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The Strategist Guide to Shopping at Uniqlo

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers

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 other things. Uniqlo, we’ve found, is one of those brands — its massive inventory needs to be carefully picked through to find gems like 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 colors and sizes before taking the website’s word.

For everyone

$15 for 3

“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.

This Uniqlo jacket has been a longtime Strategist favorite for being packable, super-lightweight, surprisingly warm, and highly affordable at just slightly over $50. Strategist writer Lauren Ro pairs hers with her Barbour and says “the combination has always kept me toasty.” Associate editor Louis Cheslaw also appreciates that it’s thin enough to “slip (relatively) unnoticed under a wool or canvas coat, adding a layer of warmth anytime you’re worried that your stylish jacket alone won’t be enough.” After eight years of wear, it has pretty much run its course, he says — “the down has just about fully flattened by now” — but eight years is “a hell of a run,” he adds.

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.” While there are various colors and sizes available, stock appears to be disappearing, so act fast if you like them.

Photo: retailer

“You’ll forget you even have them on” is how Nicolás Lazaro, a community specialist at menswear resale platform Grailed, describes these Airism boxer briefs that he switched to after wearing the above Supima Cotton briefs. According to him, they’re “ultra-lightweight, breathable, and moisture-wicking, with enough stretch for comfort while still providing the necessary support.”

When we asked a bunch of cool guys about the best men’s socks, Phillip Wong, the co-founder and creative director of Hawthorne, told us he always heads to Uniqlo to stock up on this affordable, stylish pair. “They’re medium height and thickness, so they’re versatile for many different outfits and activities,” explains Wong, who adds that the socks “come in a wide range of amazing colors, so depending on your outfit, you can have a nice tonal moment.”

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

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.

For our list of the best yoga clothes for men, Yuuki Hirano, the studio director and co-founder of Dou Yoga in Brooklyn, recommended this machine washable T-shirt because the material is thin, breathable, comfortable. It also “dries really quickly,” he says.

Whether in black or white, cool guys we talked to swear by Uniqlo’s Supima cotton crew tee as a wardrobe staple. Matt Schonfeld, a creative marketing manager at Rowing Blazers, bought two of the “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.

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.”

Chris Black pointed a reader to Uniqlo’s Kando suit when that reader asked for help finding a sharp interview outfit that costs less than $200. Chris said the pants are “quite breathable and functional and look nice too” and that the blazer “will dress the outfit up.” While the Kando suit is no longer available, this ultralight blazer-and-pants set is similar to its style and breathable material.

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.

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 has held 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 colors, 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 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.

When a reader wrote in asking about ways they could zhuzh up their boyfriend’s wardrobe, Donnell Baldwin, a former style director for Mr Porter, directed them to this affordable pair of Uniqlo jeans. According to him, “Uniqlo typically has pants with a little bit of stretch to them, which is perfect if you’ve got thighs or a butt.”

UX designer Nehemiah Blackburn told us he has worn the same pair of these slim-fit chinos for three years and they’re “still in great shape.” Nicolas Lazaro, a community specialist at the menswear platform Grailed, is also a fan, noting that “with a little tailoring or a folded cuff, they can look as good (if not better than) most luxury options.”

When it comes to the best outerwear for cuddly guys, Baldwin recommended a bomber jacket from Uniqlo, which runs up to a XXXL, that’s breathable enough to wear on a chilly summer night (or day) and “can be paired with many looks.” While Uniqlo no longer sells that particular jacket, we found this blouson-style alternative that’s also lightweight and comes in a wide range of sizes.

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 wind-proof, and its interior features a moisture-wicking lining — all of which work to keep you dry inside and out.

For women

Strategist writer Lauren Ro recommends Uniqlo’s Airism Relax Wireless Bra, which she’s been “wearing a lot while working from home.” This bra features a 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.”

Fashion stylist Valerie Halfon told us about these seamless hip-huggers in our roundup of the best expert-recommended clothes to hide sweat. According to her, they “use the type of [moisture-wicking] technology found in activewear,” meaning they’re ideal to wear to that next hot-yoga class (or any other sweat-inducing activity).

Another sweat-hiding piece recommended by Halfon, this top with a built-in bra also wicks moisture to help prevent under-boob dampness.

Of Uniqlo’s many offerings, its Heattech line is something we’ve heard about over and over again, from both women and men. These leggings are the favorite of celebrity stylist Krisana Sotelo, who recommended them to us when we asked her about the best long underwear and base layers for women. “I love the Uniqlo Heattech for layering because they have different warmth varieties and breathable and comfortable fabric,” Sotelo told us. “It is also very easy on the wallet.”

A warmer version of the classic Heattech legging, these high-rise, lined leggings helped Iva Pawling, the co-founder and CEO of underwear brand Richer Poorer, brave New York City winters. “These are superthin, so they were easy to wear under jeans and saved my built-for-70-degrees self,” she explains.

These super-stretchy pants are L’Appart line cook Stacy Seebode’s favorite pair of black work pants: “I swear by Uniqlo ‘jeggings’ in black, which last forever,” she told us. “Everyone thinks I am wearing jeans, but alas, no, they’re stretchy pants for extra comfort — and more eating.”

Meg Vázquez, creative director at Splice, pointed us toward this crew-neck, which solves a common problem associated with white shirts for women. “My forever issue with white tees is whether someone is able to see my bra through the shirt,” she said. Unlike paper-thin shirts, she told us that these are “just thick enough that no one can see your bra, without being so thick that you feel like you’re wearing a weighted blanket.” Vázquez also appreciates their versatile fit: “They ride the line between a form-hugging women’s cut and a traditional tee cut, which basically means they’re great worn either tucked in or out.”

“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.”

Photo-Illustration: retailer

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

This fleece turtleneck was a standout among black turtlenecks, with digital creator Carrie Carrollo going so far as to call it the “gold standard” of turtlenecks. It’s an essential winter wardrobe piece because it’s “really buttery soft without the obvious texture and weight of fleece,” so it’s easily worn on its own or layered, according to Dominique Porter, founder of sleepwear line the Glad Hours.

Another turtleneck touted by stylish women is this one made with extra-fine merino. Leigh Plessner, creative director at Catbird, wears hers layered under antique slip dresses and nightgowns, noting that the sleeves are the right length “to show just a bit of wrist and bracelet.” And even through countless wears, hers has held up.

Former Strategist senior editor Casey Lewis recently 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.

If you’re looking for something a little more substantial, stylist Rasheena Liberté recommends this longer hooded puffer that’s also packable. “My absolute favorite feature of this coat is the removable hood; it allows the customer to go for a chic hoodless puffer on lighter weather days, with the option to pocket the lightweight hood until needed,”
she says. Strategist writer Jenna Milliner-Waddell is also a fan, noting it was substantial enough while waiting outside in long COVID-testing lines and for bundling up while outdoor dining.

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The Strategist Guide to Shopping at Uniqlo