Letters to the Editor

Week of December 24, 2002

Trashin' Fashion

Let's face it: S.F. chicks lackstyle:GQmagazine's Adam Rapoport was wrong when he labeled San Francisco's young women unattractive ["Turning Heads," Dog Bites, Dec. 11]. But what is "attractive," and can it be bought at the Marc Jacobs boutique? Britney Spears could wear Marc Jacobs haute couture head to toe and I still wouldn't find her attractive. On the other hand, if Grace Kelly or Audrey Hepburn wore Sears, Roebuck career separates, they would look attractive to me and, I suspect, to many others.

Like most fashion designers today, Marc Jacobs is little more than a mass-market stylist for the above-the-Gap demographic, and hardly worthy of being mentioned alongside the truly great designers of the past such as Charles James or Cristobal Balenciaga. The trouble is that standards have been lowered so far that journalists, with straight faces, have compared Mark Wahlberg to Cary Grant and Drew Barrymore to Marilyn Monroe. Like most things (fashion, cars, art, architecture), standards of attractiveness have declined precipitously since about 1965.

If anything is wrong with San Francisco's young women today, it is their lack of style -- something so many local women had through at least the mid-'60s. Look at photos or newsreels from any time before then and you'll see graceful, feminine-looking women in sweater sets, Dior coats, fitted dresses, matching hats, gloves, handbags, and shoes. There are still hundreds of women in San Francisco who won't leave home without being perfectly turned-out, but sadly, few of them are under 60.

Are there any young women left in San Francisco who dress attractively? A few, such as my wife. Most others are in subcultures such as the mods or swing kids. These young women can look fabulous while spending very little, because they buy vintage clothes. That's anathema to Marc Jacobs and his ilk; they'd rather women spend $3,000 on their outfits "inspired" by Emilio Pucci or Yves St. Laurent than spend a fraction of that on the original goods from a vintage clothing store or on eBay.

While most young men probably couldn't recognize a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes, surely I can't be the only straight man under 40 who can recognize vintage Ferragamos or identify a court heel. There used to be plenty of stylish, attractive straight men in this town, though few remain. Most young men today seem content to wear the impotent symbols of rebellion (denim, leather, baseball caps) or ride the MTV trendwagon.

What happened? The high-tech boom of the past 25 years, which brought thousands of styleless cubicle drones to the city. Another factor is the still-prevalent notion that dressing well is "sissy," thus somehow "gay." While there probably are more stylish gay men than straights per capita in San Francisco, there are still some straight young men who make an effort (again, mostly in those same subcultures).

Just as some women do, I can put together a great vintage outfit for about $200 (say, a velvet jacket, cashmere turtleneck, Sta-Prest pants, and zip-side boots) and look better-turned-out and more distinctive than a guy who drops $2,000 on an Armani outfit. The difference is in the personal style and imagination to step beyond the bounds of what today's designers want to sell. Self-confidence, creativity, and sensible spending -- now that's attractive!

Robert Haines
Tenderloin

I was doomed but now I'm saved:Loved the anti-Rapoport column. I feel especially vindicated because I am a San Francisco native, transported to the Upper West Side after college at Cornell. I guess I was doomed, until Lessley Anderson's piece proved otherwise!

Andrea Forker
New York, N.Y.

S.F. women hurt my eyes!:Dog Bites tried to argue against GQ's description of S.F. women as ugly. I am a European that has lived in the Bay Area for three years now. Being all over the USA, it seems clear that S.F. women are spectacularly ugly and dressed down compared to most other American and European women.

Many are so overweight that they take up two seats at the BART or dress like they have escaped from a mental hospital. I have visitors from Europe several times a year, and every one of them has spontaneously remarked on the lack of good-looking women in this area.

Sorry, but S.F. can't brag about the women. Just as they said in GQ: Come over and watch the Golden Gate Bridge, wine country, eat wonderful food -- but don't come here for checking out women.

Roger Karlsson
Berkeley

City of amateurs:I laughed my ass off when I saw what GQsaid cuz it was so dead-on. Rapoport was so right it was refreshing. Anderson's response was so poor and off the mark it was disappointing. She really missed his point.

Good dress isn't about what someone's legs look like. Or what a ton of money can buy. It's about putting together an outfit. Well. Sometimes by yourself. Out of whatever. (Gap, Ann Taylor, and other everything-goes-with-everything clothes do not really count for well-dressed.) It's about taking something from wherever and making it work well. Or even just work.

But I guess it's what people consider "works" in this town that's so bad. Throwing on a pair of red boots from Wasteland (granted, there hasn't been jack-shit at Wasteland in a long time) and wearing them with other pseudo-hip stuff doesn't make you funky. Sorry. And some tiny club of "hot" chicks is not what GQmeant. They are exclusive, and GQwas talking about the entire city of S.F. You miss that? (I'll bet they can't dress, either. They probably look like each other in overpriced clothing.) What passes for classy in this town is cheap, and what passes for funky is just laughable.

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