S.F. Street Fashion: Are Men Here Bad Dressers?
Nearly a year after GQ dubiously honored San Francisco on its worst-dressed cities list, the Chronicle has declared that we can finally stop hanging our heads in sartorial shame. Thank goodness. That is, we ladies can, but Chron columnist Caille Millner says that the guys of San Francisco aren't off the hook yet.
She writes, "Men in San Francisco still ... wear the same tragic sports gear or hipster flannel, still dress as if the only activities they ever do are weekend warrioring or ordering in pizza for their startups." As someone who strolls around the city every week fashion-spotting, I feel qualified to testify that yes, there are a lot of flannel-wearing boys roaming S.F. But sports gear? Someone please snap a pic the next time you see one of our local gents out for a jog (preferably of his Beckham-esque calves, please). Maybe I'm hanging out in the wrong 'hoods, but the only sports gear I ever see guys wearing are those spandex bike suits.
But I'm not here to snark at San Francisco men. I actually include men on the street fashion blog pretty regularly, and I get pissy comments if I neglect the guys for too many weeks in a row. I am here to say that I'm absolutely sick of reading fashion criticism of men that doesn't offer them any alternatives. Sure, there are a bunch of techies living here who incubate themselves in nerd culture. But they're not uniformly awful dressers, and those that are might just need a few gentle suggestions, rather than a yearly slandering in the press.
The truth is, there aren't a lot of options out there when it comes to affordable men's fashion. Guys can get suited up Mad Men style, rock prepster polos and cuffed khakis, or go the hipster route with a flannel shirt and a compass tattoo, but beyond that, there's little for them to easily grab off the rack. Millner describes some of the appropriate apparel she sees on ladies -- "dresses, blazers, heels, trench coats ... flattering sunglasses, bright belts, clutch handbags" -- but doesn't give men any pointers on how to escape her snark.
I'll be honest; I don't spend a ton of my time shopping for men's clothes. So I asked my best friend, a fellow who's known for his great style, what style pointers he's always on the prowl for. Here's what he said:
"Oh you know, fashion, drug cartels, music, good manly books, fine alcohol, adventure, traveling, damn fine cuisine, fine ladies, and where the party's at. And accessories, love them. Watches, hats, scarves, glasses. Tips, seasonal looks, color schemes, like shit most guys don't usually think about while dressing their asses in the morning. Designers less so, just as long as I got the look, I don't care about the label."
Here's what I learned from his answer: a) I have a really great bestie, and b) guys are generally not interested in hearing about fashion unless it comes baked into the center of a stylish, exciting lifestyle cake. Let the columnists sit on the sidelines and rail against shorts or flip flops; this guy would like a scotch and a watch.
He's right. Accessories make or break an outfit, especially for guys. They're the first thing I notice about men I see on the street. Is he wearing cool shoes, a pocket square, a classy watch, weird gloves maybe? I see you, sir, and salute you. I'd encourage a male fashion rookie to splurge on his accessories -- go for classic pieces in colors that you wear often, so you have something nice you can wear with everything. You can pick up a new pair of pants or shirt on the cheap anytime, but the first watch you buy might also be the only watch you buy. Macy's has a huge men's store, or try Jeremys for a steal you may need to hunt for.
My second suggestion (for Millner as well as S.F. guys) is, when in doubt, look to the gays. As SFist blithely pointed out, the city is chock full of "bushels of homosexuals," who are not totally clueless when it comes to fashion. Maybe guys flinch at the prospect of taking gay fashion tips (Do you? And if so, why are you living in San Francisco?) because they want their fashion choices to appeal to girls, not boys. Let me reassure you -- there's no piece of clothing that is secretly screaming, "Gay, gay, gay!" without you knowing it (except maybe that colored hanky dangling from your back pocket). Don't fear fashion; girls actually dig it when you look nice.
I'm going to take it one step further and kindly recommend that sartorially-challenged guys take a tip or two from the city's lesbians. In addition to the gays, there's also a ton of incredibly well-dressed butch ladies hanging out in S.F. these days. These girls have their accessory game down, looking flawlessly masculine and sexy as hell. If you're going to take fashion advice from a girl, skip Millner and ask a lesbian instead.