Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Review: Uniqlo Heattech
My more well-funded friends in Chengdu have been raving about the opening of several Uniqlo shops since their opening months ago, so this past weekend during a secondhand shopping spree I decided to stop in the newest one, a behemoth and the Japanese retail giant's second Chunxi Lu shopping street location.
Mostly I was interested in the chain's HeatTech line. Since these days I Windows shop more than window shop and far more than actually shop, I did my research online first and was charmed by the retailer's own Heattech advertisements, in which models walk down wintry city streets in just their Heattech tops and a thin coat while passersby are spotted bundled up, and captions flash on the screen with the city name and sub-zero or near-freezing temperature. And the few reviews I was able to dig up spoke of the Heattech shirts favorably. There's supposed to be some milk proteins that trap warm air or something in them.
We found the Heattech rack of women's items--camisoles/singlets, scoop-neck T shirts, scoop-neck long-sleeved shirts, turtlenecks, and leggings in a range of colors--near the back of the store. The merchandise is packaged in space-age-looking silvery sealed plastic bags with clear size markings, descriptions in English and Chinese, and a window so that shoppers can see the color of the item easily. A sample of each garment in each size hangs on a rack nearby, and leading me to believe I should opt for a large turtleneck rather than the XL I initially grabbed.
I chose grey; it's a very light, almost silver, shade of grey. I would have gone for the black and white striped affair but it was only available in XL. It was on sale for RMB59--more than I would normally pay for a shirt but I was expecting some Japanese magic from this baby to combat my fifth Chengdu winter (let me tell you, they don't get any less painful with time).
Performance: Not as magical as I was hoping for. I've been wearing it under another shirt plus a sweater or vest and coat the past two days and while it might keep me a bit warmer than the average cotton shirt, I certainly wouldn't wear it with only one thin layer on top. The large is form-fitting on me so I wouldn't have minded the XL for a slightly looser fit; also, the sleeves are shorter than I'd like (a common problem for Westerners buying clothing in China). Given the numbers on the packaging (XL is made for a height of 165cm, and I'm 173cm), I guess I'm not too surprised.
On the plus side, I think it does look pretty slick and sophisticated to wear peeking out from other layers, and it's soft, smooth, and comfortable on the skin. While I was back in the States I picked up some long-sleeve cotton tissue shirts that were $9.99 each at Nordstrom Rack. Those shirts are my winter staples. The Heattech shirts have the added benefit of being turtleneck style and just slightly cheaper; if I have some money to spend I would consider picking up a black one and possibly the leggings--although the sizing issue is even iffier there.
While at Uniqlo I also bought the furry fleece coat, on sale for RMB199 (I see it's now marked down to 149!)--and I'm very glad I did. It's not the most flattering piece of clothing I own (it looks far better unzipped than zipped, when it looks kind of body-bag blobby), but it's so soft, comfortable, and warm that I think I'll be living in it for the rest of winter. I can wear it with just an ordinary long-sleeved shirt underneath and be warm enough; I can't say that about any other outerwear item I own. I bought the XL in grey; again, the sizing is a bit funny. It's a bit narrow in the shoulders, a bit wide in the waist, and the sleeves are as usual a bit shorter than I'd like. But with long gloves it's no problem.
Update P.S. Whatever you do, don't wear fleece to a bar. Some jackass will undoubtedly drop ashes on you and/or your coat, and your coat will sport a nice melt hole or three. Dammit.