How to Look Like a Local in San Francisco

What's New — By Lauren Quinn on April 6, 2010 at 11:22 pm

It’s not just foreign accents and fanny packs that make travelers stand out in San Francisco. From sneakers to hoodies, the climate of San Francisco has shaped the city’s style just as much as its freewheeling, artsy culture. Locals have perfected a casual chic that’s just as comfortable as it is stylish. And for a traveler, looking like a local isn’t just about blending in and getting closer to the soul of the city—it’s about being prepared for hills and fog.

Need to know what to pack? We’ve got you covered.


You see all those hills? Exactly.

While you won’t see many San Franciscans tromping around town in stilettos, it’s just as rare to see them in bulky running shoes (unless they’re jogging through Golden Gate Park). Casual, comfy but still chic shoes are what it’s all about in the city of 14 hills. Toms and Vans, flats and smart-looking sneakers—your feet won’t just look the part, they’ll feel the part too.


Yes, Americans love their blue jeans. But it’s something a little different in San Francisco. Headquarters of Levi’s and the birthplace of everyone’s favorite pants, locals really can’t get enough denim. But a sloppy pair with worn-out knees won’t cut it. A flattering slim- or boot-cut pair will carry you everywhere from a corner coffee shop to the hottest restaurants in town. Plus, with all those pockets, you won’t need that money belt.


The hills of San Francisco create another distinguishing feature: micro-climates. Overcast in one side of town, it can be completely fog-free on the other, and San Franciscans are always ready to bundle up or strip down. Layering is essentially in San Francisco, and has become a signature part of its style. Cardigans, hoodies, wind breakers—even in summer, we never leave home without one in tow. Trust us, you really don’t want to end up wearing one of those embossed Golden Gate Bridge sweatshirts.

An Accent of Chic

San Franciscans are skilled at accessorizing, adding just enough splash of style to make it look effortless. A bold, bohemian piece of jewelry works for ladies, while a jaunty scarf or hip cap will make any fella fit in. Locals tend towards worldly and offbeat accents, rather than fussy or ostentatious pieces.

Should you find yourself in The City any suitably cool threads, stock up at some independent clothing stores. And if you really want to show some local love, don the hip prints from t-shirt companies Oaklandish and 4fifteen.


  • Tyler Renaghan says:

    Would love to see this kind of article broken out by neighborhood…what do folks wear in the mission, in the Marina…?

  • Lauren Quinn says:

    Perhaps a series is in order…


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