People tend to be on guard when you approach them on the street – especially if you want to take their photo. But at 11 p.m. on a Friday night in the Castro, people are not shy: in fact, the opposite. Hot, young things practically vogued around my camera, excited to flaunt their threads and tell me all about their fashion inspiration. Here’s a sampling of street wear from 18th and Castro – where folks know they’re stylish and they own it.
Sometimes you luck out with the first shot of the night. Sangmi Eom and Bora Han (Bora's photograph is below) were a treasure trove of style to photograph. Sangmi opened up her jacket to show me her favorite accessory – a feather necklace from Urban Outfitters. She says she gets her fashion inspiration from Bora, who loans her pieces from her own closet and suggests what outfits to put together.
Bora Han is a fashion designer from Japan. While her original designs tend to be avant-garde, she likes finding her clothes and accessories on Hayes and Valencia Streets, along with more unexpected places like supermarkets. She bought her Hello Kitty lunchbox (used as a purse) from an ice cream shop on Irving Street and her limited edition eyewear by grafik plastic in South Korea.
I love the details Robert Fernandez added to his simple all-black look: from his metallic silver Asics to his shaved hair with a bouffant ponytail on top. Robert’s style inspiration comes from living in the Castro, working as a hairdresser, and performing in drag.
This group of Irish lads and lasses (all but Justin Emery, the one Castro local) were hard to miss as they rounded the corner of 18th and Castro. True to Irish form, they were rowdy, playful, and loud. These college buddies are all spending the summer in San Francisco and Justin was giving them the tour of the Castro’s best bars.
Sila Mutungi’s style choices always bear a degree of sentiment. The silk crimson-and-gold scarf was a special gift from a good friend in India, so he wears it not only for its sheen but also as a symbol of friendship. He likes to mix and match colors and patterns, and his inspiration comes either from how he’s feeling that day or how he would like to feel as the day goes on.
The boys hollered out in protest when I wanted to photograph their girlfriends (Ciara Smith, Katie Dempsey, Sinead O’Grady & friend) without them, but clearly the ladies had put more thought into their outfits with their mix of bohemian prints and patterns with skinny pants and sandals. They said their fashion choices are inspired by each other (they’re friends from college), and from the San Francisco culture they’ve experienced, like music festivals and hanging out on Haight Street. They find many of their outfits in Topshop, Urban Outfitters, and River Island.
Heidi Rabben’s bright outfit caught my attention immediately. She loves to combine busy, graphic prints with fluorescent colors, and when it comes to accessorizing, the bigger the better – all the way down to her massive, colorful motocross helmet. Her worst nightmare is a neutral or black outfit, so she makes every ensemble shine with unexpected combinations of colors, patterns, and accessories.
Gary Thomas was one of the sharpest looking men I saw walking by. I stopped him as he was headed to Mix to have a cocktail. He loves to find unique high-end pieces in thrift stores, including the Moschino blazer he found in Marysville that said “fash off” on one sleeve and “fash on” on the other. He can’t live without shoes, and loves them all – from his Nike sneaks to his Aldo leather loafers.
I caught Eric and Lydia Stephens on a parents night out while their two- and seven-year-olds were home with a babysitter. The husband and wife love to express their eclectic style and often swap clothes and accessories. Her favorite place to shop is Betsey Johnson and his is the South Van Ness Goodwill – when he’s not rummaging through her closet. They like to mix up their styles to never get bored, and have gone through many transformations from “squatter to gothic.”
Gino’s yellow-dyed tuft of hair caught my eye as he pranced down 18th Street on the way to his girlfriend’s house (a white poodle named Blondie). He can sport many looks from “preppy punkster” to “zen-wild.” His favorite place to shop is Jeffrey’s, and he can’t live without his squeaky stuffed squirrel or a good old worn tennis ball. He belongs to Lamott Atkins.
When I stopped Mayra Lopez she was on a long-winded detour from Zeitgeist to the Elbo Room. She’s a social worker by day, so likes to gussy it up a little by night. Skinny black jeans are a staple in her closet so she can transform her outfit just by adding a little fur and va-va-voom red lips. Her favorite place to shop is a vintage store in Sebastopol called Aubergine where she found a fox-fur-trimmed coat for $20. This girl loves fur!
Jean Karlo’s skintight black pants were hard to miss as he walked by, though he only stopped long enough to let me take a quick photo before his friend dragged him along to the next bar. He’s been living in Barcelona for the past several years and this was his first night back out in San Francisco. His unique personal style is inspired by himself.
Dallas Parke dazzled us as she turned our corner. The designer extraordinaire had made the headpiece she was wearing in addition to her gold lamé “motorcycle jacket onesie.” She describes her style as super goth and hauntingly beautiful. Dallas loves collecting taxidermy from Loved to Death on Haight Street, and works at Dark Garden, where she makes corsets.
Virgo is Mexican but grew up between Hawaii and Japan. Something about his look and demeanor span decades and cultures. I loved his handlebar-meets-Salvador-Dali mustache and the classic brown and gold tones he was wearing. He is a painter and gets his inspiration from art and vintage culture.