Dog Bites

S.F. not a good place for girls to dress up? Dog Bites will see about that.

Turning Heads

That funny prickly smell in the air isn't Christmas trees, it's mass anxiety. What with the coming war, the Giants' loss in the World Series, and the crappy economy, it's shaping up to be a rather unpleasant holiday season for your run-of-the-mill San Franciscan. The only consolation is that it's not just you. Even those expensively dressed people living in Pacific Heights, the Marina, and Russian Hill are blue. Last month's issue of GQ magazine said San Francisco was one of the worst cities in the world in which to girl-watch.

That questionable conclusion drew an angry reaction from members of The A-List, a weekly e-mail newsletter for the young high-society set that bills itself as "a selective guide to the Bay Area's best parties, special events, and most intriguing personalities." Recent highlights included "Ship Week for Women," a $1,600-a-head charity event on board the schooner Denis Sullivan, and a cigar party at the "very posh" Alfred Dunhill Ltd. But topping the list of events two weeks ago was the offending passage from GQ, prefaced by the huffy headline "Scandalous Accusations."

"The country's most beautiful city, in fact, has precious little scenery -- at least the living breathing kind. Blame it on Jerry Garcia, the abundance of Polarfleece, or the crappy, cloudy-all-year weather. Come for Pac Bell Park, the burritos or the Golden Gate -- just don't come for the women."

"Where were they hanging out?" Valerie Britt, the statuesque brunette with perfectly arched eyebrows who founded The A-List, asked her subscribers rhetorically. "Obviously they haven't met my friends."

"I guarantee you that my friends fall under the "hot' category!" rejoined one irate A-Lister. "The girls I know have tiny bodies, big breasts, long flowing hair, sexy clothes, and yes Jimmy Choo Shoes, even though the men here wouldn't know the difference!"

"Clearly you're not invited to any of the SF class events," wrote another, who cc'd GQ. "You must be slumming it. SF's women are... in a word... fabulous. Have you even looked at our legs from walking up all those hills? Or strolled down Union or Chestnut Streets? Or been to any of our gyms or yoga studios? Great bodies, great clothes, great class."

These were questions that begged to be answered. A call to GQ's New York headquarters revealed that the snarky lines were penned by Senior Editor Adam Rapoport. Moments later, we had Rapoport on the line.

His "research," he admitted, consisted of little more than going to college at Berkeley and occasionally visiting San Francisco, where he found no good-looking girls. The GQ editor graduated college in 1992 -- the height of grunge -- but assured us that he'd visited San Francisco since, and remained unimpressed. This year, for instance, Rapoport enjoyed a burrito in the Mission en route to a wedding in Napa, and didn't spy any attractive women.

The problem, according to Rapoport, isn't that S.F. women's abs aren't flat or their skin isn't clear, but that they can't put together an outfit to save their lives.

"San Franciscans think fashion is just for dumb rich people," he opined. "There's this political correctness thing where, if you're lookin' too smart, you get attitude for it."

Had Rapoport hung out in the Marina with the fashionable A-Listers? Perhaps sensing a gap in his research, Rapoport cranked the viciousness up a notch.

"I'm not talking about the kind of women who, just because they saw a picture in a magazine, are going to run out and buy it," he clarified. "I'm picturing those areas to be like the Upper West Side thing, like, 'Yeah, I went to Cornell or some other lame college, and I've got an Armani suit on, but I'm not cool or interesting.'"

Our head was reeling trying to keep up with Rapoport's complicated, highly specific criteria for judging feminine beauty. But what we gleaned was this: San Francisco's smarter-than-Madison Avenue attitude was keeping its ladies from being world-class lookers.

"In New York, you can go from some art opening at the Guggenheim in a Marc Jacobs suit, and go to a bar in the Lower East Side, and nobody will look twice," said Rapoport. If somebody wore something like that to, say, a San Francisco dive bar like the 500 Club, he added, they would immediately be deemed cheesy. "I would like," he said, "to go into the 500 Club with a Paul Smith suit on and have nobody care."

Rapoport's theories seemed highly suspect, so we decided to test them. With the help of the folks over at the Marc Jacobs boutique on Maiden Lane, we borrowed a pair of slouchy, cranberry-colored cropped pants ($500), an indigo brocade tank top with a little velvet tie at the neck ($1,100), and a cream-colored double-breasted jacket with military-style brass buttons ($1,500). The overall look could be described as Little Lord Fauntleroy rides a Vespa.

We decided to take our Marc Jacobs on a spin through hipster territory on the night before Thanksgiving. We would find out, once and for all, if San Francisco women were being cruelly imprisoned by dour, Amish-like community fashion standards. We quaked in our black leather riding boots -- would Dog Bites' expensive adornments be pointed at with sneering ridicule?

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