Chain stores in New York: The best places for unisex basics

Stock up on affordable wardrobe staples—jeans, jackets, tees, belts, sunglasses, socks and underwear—at these chain stores in NYC.

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  • American Apparel,  one of the best chain stores for basics in NYC

  • Uniqlo, one of the best chain stores for basics in NYC

  • H&M, one of the best chain stores for basics in NYC

  • Badichi belts, one of the best chain stores for basics in NYC

  • Photograph: Anna Simonak

    Gap, one of the best chain stores for basics in NYC

  • Levis, one of the best chain stores for basics in NYC

  • Joe Fresh, one of the best chain stores for basics in NYC

  • J. crew, one of the best chain stores for basics in NYC

  • The Sock Man, one of the best chain stores for basics in NYC

American Apparel,  one of the best chain stores for basics in NYC


While we strive to shop for goods from local designers, when it comes to the perfect white tee or the best-fitting jeans from an affordable denim store, sometimes a mass-market chain store is the best option due to the low price point and quantity of stock. Trendy stores such as H&M sell a massive amount of accessories, and their cheap and fresh-off-the-runway sunglasses for both sexes stand out year-round. We’ve rounded up the best stores for basics, including popular favorites such as American Apparel and the Gap, and newcomers like Joe Fresh (a great coat shop) and Badichi.

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T-shirts from American Apparel

Known for its hipster-friendly threads and formfitting neon basics, this California brand’s best offering is its massive selection of tees for men ($16–$38) and women ($15–$38). The chain offers a total of 150 styles, including slouchy sexier choices for ladies, unisex crew-neck styles and everyday V-neck varieties. Choose from more than 100 colors and patterns, and stock up on these inexpensive wardrobe staples so you can breeze through casual Fridays in style. Locations vary; visit americanapparel.com for more information.

Lightweight sweaters from Uniqlo

When it comes to sweaters, this popular Japanese chain, with locations in Soho, midtown and Herald Square, has you covered—literally. Men and women can choose from more than 20 styles ($20–$150), including turtlenecks, classic V-necks and cardigans available in 51 colors. Grab these sweaters in Uniqlo’s classic cotton blend, or treat yourself to one of its more luxurious, yet still affordable, cashmere varieties ($90–$150). 666 Fifth Ave at 53rd St • 546 Broadway between Prince and Spring Sts • 31 W 34th St between Fifth and Sixth Aves (877-486-4756) • uniqlo.com

Sunglasses from H&M

We love this international megachain for its massive collection of on-trend pieces at crazy-cheap prices. Year-round, savvy shoppers can head into one of more than ten NYC outposts to scoop up fashionable sunglasses ($6–$25) for both sexes. Styles change a few times a month, but expect to find both trendy and timeless offerings: Oversize tortoiseshell shades and unisex aviators are sold beside neon Ray-Ban-inspired and leopard-print-framed varieties. Locations vary; visit hm.com for more information.

Belts from Badichi

Specializing in suede and leather belts of all shapes and sizes, this NYC chain should be on every shopper’s radar. Browse the unisex house-brand selection($100–$250) or design your own ($20–$800), choosing from various straps and more than 300 colors, textures and patterns. You can even pick your own closure; styles range from traditional to out-there (such as an oversize silver scorpion adornment). If you’re having trouble deciding, spend an extra $10 and have a snap installed, which allows you to remove and change the buckle as many times as you wish. Locations vary; visit badichibelts.com for more information.

Underwear from the Gap

You can fill your whole drawer with everyday underthings in six different comfortable cuts for women alone. There are styles to fit any situation: playful and flirty boyshorts ($13–$20) for sleeping, slimming styles ($20) for unforgiving frocks, coquettish lace thongs ($10–$13) and quintessential cotton panties ($8–$15). The Gap often has deals on undies bought in bulk, so spend that extra cash on a matching bra ($30–$50). Men can choose from a smaller selection, including cotton briefs ($15), colorful printed boxers ($13) and boxer-briefs ($13–$25). Locations vary; visit gap.com for more information.

A perfect pair of jeans from Levi’s

Since its founding in 1873, Levi’s has been the brand to rely on for timeless, quality denim. Though it began with only one style— the now-iconic 501s—the company has expanded over the years to offer expansive men’s ($48–$128) and women’s ($46–$118) collections. Sift through more than 18 styles and 60 washes (nondenim shades included) to find a simple, broken-in pair or an updated, trendier style. Locations vary; visit levis.com for more information.

Joe Fresh

A seasonal jacket from Joe Fresh

Known for its well-made, classic pieces at affordable prices, this popular Canadian brand is a great resource for simple seasonal jackets ($59–$249). Women can nab colorful trench coats ($29), hooded ponchos ($29) and lightweight patterned blazers ($59). Men will find tailored blazers ($129), casual baseball jackets ($49) and sleek parkas ($59). Locations vary; visit joefresh.com for more information.

A crisp white button-down shirt from J.Crew

Both guys and gals can benefit from the addition of a simple white button-down shirt in their closets. Head to J.Crew to snag one of these universal staples, perfect on its own or for layering with sweaters and tees. Women will find stretchy three-quarter-sleeve varieties ($64), sleek white tuxedo shirts ($158) and cotton long-sleeved oxfords ($72). Men’s offerings include soft cotton styles ($65) for everyday wear, breezy linen alternatives ($80) and a host of tailored options ($88–$168) for more formal occasions. Locations vary; visit jcrew.com for more information.

Comfy socks from the Sock Man

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

It may not be a chain, but the funky shop has been New Yorkers’ go-to for cheap and whimsical socks ($2–$21), tights ($5–$34) and leggings ($10–$26) since 1983. Search through its massive inventory of unique foot coverings, including patterned kneesocks ($2–$15), no-show varieties ($2–$15), warm wool styles ($6–$20) and even so-called health socks ($4–$13), for diabetics.

  1. 27 St. Marks Pl, (between Second and Third Aves)
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