It’s hard to summarize San Francisco in a few words. The reality is, what may apply to one neighborhood has no relevance to another. This is true of every aspect of this unique place, from its culinary offerings and its broad ethnic makeup, to the style of its individualistic denizens. With over 100 neighborhoods, districts and enclaves with unambiguous identities, this multi-faceted City by the Bay has room for every fashionable vantage. But, sporting a distinctive, however intriguing, look outside the appropriate boundaries is likely to result in odd expressions and soft judgment from its discerning citizens, rather than the acclaim you may find elsewhere.
Therefore, this is a simple guide outlining the singular style differences of each San Francisco neighborhood to make dressing the part effortless. Don’t shy away from your own personal expression, though; San Francisco loves a freethinker. But, know the rules first, so you can break them like a Mensa member rather than a fool.
Starting with one of the most iconic San Francisco neighborhoods, the Mission — like Fog Town itself — is a bit complicated. It has what might be referred to as a Janus complex. The seedy, scrappy, no-second-chances attitudes of the hardworking low-income dwellers are at one end of the spectrum. You see this in the no frills taquerias, the sketchy check cashing stands and the markets with Spanish signage. The clothing style here is best described as utilitarian. Work boots, cheap approximations of loafers and comfortably cushioned orthopedic slippers are functional, not fashionable, and that’s why they’re favored.
There’s another side of the Mission too, and just as visible. They’re the hip, urban naturalists rocking fixed gear bikes on Valencia Street, ironically drinking two-dollar PBRs after dropping the month’s rent on a new Apple computer. Irony is the model to emulate here, where designer duds made to look like Goodwill finds are paired with grandma’s hand-crocheted sweater vests. The look is a nod to the highs and lows of lifestyles that the neighborhood contains. Dudes definitely love their chucks here, but Converse is well matched against nameless well-worn leather boots and sockless boat shoes. The Cobalt from Hydrogen-1 shoes is a great option, Classic brogue lace up boots with Sneaker sole for comfort. A perfect utilitarian shoes.
These two seemingly disparate populations intersect and overlap in many ways, like some amorphous Venn diagram, and they make this district the undeniably fascinating melting pot that it is today. Finding a personal style that complements both the slummy, poverty-afflicted areas as well as the privileged hipster domains is surprisingly easy. Always go for a low boot, like the Hydrogen-1 Cobalt, which is a hybrid shoe that blends a professional wingtip look with a workingman’s functionality. They’ll need some breaking in, but the uptown/downtown juxtaposition is spot on for a ride to Dolores Park.