Text Ilona Marx Photos Adriaan Louw
According to the legendary tale, German immigrant Levi Strauss and the tailor Jacob Davis were the first to hammer rivets into the robust trousers they had made for gold miners, in order to make the workwear garment even more durable. The innovative duo would no doubt never have dreamed that, from a fashion point of view, they were making a product for eternity and at the same time a sartorial symbol for the youth of generations to come.
A century and a half later, times have changed, but one thing remains: the innovator attitude in what is probably the most laidback metropolis of America. And this is partly also due to the 'Yes we can!' spirit that prevails here. With their relaxed lifestyle, people here are flexible, open and uncomplicated. San Franciscans enjoy life and everything the city has to offer. Picnics in the park, sport in the fresh air, good healthy food and excellent wine, beach life and big surf, as well as the vibrant nightlife.
So you can probably guess: Northern Californians are not so big on high fashion or lengthy grooming and styling. After all, who would want to totter up and down the steep hills in high heels or be taken by surprise wearing something skimpy when the temperature unexpectedly plummets? In reality, a pretty substantial proportion of San Francisco's inhabitants seem to spend most of the day in running gear. Whether or not they are all sports freaks or simply like to create that impression is irrelevant.
Despite the rather pragmatic dress code, the streetscape is anything but. As the USA's gay-lesbian Eldorado, San Francisco is home to a colourful, vibrant bunch. Add to that the hippie vibe and festival atmosphere in the parks – best seen in the Mission Dolores Park on a sunny weekend – and the D.I.Y. movement that is way moreactive here than in Europe: self-confident and uninhibited, giving perfectionism the cold shoulder, a new generation of San Franciscan designers are beavering away with refreshing results. Compared to London or Paris, the atmosphere of the city could be likened to a Waldorf School, full of happy, free and optimistic young people. But despite this, tradition also plays an important role: not just because Levi's, the mother of all denim brands, has its headquarters in the city. The entire city breathes denim, and the density of the top-notch indigo fabric is just as high as the hills overlooking the bay.
The greatest inspiration and best overview of fashion and culinary trends on the street can be experienced on a wander along Valencia Street. This is where visitors can find everything that makes San Francisco so desirable: small pretty boutiques, health food restaurants, vintage furniture stores, coffee shops and thrift stores. And thanks to the length of the increasingly popular shopping mile, there is plenty of space for new ideas to develop. Another place undergoing major changes is the Outer Sunset District, where the most exciting new retail and gastro additions are sprouting up out of the ground at the moment. Somewhat more established but equally worth a visit are North Beach, the Italian district at the foot of Telegraph Hill, Hayes Valley, a dream for shopaholics and Fillmore Street in Pacific Heights.
We roamed the streets of the hottest districts, interviewed the coolest people, and of course took photos of the trendiest street styles, capturing the essence of San Francisco to make sure you're well informed for your next trip.