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The Strategist Guide to Shopping at Uniqlo

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers

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

Anyone who has shopped at a big-box store knows it can be hard to figure out where to begin. There are dozens upon dozens of options that seem as worthy as the next, but the reality is 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 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 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. 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.

[Editor’s note: This product is currently low in stock.]

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”.

When Strategist UK writer Chris Mandle last popped into Uniqlo, he couldn’t resist popping this tumeric-coloured mock-neck T-shirt into his basket. After layering it “under everything” including “chunky cord shirts to grandad cardigans”, Mandle says he wouldn’t be surprised if a few more colours end up in his basket in the near future.

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 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 owns, while writer Alex Frank says Uniqlo has perfected the “starched-white-shirt look”, and 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 Ultra Stretch Active Pants, which are 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.

Chris Black 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 looking 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 are lots available for an E-cup and up.

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 UK, 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 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”.

“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).

[Editor’s note: This product is currently low in stock.]

When we spoke to stylish women about their preferred spots to pick up a cashmere jumper, five 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 this 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 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