It’s tempting to become extremely defensive in light of New York magazine’s broadside against San Francisco. A lot of the criticism around the newfound wealth is deserved, and New York is qualified to make it. But when it comes to style, the swipe at us for having “stubbornly uncool” style that is the “equivalent of water” is absolutely fucking absurd. The thin anecdotal evidence given only proves the point that this magazine is trolling an entire city. Fine, we’ve all met a coder whose awkwardness extended to wearing the same thing every day and OK, some guys look like Trader Joe’s managers, but SF’s aesthetics are informed by a non-gender-conforming, D.I.Y. ethos of controlled rule-breaking that is unique in the world. Instead of getting it completely wrong, New York could have echoed the band !!!, who legitimately busted us where it hurts: “Why would I live somewhere/Where the bars close at two?”
It would be much fairer to say that in spite of our current low-grade civil war among all the various factions, there has been no single style to emerge and subdue all the others. Next time a friend gets evicted and you’re feeling down, take a walk and try to count how many “relaxed-fit chinos and Gore-Tex shells” you actually come upon. Instead, you’ll probably find people who wear cyclist drag at rush hour, a pencil skirt or flannel and Toms during the day and possibly a furry costume every fourth Saturday of the month. However apocalyptic the talk of homogenization gets, the reality is that style here is polymorphously perverse. The strength of “San Francisco Style” is that there is none.
New York has style, for sure. It’s the North American capital of fashion. And the subway uses Helvetica and there are Deco accents all over. But it’s also full of charcoal pantsuits and awful, 25-years-out-of-date contrast collars. And where was Seinfeld, whose star embodies normcore, set? At the risk of splitting geographical hairs, New York is also its own largely self-contained juggernaut, while San Francisco proper is but a tenth of the suburbanized Bay Area. Alluring though it is to throw Marin under the bus here, I’m going to opt for solidarity instead. Because I, for one, would make out with hotties from all over Northern California. New York, I love you, but you’re bringing me down.
Photo by citymaus via Flickr