(In Praise of) Uniqlo: Fashion Equalizer
Options are limited when shopping in Manila/Philippines. There’s the Department Store, which tend to be inundated with veritable wastes of fabrics, and high-price specialty shops. It also appears that local guys seem to be subjugated to the whims of local buyers and designers with suspect tastes and aesthetics, not to mention outdated notions of fit and sizing. When it comes to attaining decent-to-great menswear pieces, one either has to pay through the nose in said expensive men’s shops or resort to ordering (and even – yikes – traveling) abroad.
Gap was a good start to bring a simple, classic American-inflected wardrobe (khakis, polos) to local shores, but like specialty shops, they tended to be (and still are) a bit pricey. Another option was with the arrival of Muji, first as boutiques, then eventually their own shops, in and around the Metro area. Though the focus of the Japanese retailer emphasized household wares and furniture as much as clothing, their modest and quaint menswear section had some solid, exemplary items (the gingham button-down was a particular favorite). One reservation is that for some (though not all) items, prices still were a bit steep, so wardrobe building or frequent drop-bys would be out of the question.
When fellow Japanese retailer Uniqlo opened up approximately two years ago, it was a virtual fashion godsend. Guys now had the opportunity to stock up on necessary menswear staples – oxford-button-down shirts, slim chinos/khakis, dark (selvedge?) jeans, cardigans, stylish polos, etc. What was once the realm of the wealthy (and it’s strange to think of simple, basic wear as exclusive to the rich), was now – to paraphrase Uniqlo’s slogan – “available to all” at an affordable price.
Not all of Uniqlo’s clothing are hits (3/4 roll-up cargo pants?), but for anyone wanting to improve their style game, it’s a great start to build one’s fashion foundation.
One setback is because of their simple, basic style, guys will risk the dreaded “twinsies” effect and look like clone drones (I spotted the super-cool navy blue/yellow chest stripe polo on several dudes), but perhaps this will pose a challenge to fashion nerds to up their style game and look at other stores/options to diversify. And with other popular, inexpensive retail brands (H&M!) coming soon, it’ll provide even more options for guys to individualize their looks.