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Growing up in South Florida, my typical winter wardrobe consisted of lightweight tops and jackets paired with jeans and an overworn pair of Ugg boots or sneakers rather than my go-to pair of flip-flops. But, working in media and aiming to work in New York, I knew I'd eventually need to trade in my year-round sunshine for harsh winters. And once the opportunity arrived for me to relocate to the city in 2018, it quickly dawned on me that my minimal collection of sweaters and rarely worn goosedown jacket were likely not going to keep me warm while commuting to the office. It took a while to find a solution, but Uniqlo’s HeatTech collection became my winter wardrobe staple. And after two years of wear, I find my HeatTech pieces are well worth the affordable price. I enjoy the line so much that I purchased multiple HeatTech pieces for family members who live in cooler regions.
After getting overwhelmed with the amount of winter-appropriate brands online, I called a friend who is a native New Yorker to figure out how someone like me, who has only seen snow flurries a handful of times, was going to survive my first real winter. They mentioned Uniqlo, which I remember intriguing me during my first and teenaged trip to Manhattan: A robot greeted customers at the front door, a first for me. After my friend lauded the Uniqlo HeatTech collection and vouched for their efficacy during the winter, I immediately knew I needed to order some of their garments.
So, what exactly is HeatTech? It's Uniqlo's version of thermal clothing that's been around since 2003. The brand claims they went through 10,000 prototypes before finalizing the moisture-absorbing fabric, which boasts the ability to keep you warm and not let heat escape.
After perusing through the site, I quickly caught on that the brand is all about solid colors. And while their sweaters and puffer coats are made in fun pops of color, at the time HeatTech pieces were only available in neutral colors like Black, White and Dark Grey (right now, you can find a Red HeatTech turtleneck that looks more like pink). And as someone who loves vibrant hues and bold patterns, I was a bit disappointed there weren't more colorful HeatTech pieces. However, I remembered that black is also the unofficial color of choice for New Yorkers and figured it would be better to blend in with the crowd while out of my comfort zone, at least for the time being.
I ordered a total of four long-sleeve crew neck tops made from the Extra Warm HeatTech — two black and two white — which the brand says is one-and-a-half times warmer than the original HeatTech material. (The extra warm HeatTech leggings, which I also own, likewise claim to offer two-and-a-half times more warmth than their original HeatTech leggings.) Uniqlo says HeatTech is also antimicrobial. When I first bought them, this wasn't a selling point for me, but in the era of Covid-19, I could see it appealing to some shoppers.
Uniqlo's pieces also helped me slowly accept minimalism. At the time, I worked for a luxury women's magazine so I felt additional pressure to dress up for work, even if I was sitting at my desk writing stories or prepping others for photoshoots. With fashion girl basics like Wolford bodysuits and pricey Saks Potts coats out of my budget, I relied on accessories like chain-link necklaces from Rellery and large Gorjana hoop earrings to help elevate my outfits for work. I typically wore these tops under my other sweaters, both from Uniqlo and other brands, but occasionally wore them as my only top if I wore an extra warm coat.
My favorite piece of Uniqlo clothing is my five Black HeatTech leggings, which I wear under dresses, skirts and pants. Although they are opaque, I like to layer two pairs together on particularly freezing days. Thankfully, they don't look too thick and noticeable under my garments or by themselves. I soon came to rely on these leggings for a variety of activities like commuting to the office, attending press events, dining indoors at restaurants, flying (under my sweats), lounging around my apartment and, as of late, working from home.
Uniqlo claims their HeatTech pieces retain their shape. In my experience, it's true. I haven't dealt with leggings stretching out or misshapen sleeves. Taking care of your HeatTech pieces is relatively easy, too. Unlike some of my other winter tops, I don’t need to have my HeatTech items dry cleaned or splurge on $21 laundry detergent. Uniqlo recommends you turn on the gentle cycle and select cold water to wash your HeatTech pieces. I also get away with using my usual Tide and Seventh Generation products.