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Dapper, meet casual

By Franklin Melendez, Photographed by DH Kong, Styled by Elizabeth Varnell and Franklin Me | August 26, 2009 | Style & Beauty Story Style Fashion

Even if the economy is starting to recover, no fashion-conscious male in his right mind wants to look like he had any role in wrecking it. So, this fall, menswear designers from New York to Milan are taking their cues from the low-key style pioneered by soul-searching, nature-loving, startup-creating Bay Area guys who are practically recluses when it comes to mainstream fashion. The ultimate fashion outsider is now in. A young generation of international designers—some born and bred here, others perhaps wishing they could hop the next flight to San Francisco and start over—has adopted Northern California staples, like the windbreaker and the anorak, and refined them with sharp tailoring, polished fabrics, and a 21st-century edge. Here, three influential San Francisco clothing shops show us how to stay laid-back in these far from relaxing times.

One early sign of the fashion world’s new Bay Area–inspired ethos came earlier this year, when a model in what looked suspiciously like a cream-colored fleece strode down Marin-raised Patrik Ervell’s New York runway without inspiring so much as a raised eyebrow. By fall, menswear designers were giving numerous nods to the functional but much derided North Face puffer jacket, while high-fashion stores were stocked with sturdy Timberland and Red Wings hiking boots and heritage brands, like Pendleton, formerly scrounged up in Mission thrift shops. Jenny Chung, owner of 18-month-old boutique Acrimony, in Hayes Valley, understands the appeal of these old-standby items: “My favorite jacket ever was a dark blue Patagonia lined with hot-pink fleece.” But this year’s models—for example, Wings + Horns’ outdoorsy thermal henleys and washed chinos, or United Bamboo’s sporty yet ├╝ber­technical down jacket—have a very different feel from the casual basics that inspired them. “Fit is incredibly important for menswear right now,” Chung says, pointing to Endovanera’s hybrid “suit” with skinny pants: “They’re not slacks, they’re not jeans, they’re tailored but not stuffy.” She adds, “Most guys don’t want to go back to the suit, but they don’t want to look like slobs, either.” Acrimony: 333 Hayes St., S.F., 415-861-1025, Shot on location on Quincy St., S.F.

ABOVE: Left: United Bamboo gray pinstripe wool blazer, $750, and trousers, $350, both at Acrimony, 333 Hayes St., S.F., 415-861-1025; Patrik Ervell white cotton shirt, $235, at Opening Ceremony, 451 N. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-652-1120; Marc by Marc Jacobs reflective silver quilted sneakers, $440, at Marc by Marc Jacobs, 2142 Fillmore St., S.F., 415-447-9322. Right: United Bamboo brown plaid wool Carwin peacoat, $1,000, and green cotton bow-tie shirt, $260, and April 77 Dictator-Overdrive jeans, $195, all at Acrimony, 333 Hayes St., S.F., 415-861-1025; Prada black leather lace-up shoes with metal studs, $990, at Neiman Marcus, 150 Stockton St., S.F., 415-362-3900.

“There have been only
a few important revolutions in men’s clothing,” says David Becker, cofounder (with Michael Kelter and Arthur Louie) of the Archive, which specializes in moody Japanese imports and casual Euro­­pean designs. “The last one was the dot-com era of the ’90s,” which completely altered men’s attitudes about professional uniforms. While Steve Jobs has come to epitomize jeans-and-T-shirt Silicon Valley schlubbiness, Becker—with a long history in the Bay Area menswear scene—notes that there has always been another side to the Apple CEO’s style: “He was actually a good customer of ours at Versace. We used to make tailored suits for him. The irony is that Steve is a total design freak.” This fall’s designs at the Archive, including pieces by Rick Owens and Nice Collective, might be said to bite from both sides of the Apple. “I’m not sure there’s such a thing as professional culture anymore,” Becker says. “But there is such a thing as grown-up dressing. It’s about quality and craftsmanship.” The Archive: 317 Sutter St., S.F., 415-391-5550, Shot on location in St. George Alley, S.F.

ABOVE: Left: Shellac black cotton canvas military parka with separate wool hooded underlayer, $1,350, and DRK SHDW black jeans with nylon inserts, $490, both at the Archive, 317 Sutter St., S.F., 415-391-5550; Woolrich Woolen Mills blue-and-white striped shirt, $168, at MAC, 387 Grove St., S.F., 415-863-3011; Prada black leather lace-up shoes, $695, at Prada, 201 Post St., S.F., 415-848-1900. Right: Shellac black lambskin-leather jacket with zipper details, $2,150, and indigo distressed jeans, $580, both at the Archive, 317 Sutter St., S.F., 415-391-5550; United Bamboo red-and-brown plaid cotton shirt with white collar, $220, at Acrimony, 333 Hayes St., S.F., 415-861-1025; Viridi-anne black oiled calf-suede boots, $1,550, at the Archive, 317 Sutter St., S.F., 415-391-5550; Oliver Peoples Riley glasses, $345, at Ilori, 245 Post St., S.F., 415-398-4148.

“So much of menswear in past generations was about doing the correct thing. Now it’s a mix-and-match world,” says Ben Ospital, cofounder (with his sister, Chris, and mother, Jeri) of Modern Appealing Clothing, the 28-year-old San Francisco fashion institution more commonly known as MAC. Such wide-open individualism is very Bay Area, he notes, as is another fashion trend ushered in by the economic downturn: “If there’s any one movement with menswear right now, it’s the ear­­­­nest move­ment—people want to look earnest.” There is suddenly a renewed interest in Levi’s early workwear by brands such as New York–based Engineered Garments and United Bamboo, and Parisian fashion boutique Colette just colla­borated with Timberland on a line of limited-edition work boots embel­lished with scuffs and stains. “I have people who work in banks buying a Woolrich Woolen Mills jacket that makes them look like a farmer or a gardener,” Ospital says. “When it comes to dressing, today’s values are less about the club than about the baker who gets up at the crack of dawn.” MAC (Modern Appealing Clothing): 387 Grove St., S.F., 415-863-3011. Shot on location on Joice St., S.F.

ABOVE: Left: Maison Martin Margiela navy blue wool cardigan, $645, and wool pants, $595, Number Lab khaki wool shirt, $48, and Lanvin navy blue silk pin, $278, all at MAC, 387 Grove St., S.F., 415-863-3011; Prada black leather lace-up shoes, $695, at Prada, 201 Post St., S.F., 415-848-1900; Oliver Peoples Riley glasses, $345, at Ilori, 245 Post St., S.F., 415-398-4148. Right: Dries Van Noten khaki cotton trench, price available upon request, Maison Martin Margiela white cotton shirt, $465, and Liberty silk Stingray tie, $298, all at MAC, 387 Grove St., S.F., 415-863-3011; April 77 jeans, $195, at Acrimony, 333 Hayes St., S.F., 415-861-1025; Converse black One Star three-strap sneakers, $39.99, at Target, 1057 Eastshore Hwy., Albany, 510-982-0512.

Grooming: Monique Ford; Models Ryan Looysen/Look, Leo Matsuda/Ford; Style Assistant: Kate Willsky; Photography Assistant: Kelly Kohler

MAIN IMAGE: Patrik Ervell short black hooded jacket in rubberized cotton, $800, at Bird,, and white cotton shirt, $235, at Opening Ceremony, 451 N. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-652-1120; Barneys New York silver bow tie, $45, at Barneys New York, 77 O’Farrell St., S.F., 415-268-3500.


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