The Essence of SF Style

JT Tran knows San Francisco style. Native to the Bay Area, Tran has seen his share of fashion fads, fixtures, and faux pas. He is a street fashion photographer and co-creator of the website  TheSFStyle.com.

1.First off, tell me a bit about yourself. How long have you lived in the Bay Area?   

I was born and raised in the Bay Area. I grew up in San Jose, moved to SF in 2005, and spent a year in Manhattan and a year in Oakland, before returning to SF about a year ago.

2. Are you a self-taught photographer?  

 Yes. I am fortunate to live in our current digital age. In the days of film photography, it was somewhat expensive to have film developed, and thus, it was somewhat expensive to learn photography skills. Now, anyone can practice with a digital camera as much as they wish, and there are a lot of free online resources to learn from.

3.When and how did you start the street fashion photography website thesfstyle.com?  

I started thesfstyle.com in 2006, so as of right now, the blog is a decade old.

4. In 3 words, describe San Francisco style.  

Casual. Layered. Seasonless.       

5. How would you describe your own personal style?  

Constantly evolving. The clothes we wear truly do express who we are at the moment, and my style has evolved as the years passed. I’ve been very ostentatious, and then formal, and now–rather understated and pragmatic.

6. What are your favorite aspects of the style in San Francisco?  

I think the fashions you see in San Francisco reflect the sensibilities of the people. There are a lot of tech workers, and they dress casually, as is the culture of the many start-ups in SF. There are a lot of hip-hop styles that are very indicative of Bay Area locals–I’ve seen these types of people really invest in expensive sneakers and activewear. Then there are the artists. I am going to avoid using the term “hipster” to describe anyone–since that word has often been used in a derogatory way, and the definition of it changes from person to person. The artists and creative people of SF display a variety of styles-from vintage to the latest trends, and everything in-between. I love that SF has always had a variety of styles that reflect the diversity of its inhabitants.

7. What are your least favorite aspects?  

The overabundance of casual wear. Very few people dress formally in SF. The majority of people do not wear suits to work. I appreciate a little elegance, and that is something I admire about New York City fashion.

8. What are some unique characteristics?  

The most unique characteristic of SF style is the seasonless nature of it. SF’s weather does not fluctuate with the distinct four seasons, as many other regions do–and thus SF inhabitants tend to have the same wardrobe year round.

9. What are some things that influence your personal style?  

My personal life. As I stated earlier, there was a time when I was very ostentatious, because I was very social, and it was part of who I was at the time. These days, I am much more reserved, and I appreciate anonymity, so I dress in a far more subtle and common style now.

10. What are things you see influencing San Francisco style? 

Pop culture influences SF style much the same as it does anywhere else now. When the TV show, ‘Mad Men’, came out–there was a huge resurgence in formal wear, and vintage styles. Lately? I’d say active wear is enjoying a huge popularity boost due to celebrities both wearing and releasing active wear lines.

11. What are staple wardrobe pieces every San Franciscan should own? 

A light trenchcoat is great for the cool, slightly breezy SF weather. You can wear it almost year round, especially in the evenings and on the way to and from work. For more casual environments, I recommend a light down-alternative jacket (Primaloft, for example). They aren’t bulky like traditional puffy winter jackets, but they really help keep the wind from chilling you. One of these jackets is all you need for most situations in SF. I wear mine almost every day. As every SF local knows, even on the warmest days–you grab at least a light jacket or hoodie before you leave the house. You never know. (It can get SO cold in SF once the sun sets.)

12. Is there something you would never wear?  

Flip flops. Not only are they really unattractive to me, they provide no support or protection from SF’s gritty streets.

13. Is style important in San Francisco? Why?  

 My honest opinion is: most SF inhabitants aren’t very style minded. The industry here is all about tech these days, and style/fashion is not as high a priority.

14. Do you believe that style reflects culture?  

Style absolutely reflects culture. It can also be very personal too. That’s what I love about it.

15. In what ways do you see SF culture reflected in the style?  

SF’s culture is eclectic, like its people. I hope that aspect always remains. Variety is beautiful.

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Tran’s book “Street Fashion Photography” can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Street-Fashion-Photography-Pictures-Concrete/dp/1452115370/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1455473544&sr=8-1&keywords=street+fashion+photography

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