Ask any stylish San Franciscan where his handkerchief or windbreaker or mustache wax is produced and you're bound to get a small homily on local manufacturing, keeping your hard-earned buck in the city and the merits of independent business. The fashion set has enjoyed an embarrassment of riches when it comes to San Francisco labels selling San Francisco-made goods. Need a shirt or a pair of jeans that are made in the Mission? Any number of brands have you covered.
But when it comes to shoes, fashion locavores are on shakier footing. That's starting to change as a pair of footwear brands, and a recent line from a long-standing retailer, offer solid construction and contemporary aesthetics with a San Francisco feel.
Now what online-only brand could truly claim to be an of-the-moment Bay Area fashion success without a winning Kickstarter campaign? With about $90,000 raised in February, Hero Nakatani pushed Hydrogen-1, his line of hybrid dress sneakers, into production and sold his first pair in March.
A veteran of the hospitality industry who spent long hours on his feet, Nakatani yearned for the comfort of sneakers that he could wear with a suit. Traditionalists may scoff at the dress sneaker concept, but those who skip the wing tips even at their own wedding may find plenty to like in Hydrogen-1's luxurious leather uppers and rubber soles.
"Hydrogen is the simplest and most common element in the universe," said Nakatani. So, too, he argues, should be your stylish, understated shoes. "The company and product names come from the idea of Hydrogen-1 being the fundamental element of style."
Hydrogen-1 offers 14 styles of elegant sneakers, which range in price from $265 to $295. Though Nakatani designs them in San Francisco, the shoes are made in Marche, Italy, a region known for its shoe manufacturing. You can buy Hydrogen-1 shoes only from its website, but Nakatani will make exceptions for those who want to stop by his house to try on a pair.