Uniqlo Rocks My World

There are not many off-the-rack clothes that fit a 5'4", 125lb guy with a 28" inseam. Get one dimension to fit (itself a challenge), and the rest of the piece is either too fat, or too long. Besides American Apparel and some designer imports my starving-student budget can't handle, most clothes need to be altered to fit anywhere close to well. I've entirely given up going into retail stores; there isn't a single American brand that makes a "Small" small enough. I've never been able to say "I need a blue button-down shirt and a sweater," go to a mall, and come home with one.

Since the Japanese are by-and-large smaller than us Americans, I was looking forward to a better selection of sizes here, and haven't been disappointed. After being turned off by sticker shock in Shinjuku, I found Harajuku, a neighborhood known for catering to all sorts of cosplay subcultures, but also for its vintage and boutique (and reasonably priced) clothing stores. Pretty good stuff, some awesome jackets, but also a little too out-there and inconsistent to be a regular clothing source.

And then I found Uniqlo. It's the kind of place that makes clothes I've always expected to find somewhere, and never have. To start with, I can pick any item in the store, and expect a size that fits me. This is a liberating feeling, one I've never had before in my life. It's not just that the clothes don't drape horribly; they fit. They're athletically cut, shirts and jackets end where they should, and stuff just looks good. On top of that, they are darned nice quality, and dirt-cheap. T-shirts? $5 each. Socks? $5/10. They're made well, too- the materials are soft, the stitching's sturdy, and then even toss in spare buttons for shirts. The experience is somewhat like going to the Gap (similar materials, though Uniqlo cuts their clothes way better) or American Apparel (maybe the closest analog), and then having everything ring up like it's from Wal-Mart.

The clincher, though, was buying a pair of jeans today. I take them to the register, and the guy asks me, "Is the length ok?" Huh? I was planning on dropping them off at a tailor on the way home. Hemming jeans has been a fact of life for so long I just factor it into the process. Turns out Uniqlo will hem their jeans for free, and let you pick them up 45 minutes later. I'm done with other retail; this is the first place where I can walk in knowing what I want, and walk out with exactly that.

Uniqlo has a million locations (and on online store) in Japan, but is pretty limited elsewhere. In America, you're out of luck save for ebay, and their one SoHo location. With any luck, though, they'll start expanding their US operations, and we'll all get to experience this wonderful store.