San Francisco, California has earned the reputation as the technology center of the world with companies like Apple and Google locally innovating to create products and services that we use everyday. With all this attention on tech, it’s sometimes easy to forget that San Francisco also has a strong denim history with Levi’s being headquartered right the heart of the city.
With the iconic 501 model, Levi’s brought denim jeans to the masses and inspired countless companies to create their own lines of denim. Over the years, there has been a definite shift in focus from quantity to quality in the denim industry and as a result, we are seeing a lot of shops carrying brands who embody this shift.
I had the priveldge of visiting a number of different shops in San Francisco (and one just outside of San Francisco) and learning more about the brands and the shops themselves.
1. Self Edge
It’s impossible to not mention Self Edge when talking about denim especially in San Francisco. On a personal level, this is where I first tried on raw denim and I’ve never turned back since. They are famous all over the world for not only carrying brands such as Iron Heart, Flat Head, Roy Denim, Stevenson Overall Co, Strike Gold and 3sixteen but also regularly collaborating with these brands to create exclusive one-of-a-kind runs of jeans that almost always sell out in days.
The shop itself is small but somehow they are able to showcase each of the brands they carry (they even managed to put a motorcycle in the window!). If you go up the spiral staircase, you’ll find many shirts and tops by the same denim brands. Self Edge is also one of the few places that offer excellent darning and chain stitch services.
The brick and mortar shop is in the Mission district at 714 Valencia St. Luckily, for those not in San Francisco, you can shop most of their selection from all three stores online.
Just a few blocks away from Self Edge is Unionmade, which is a store with less of a focus on Japanese motorcycle culture inspired clothing and more on heritage Americana styles. For those looking for denim brands such as RRL, Raleigh, Lee 101, LVC, and Kapital as well as non-denim brands like Alden, Gitman Vintage, and Woolrich Woolen Mills, this is a must-visit shop.
Their selection is constantly being updated and they tend to have exclusive pieces from various brands so it’s definitely worth a visit to their store. Alternatively, the website is updated regularly to give a good impression of what they have going on.
The store is pretty big and it’s clear that the owners put in a lot of thought and effort with the decorations and shelving to create the more rustic country feeling environment. Located at 493 Sanchez St., they have several locations outside of San Francisco including LA as well as offering up a large portion of their selection online.
3. Taylor Stitch
Taylor Stitch is a relatively new shop started by a group passionate guys who love well-made clothes. In just a few years, they’ve already created their own Taylor Stitch branded clothing as well as a full denim line.
Located in the Mission district, Taylor Stitch carries their full collection of denim which includes several selvedge and non-selvedge jeans in various weights and fabrics as well as non-denim pants such as duck canvas trousers and workpants. Showing love for other San Francisco brands, Taylor Stitch also carries a large selection of Tellason jeans and jackets.
Those in the market for well tailored and modern fitted shirts and jackets or even custom made shirts should definitely stop by the store to see the selections of fabrics and cuts. The shop is located at 383 Valencia St. and releases new products every week on their website.
West of downtown San Francisco in the Richmond district is Seedstore which offers up a wide variety of brands for both men and women. While there is less of a focus on denim than other stores, they do carry brands such as Raleigh and Naked and Famous and their selection of shirts and outerwear from Gant, Penfield, Schott’s Perfecto, and Golden Bear complements their denim lines nicely.
Seedstore does a great job of carrying brands in different price ranges so those on a budget can still pick up items that are well made and more affordable. The staff is welcoming and willing to help which adds to the neighborhood feel of the store that reflects the area they’re in. Seedstore is located on 212 Clement St. You can browse their brands and purchase a part of their selection on their website.
5. Industrie Denim
By far the largest store, Industrie Denim is an eclectic shop that carries denim for both men and women. Started by the founders of American Rag in LA, their selection ranges from larger brands such as Nudie, RRL, and A.P.C. to smaller brands like Railcar, Jean Shop, Baldwin, and Rising Sun.
Not limited solely to denim, they also carry a ton of shirts, tops, shoes, and other accessories throughout the store. Their selection of brands is constantly changing which makes it worthwhile to return throughout the year to see what’s new.
What’s equally impressive as their selection of clothes is the amount of vintage decorations throughout the store come from a private collection from all over the world. Industrie Denim is located in downtown San Francisco 300 Grant Ave. Their website does offer some brands for purchase online but their selection in-store is much larger.
6. AB Fits
AB Fits, located in North Beach, is a shop that has been around for almost 23 years and was founded with the goal of providing high quality, fashionable, and unique brands that stand out from the rest. Howard, the owner, has dedicated his time and energy to not only provide a wide selection of denim but also jackets, tops, and accessories.
AB Fits offers up hard-to-find brands such as Red Cloud, Dope + Drakkar, Kicking Mule, Blue Blanket, and also their own AB Fits denim line which uses Cone Mills denim. They also carry local brands like Rogue Territory, Tellason, and LVC.
Understanding that women also are looking for great quality denim, AB Fits has a well curated selection of denim brands for women such as Raleigh, Jean Shop, Stronghold and Farmer Denim.
On most days you can find Howard at the shop and he is more than happy to share his knowledge about how sizing a jean and how the different jeans will break in. AB Fits is located at 1519 Grant Ave and you can also shop their online store.
Anybody traveling to San Francisco has most likely seen the massive Levi’s store located right in Union Square. What many people miss when entering the store is the lower section which is dedicated to the Levi’s Made and Crafted and Levi’s Vintage Clothing lines.
These mini-stores within the Levi’s store carry most of the selection from each line and also offer up services like chain stitching, darning, and small custom projects. The store itself is well decorated and changed constantly to reflect the current season.
At the end of summer, the store will be moving to a smaller location on Market Street but they will also begin offering bespoke denim. The current location is at 300 Post St.
8. Standard and Strange
While not actually located in San Francisco, I had to head over to Oakland to visit this shop which I had heard was a great place to shop for raw denim. Started by Neil and Jeremy, who also own a cycling shop in Oakland, Standard and Strange has a strong focus on American made products. They carry Tellason and are one of the few stores that offer Rogue Territory (at the time of my visit, they still had some of Rogue Territory denim shirts and jackets that are sold out online!).
Alongside their denim, they carry several accessories, bags, and tops, all of which are American made. The shop is tiny but there are plans to expand and add more brands to their selection. Standard and Strange is located in Temescal district of Oakland at 484A 49th St. Online shopping is not yet available but you can visit their site for information about the brands and hours.