The New ‘Custom’ Dress Shirts From Uniqlo: A Detailed Review
Uniqlo is, and has been, a staple store for many guys when it comes to button down shirts. Specifically, basic whites or blues, and a business casual look/styling overall. For a while now, Uniqlo has offered a slim fit in their button downs that many have absolutely loved. While they slightly altered their fit a few months ago — angering many who thought the original was just perfect — this is not the only problem with their shirts. Another issue has always been that they only offer their shirts in XS, S, M, L, etc. sizing — not specific neck/sleeve length measurements. This made it impossible for certain kinds of people to wear their shirts. It would leave them with shirts that either had too much or too little room in the body, or sleeves that were either much too long or much too short. (Personally, I have always needed an XS in their Slim Fit shirts in terms of the fit in the waist, but the sleeves and tail of the shirt would then be comically short on me. A size S would be too baggy all around, though, so I simply have never been able to wear their shirts.)
Well, Uniqlo fans rejoice, because Uniqlo recently released a sort of custom shirt ordering page, where you can select the color, style, fit, and, most importantly, sizing-by-measurement of your shirt — all for $29.90! Of course, we put an order in for one or two shirts to review, and here is what we found.
The Ordering Process
Uniqlo claims that, with their custom shirt ordering process, there are over 800 possible combinations, thus allowing you to add a shirt to your wardrobe that is really customized to your style and, more importantly, fit. So, how does it work?
Well, you start by selecting either a Regular Fit or Slim Fit. The latter fits slimmer throughout the body and arms, and is made from a stretch fabric, as opposed to just a normal one. Why the difference in fabric between the two fits? Couldn’t tell you. But since I am a slim guy, and also love a good stretch shirt, I was all too happy that this was how Uniqlo chose to do it.
Next up, you decide between a point collar, which would also give you a broadcloth fabric for the shirt, or a button-down collar, which would give you a pinpoint, textured oxford cloth fabric (the slim/stretch variety will be reviewed in more depth below).
Then, you pick your color. It can be any color you’d like, as long as that color is white or blue.
Finally, and this is what it’s really all about, you get to pick your sizing. And you can make any sort of weird or exact combination that you’d like. The way this works, though, is a tiny bit strange to understand. I’ll do my best to clarify. The fit selector is broken up into three selections: Body Size, Neck Size, and Sleeve Length. You must select a Body Size before you can select the measurements. This is a little odd, and I’m not sure why they have this choice. Depending on what Body Size you choose limits what measurement options are available to you (it’s easy to just switch your size until you get what you’re looking for, but, again, why have this step? It’s confusing). I wear a 15.00” neck in most all my shirts that I have in a neck size (it’s even what I order when I buy custom shirts… maybe a 15.25”), and a Small in shirts that only come in S/M/L sizing. So, I selected “S” from the Body Size dropdown menu here, but that limited me to neck sizes 15.50” and up. So, I switched my Body Size to XS which gave me the 15.00” neck size I was looking for. (In short, just ignore the Body Size option, and keep picking until you find the one that will give you the neck size you want.) Sleeve lengths only come in half sizes — another weird choice — and since I usually go with either a 33” or a 34”, I here chose the 33.50” hoping that it would work for me.
In all, I ordered a Slim Fit, button-down collar, blue shirt (so, the stretch oxford cloth fabric) in a 15.00” neck and 33.50” sleeve length. (I am 6'1 and 165 lbs., and for comparison’s sake, I order a 15/34 from CTshirts.)
Delivery & Packaging
For a shirt ordered to specifications like this, it shipped just as quickly as anything else from Uniqlo that I have ordered. I had it in about a week’s time, and it arrived in a typical Uniqlo shipping bag.
Quality & Construction
In short, the quality is exactly what you would expect from Uniqlo: solid. It’s not going to blow you away, but it is solid, solid quality. Stitching is all nice and neat. Buttons are sturdy and well-fastened. The collar is substantial, and even has somewhat of a roll to it. It’s a great shirt; on par with any other shirts you would get at Uniqlo, or even somewhere like J. Crew or Banana Republic.
Fabric: It moves and drapes nicely. It has a very nice texture to it — like a pique, even. I suppose this makes it a touch more casual than a typical oxford cloth button down, but it’s not something that is noticeable unless you are super close-up, or wearing it — both scenarios in which the extra texture is actually quite nice. Overall, it actually really wears like a dressier shirt, certainly business casual appropriate. This is due, in part, to the dressier features of the shirt, like the lack of a breast pocket, and the not-skimpy button-down collar. Plus, the fabric is also on the thinner, smoother side, which furthers the notion that this is a somewhat dressier fabric than a standard oxford cloth button down. Uniqlo, I would imagine, expects these shirts to be worn to work, not on a Sunday — and that’s the way I see it as well.
Now, what about the stretch? Well, it’s… okay. Nothing like the Banana Republic performance shirt (which, admittedly, is certainly a more casual shirt). It has a hint of stretch, but the fabric overall has a scratchy quality to it. It is far from silky-smooth. It’s not uncomfortable, per se, and will likely get better with a few washes (though I would not at all be shocked if it shrank a bit too), but the first wear is far from the most comfortable shirt you’ve ever worn. It has stretch, yes, so it’s comfortable in that regard, but it’s not a super soft-feeling fabric.
So, for a shirt whose main feature is the way you pick the fit, how does it fit? Well, actually, not so great. The 15.00” collar fits more like a 14.50” collar, and the 33.50” sleeves are the shortest 33.50” sleeves I have ever seen. And when Uniqlo says this thing is a slim fit, they mean it. This shirt fits incredibly slim. It pulls across my chest and waist, looks stupidly tight when I turn to the side, and cuts into my armpits. The collar will hardly button around my neck, and the sleeves are about a full inch too short. (And again, this is the sort of fabric that screams “I will shrink in the wash,” so this fit would likely only get worse for me.)
I always order a 15.00” neck and 33” or 34” sleeves in my shirts from other shirt makers, and they fit perfectly (when they are slim enough), so I don’t understand why this Uniqlo shirt is so off. It’s not just a subjective question of fit here — this shirt fits smaller all-around than any other 15/33.5 shirt I have ever encountered. It’s not just that it’s too slim, or something. It’s wrong. (UPDATE: I measured the actual neck and sleeves on the shirt, and the neck is only 14.50" and the sleeves are 32.25" long. Again, it's just wrong from what it said online.)
So, what happened here? Well, I really don’t know. But I think it all comes down to the Body Size selector. It seems like Uniqlo is here just offering their standard sizes in shirts and tacking on longer sleeves or a slightly larger/smaller collar than normally offered, as per your order. That’s how they were able to offer this, and how it ships so quickly. So, what I essentially got was an XS shirt with slightly longer sleeves. That’s why it fits so tightly, and why the measurements are otherwise off. This is all just a theory, but I think I am right.
What this means is that I likely should have ordered a 15.50” neck, after selecting S for my Body Size, and the 34.50” sleeve. Still, this is odd to me. It would be significantly larger measurements than I have ever selected for a shirt in my life. The Body Size of S would now be right (as that’s what I usually order from other companies), but all the actual measurements are now bigger than I would ever normally choose. So, even if it would end up fitting correctly with these new selections, it’s a confusing process, and might require many people an attempt or two before getting the proper fit. It seems the overall fit of the shirt follows the Body Size selection more than the actual neck/sleeve measurements, so consider that when ordering. Take a look at the fit chart below to see exactly what I mean. It’s a little bonkers.
Uniqlo should get rid of this Body Size weirdness, but given my theory as to why they are doing it, I don’t think that will happen anytime soon.
|Measurements||Uniqlo “Custom” Shirt in 15/33.5||Charles Tyrwhitt Extra Slim Fit in 15/34|
*The reason the length measurement is so long is because the tail extends about .75” past the front of the shirt, and that is what was used for the measurement.
Value For The Price & Conclusion
When Uniqlo first announced/released these shirts, many people flipped out in excitement. Others, though, wondered what the big deal was. Isn’t this just Uniqlo offering neck/sleeve sizes, like almost all other shirt makers have forever? Why is this special? And how is this actually any more “custom”?
Well, the truth is that it’s not that big of a deal. Ultimately, it is just neck/sleeve sizes. But. For many people who have long loved the value proposition of Uniqlo shirts, but were never able to get them in a size that fits them, this new ability to order in a precise size that will actually fit now opens up a whole new world of shirting.
Plus, and this I think is the actual main point, these shirts are available in far more combinations than other shirt makers offer. You can, for instance, get a 14.50” neck with a 35.50” sleeve, easily, for $29.90. Find me another place where you can do that. So, Uniqlo’s customization options are absolutely more likely to fit far more people (especially the odd, unusual size combinations) than other shirt makers' offerings.
So, in short, wether you’ve been a long-time purchaser of Uniqlo shirts, or are just a fan from a distance, never quite able to find a shirt from them that fits you, this is a great value for $29.90 if you're in the market for a new shirt or two of this style. The quality is worth at least that price, and the customization options will almost certainly allow you to find a shirt that fits — once you’ve worked out their weird sizing options for yourself.