With its low Gold Rush-era buildings, welter of dusty antique shops and design firms, Jackson Square has long been one of San Francisco’s best undersung neighborhoods. Tree-lined Jackson Street itself remains a breath of sleepy gentility between the go-go Financial District and the tourist churns of Chinatown and North Beach. But the days of weekend tumbleweeds blowing down Montgomery look to be over. Buckle up, Bix fans — the fashion crowd has arrived.
In March, “Project Runway” alum Jake Wall moved his splashy suiting brand Jake from the McRoskey Mattress building on Market to a charming 3,000-square-foot spot on Sansome while bringing on fellow alum Blake Patterson to helm a women’s collection. Weeks before, the Seattle outdoors brand Filson opened a new outpost with American revivalists at Shinola on Montgomery Street opposite the Scientology temple.
“The buildings in Jackson Square have a rich history and an appearance that feels so right with Filson,” says Filson creative director Alex Carleton. “We love that we moved into a building that has a story just as old as we are.”
The historic Drexler-Colombo Building at the foot of Columbus now plays home to the dashing seamsters Tailors’ Keep, an outlet of Iron and Resin in Ventura, and the rockabilly-flecked Blades Co. barber shop. In 2014, the custom suiting outfit Alton Lane moved onto Jackson Street, and few years before that, luxury men’s retailer Wingtip helped kick off this great migration.
More are coming.
Stephen Gordon of Mill Valley boutique Guideboat Company (and a little housewares concern called Restoration Hardware) told me that he’s opening up shop at 441 Jackson St. in May, and that he’s excited to see aesthetic brethren like the French denim brand APC follow suit. Haute French women’s label Isabel Marant is already ensconced at the corner of Jackson and Hotaling Alley. And to think for easily a decade the only truly special shop in the neighborhood was William Stout’s architectural bookstore.
“We’re excited that other shops are adding to the richness of the area,” says Thom Hill, founder of Iron and Resin, which has been a Jackson Square resident since December 2014. “We’re seeing it growing even more as a destination for guys who are looking for more than a shopping mall experience.”
As for the addition of Filson and Shinola (and who knows what else to come), Hill is enthusiastic.
“The more the merrier. Both are fantastic brands and will only add to the relevance of the area.”
Hayes Valley, abrim with shiny new condos, you’re on notice.
619 Sansome St. www.jake.clothing
“When we signed and took possession of 619 Sansome, we had a feeling that this neighborhood was going to see a change,” founder Jake Wall told me when I stopped in just before the store’s March 3 launch party. The “Project Runway” Season 14 star has doubled the square footage he had on Market Street, and he’s putting it to good use. A wine bar holds sway on one side of the store and a game room is farther back, but my favorite design notes are in the dressing rooms. Massive pop art murals dominate, but you’ll need to actually step back onto the shop floor to take a spin in front of a mirror. “That’s how we get you out of the cave,” said Wall. “Here, the conversation about what’s working and what doesn’t is social.” Bold men will likely embrace Jake’s textured suiting. The truly daring should opt for a matte sequined bomber jacket for $725.
2. Filson and Shinola
A double shot of American manliness, Filson and Shinola share space in a new shop with entrances on Montgomery and Hotaling Alley. Filson’s Alex Carleton told me that his primary aim, when taking the reins of the born-in-1897 brand, was making such a deep archive of classic outdoors apparel “relevant to contemporary life.” He says the S.F. outpost carries about 35 percent of Filson’s full line of clothes and outdoor gear but that even this small sampling of Filson’s hardy jackets, hats, shirts and portage will see you through a week in the backcountry. Or, you know, crushing code. Whatever you’re into. Shinola’s end of the boutique feels a bit like a museum of objects you can actually touch. Supple leather goods, fine watches and handsome (if spendy) bikes carry the day.
3. Blades Co.
614 Washington St. www.bladesco.com
Owner Susan d’Arcangelo opened in August and already counts some 900 souls among Blades Co.’s clientele. She’s brought plenty of them in from her stints at JP Kempt and People’s Barber, but the day I popped in, the chairs were full of a mix of downtown business types and I-just-booked-online Millennials. Cuts go for $45. Chat up d’Arcangelo if you can. She tells it straight.
4. Tailors’ Keep
618 Washington St. www.tailorskeep.com
“I love being shadowed by TransAmerica,” said Tailors’ Keep co-founder Ryan Devens. “It feels like the compass of the city.” I’d certainly buy it as a lightning rod for menswear, and what sartorial ecosystem thrives without a proper tailor’s shop? Devens and his partner Erik Gavrilov make razor-sharp custom clothes and offer on-point alterations from their handsome storefront on Washington Street. “Jackson Square is still one of those slightly uncharted retail areas,” Devens mused. “I think that people come down here looking for the real San Francisco.”
5. Iron and Resin
7 Columbus Ave. www.ironandresin.com
A small shop on the Columbus side of the Colombo-Drexler building, Iron and Resin is a surf-meets-gearhead haven that summons a sunny ’70s California vibe. If Highway 1 shopped for clothes, it would be here. “Opening in this neighborhood (in December 2014) was a total crapshoot,” owner Thom Hill told me. “At the time, there really wasn’t much around us in the way of retail. We just loved the neighborhood, and it felt like home for our brand. We’re excited that others are adding to the richness of the area and seeing it grow even more as a destination for guys who are looking for more than a ‘shopping mall’ experience.”
550 Montgomery St. www.wingtip.com
The first of this crop to call Jackson Square home, Wingtip deals in all things classic menswear. To me, it certainly feels more FiDi than Filson, and I’d wager that it serves an older, more professional clientele. But credit founder Ami Arad for pushing compelling menswear a degree or two north of the Hound and Cable Car Clothiers, and for thinking big while doing it. The tackle shop in the back of Wingtip serves local anglers, the whiskey counter is worth its weight in peat, the barber shop does fine, precise work, and the private club evokes a civilized time gone by.
Aaron Britt is The San Francisco Chronicle’s Pocket Square columnist. Twitter: @ThePocketSquare
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