Airism Relax Wireless Bra, which she’s been “wearing a lot while working from home.” This bra is just as good as the one above, she assures us, but features a more seamless design and broader straps that are invisible under clothes. “It’s what I reach for on those days when I can’t put on anything more than a hoodie,” she says, “but still want some support.”

Ro’s go-to sweatpants also happen to be from Uniqlo, specifically this pair, which she says has also “held up beautifully through constant wear” (including during the quarantine). They’re soft, cosy, and have pockets that are deep enough to fit her phone and other essentials, she says.

[Editor’s note: Whilst Ro’s exact pick isn’t available in the U.K., our similar pick also has deep pockets and is made of the same cosy fabric.]

Serpentine Galleries CEO Bettina Korek owns “about eight pairs” of these Uniqlo jeans. She says that they “stretch just the right amount, and you can wear them all day into a night out, or just all day (and all night) in front of your video camera.”

Korek likes the high-rise slim fit for something “a bit more casual.”

Photo-Illustration: retailer

“They’re sweatpants masquerading as work pants,” is how Strategist writer Dominique Pariso describes the U Wide-Fit Curved Jersey Pants, which have become a mainstay of her work-from-home wardrobe. Details that put them in the sweatpants category, she notes, are a hidden elastic waistband and a drawstring to cinch the waist. But “a purely ornamental button and zipper” make them look slightly more elevated and presentable.

“No fuss and effortless” is what author Ivy Pochoda has to say about this Uniqlo linen shirt, which she calls one of the best things she bought herself this year. The shirts, Pachoda explains, are comfortable yet polished, “forgiving of wine and coffee stains, and actually look better wrinkled.” As we reach the end of summer, the white shirt is low in stock, but there is a veritable rainbow of other options available (including yellow, peach, and blue).

Photo-Illustration: retailer

New York deputy editor Alexis Swerdloff is a fan of this office-appropriate blouse, which she calls “Equipment-esque” (but which costs a fraction of what that brand’s tops do).

When we spoke to stylish women about their preferred spots to pick up a cashmere jumper, five of our experts mentioned Uniqlo for the brand’s comfort-over-everything approach to cashmere ― including The Water Cure novelist Sophie Mackintosh and Antony Gormley Studio coordinator Elena Davidson. Davidson says, “I still regularly wear a dusty-pink round-neck jumper I bought six years ago that I pair with my Acne scarf for lockdown walks, or with jeans to work ― it’s supersoft and long-lasting.”

This recommendation comes from the Cut’s Emilia Petrarca, who wrote about how, at a fancy event, an editor mistook the turtleneck for something from Loro Piana — “as in, the £1,000-something-pound Italian cashmere brand.”

Pregnant women, Alaskan cruisers, and actress Ana Gasteyer all swear by this jacket for keeping you warm (enough) and dry. As Gasteyer puts it, the jacket is “just a nice layer that won’t stress you out with being too bulky or precious.” Snap up your choice while it’s on sale (though you might have to click around to find the size and colour combination you want).

Former Strategist senior editor Casey Lewis picked up this even-more-packable twist on Uniqlo’s beloved ultralight down jacket, which can be folded up into a tiny, portable pouch. While she bought it to replace the lining in an old faux-fur jacket (“it turned out surprisingly great — and warm, too”), we think it’s also cool-looking enough to wear on its own.

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.

The Strategist Guide to Shopping at Uniqlo