Light In The Fog: Streets Of San Francisco’s Mike Stone

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When we ran our profile of a tradly dressed Washington DC police officer recently, a reader left a comment invoking the name of Mike Stone, the cop played by Karl Malden on the ’70s TV show “The Streets Of San Francisco.”

In contrast to his wide-lapelled and groovy necktie-wearing partner (played by a young Michael Douglas), Mike Stone was a throwback to an earlier era in his fedora (only fogeys wore hats at the time), buttondown shirts, cardigans and traditional neckties. To all the hippies on Haight-Ashbury, he would’ve been the very embodiment of The Establishment.

Here’s a small gallery to the cop they would’ve trusted in Pacific Heights. — CC







29 Comments on "Light In The Fog: Streets Of San Francisco’s Mike Stone"

  1. i had an uncle who dressed this way in the 60-70s. Clean, no-nonsense. Always wore a grey hat. You knew these guys.

  2. My father and maternal grandfather dressed similarly through the 70s and into the early 80s, although a bit sharper and better pressed, for their M-F commutes into Manhattan from SE Pennsylvania. Lots of Southwick, Brooks Bros., and a bit of J. Press thrown into the mix. Granddaddy still wore a fedora when he was dressed until he retired in ’82, and a tweed touring cap until he died in ’06.

    Best Regards,

    Heinz-Ulrich von B.

  3. My parents watched this show, so I still remember the theme song, even though I never watched it.

    My elderly father was ahead of the curve when he abandoned his fedoras in the 50s. I have vague memories of my grandfather wearing fedoras in cold weather, but he transitioned to flat caps and bucket hats for summer later in life.

    Few guys are man enough to wear a fedora these days. Too bad; it’s a much better look than the ubiquitous baseball cap.

  4. DB McWeeberton | March 23, 2015 at 2:49 pm |

    I like the way he rocked those sweater vests and topcoats. These shows are all on DVD–some great location footage on them.

  5. Did he always wear that wooly waistcoat? Can’t really see it in that last picture, but it could be lurking. I’d think either the wooly thing or the raincoat would be appropriate in San Francisco, but how often does it get cold enough to require both?

  6. “The coldest winter I ever spent was summer in San Francisco.” — Mark Twain

  7. Philly Trad | March 23, 2015 at 3:53 pm |

    It may be 2015, but there are still men like Peter Salovey, President of Yale, who know how to dress like a gentleman:

  8. As a resident of California’s Central Coast, where the climate is much the same as San Francisco’s, I can attest to the need for flannels, vests (sweater or otherwise), cashmere, tweed, and the like.

    Having said that, I almost never wear a wool muffler, but do sometimes wear silk scarves.

    Although the Twain quote appears to be apocryphal, our “summers” are foggy and chilly. But I did take my children to the beach in January, when it was in the 80s!

  9. CoolidgeRedux | March 23, 2015 at 7:45 pm |

    Another fictional San Francisco detective also dressed in traditional style…

    two buttons on the jacket sleeve…

    3/2 roll

  10. SE PA to Manhatttan? Now, that’s a commute. I’ll venture a guess. Bucks County. yes? Princeton Junction to Penn Station?

    As for the 70s: a minority of fellas thwarted the prevailing fashions by steadily renouncing wide ties and lapels, sideburns, and longish hair. It was a moment when even conservative gents skipped a visit to the barber, so clean cut crowd must have seemed positively reactionary.

    That said, the 70s functioned as a corrective of sorts. The weirdo narrowness of the 60s was amended. The Golden Mean, which I’ll place somewhere between 3″ and 3.25″, prevailed. Nowadays, with the interwebs giving voice to any and all tastes and styles and dimensions, anything goes. Best to stick with whatever the Prenners deem correct.

  11. Weird coincidences today. Did this post, Final Jeopardy question was about San Francisco, then Netflix film arrived: Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmin,” set in SF.

  12. Vern Trotter | March 23, 2015 at 9:48 pm |

    I wore these hats for many years, always from Brooks. I stopped wearing them in the mid 70s. I started wearing them again on 9/11 when I bought my current one from Locke & Co in London.

    They are not real practical in Manhattan because they easily blow off. Also many establishments do not have a hatcheck so they are a pain. They convey a sense of authority and certain socio-economic groups think you are “the man!”

  13. Another famous San Franciscan detective…but not “Ivy” at all;

  14. that looks like the prison from Green Mile.

  15. I’m not sure why I never watched this show. I loved The Thin Man and always watch when TCM has a marathon (usually New Year’s).

    The show I used to watch after school was San Francisco Beat. It was originally called The Lineup. From the early 50s, it has the look of The Maltese Falcon – a non romanticized SF.

  16. Charlottesville | March 24, 2015 at 1:45 pm |

    Thanks, Christian. I had all but forgotten “The Streets of San Francisco.” It probably has more to do with my father’s example than Carl Malden’s, but I still wear a fedora most days and have done so since the mid-80s when it was decidedly not the thing for men in their 20s and 30s. I find it practical in cold and/or wet weather. The one I wore to work today is from Dobbs, but I have others from Brooks, J. Press, Christys’, and Lock, and have had at least one Stetson at some point in the past. The Dobbs looks a lot like Don Draper’s, but some of the others have slightly wider brims. In summer, I switch to straw fedoras which shield my, now thinly upholstered, dome from the sun. Along with Mr. Trotter, I miss hatcheck. These days coat check rooms are the exception rather than the rule, even at places that should know better, and hat racks are few and far between. At least my office includes an old, government-issue, wood and brass hat-and-coat rack that my wife acquired from some flea market along the way, and the mud room at home has ample shelves and hooks.

  17. Charlottesville, we are two peas in a pod. I also started my fedora wearing in the late 80s, when I was in my 20s, and also wear straw fedora-style hats in the summer. And yes, I, too, am vexed by the absence of cloak rooms, hat racks, and all the other institutions that aided the hat-wearer in his quotidian needs.

    Having said that, I understand that the expected tip for checking a hat was pretty high, and back in the day, when hats were plentiful and affordable, the tips one spent in a month could buy one a new hat!

    I put a few large coat hooks on the inside of one of my bedroom closet doors for hanging my hats. Works like a dream.

  18. Charlottesville | March 24, 2015 at 4:00 pm |

    Henry – You are not the first to recognize the fiscal upside of avoiding hatcheck rooms. In a scene from the 1957 film “Sweet Smell of Success,” much of which was filmed on the streets of Manhattan and at ’21’, Tony Curtis goes coatless to avoid paying tips to “every hatcheck girl in town.” Incidentally, ’21 is one of a handful of places that still has a designated room for checking hats and coats, and I am afraid that I tend to over tip when I am there once a year or so. However, a few bucks a year is a small price to pay for such a rare and civilized transaction. As a Central California resident, you can take comfort in hanging your hat from one of the wall hooks at Tadich Grill at no charge the next time you are in San Francisco.

  19. Vern Trotter | March 24, 2015 at 5:59 pm |

    Henry & Charlottesville,

    An upside of coat/hat check rooms is they usually have a treasure trove of forgotten umbrellas. You can take your pick. I recently picked up a St. Andrews British Open large golf umbrella, gave the girl five bucks and Bob’s Your Uncle! Been doing this for many years.

  20. Charlottesville | March 25, 2015 at 9:37 am |

    Dear Mr. Trotter — If you happen to have picked up the Brigg umbrella I left at the Old Ebbitt Grill 25 years ago, I will gladly redeem it for a handsome tip and shipping costs.

  21. Note: Carl Malden’ s trousers, that’s called “drape”, something you don’t get with “slim fit”. 😉

  22. Malden was a great classic traditional dresser. Wonder if he shopped at Cable Car Clothiers in SF?
    My only dislike is the tie knot. I hate both Windsors and half-Windsors.

  23. @Henry and Charlottesville

    I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I feel it is my duty as one of the younger regulars on this site to inform you about trends of which you are most likely unaware.

    For the younger generation, one who wears fedoras is known to be a “neck-beard” or “m’lady.” This usually means they are obnoxious internet atheists who flaunt their unbelief on the comment sections of blogs or religious forums. Furthermore, those who wear fedoras usually have fantastically bad taste in clothing, music, and entertainment.

    Here is one of many examples of a meme that has been made to capture this character:

  24. Charlottesville | March 26, 2015 at 4:59 pm |

    JDD — I was not aware of the atheist connotation, but I assure you that I am all too familiar with the dreadful skinny-brimmed, ill-crafted “fedoras” that sprouted on the pates of neck-bearded hipsters a few years ago and, like the tatoo before, quickly filtered down to every backwater middle school and shopping mall in the hinterlands. I can’t seem to view the .jpg you linked to for some reason, but I assume it would show someone wearing a hat of this type. Parenthetically, I note that I earnestly hope the lumbersexual look will die, unmourned, in Brooklyn before it inflicts itself on my part of the world and I have to gaze on a sea of rolled selvedge jeans with clip-on suspenders, Woolrich shirts and $1,200 cordovan “work” boots. Perhaps someone in his 20s can no longer risk a hat for the reason you mention. However, the off-white straw and gray or brown fur felt fedoras I wear have little in common with the headgear of that crowd, and I imagine Henry would say much the same. It is unlikely that good hats will return to general circulation, but you might be surprised how many complements you get simply by wearing a well-made classic fedora with a well-made classic suit, shirt and tie. As for the religious implications, I can only hope that I am not refused communion on Sunday if my gray felt Dobbs Dayton is spotted as I enter the church. By the way, best wishes for Palm Sunday and peace be with you.

  25. JDD, thank you for the info. Although I knew that cheap, stingy-brimmed trilbies were favored by D&D-playing, duster-wearing, fashion sense-lacking geeks, nerds, and dweebs, I was unaware of the atheist connection.

    I will piggyback on Charlottesville’s response: given that I wear nice, broad-brimmed fedoras, and that I wear them with suits, blazers, sport coats, and always a tie, I, like Charlottesville, am unlikely to be mistaken for such a neckbeard. Regardless, I appreciate your concern.

    And the compliments? I get them all the time, though that’s not why I dress the way I do.

  26. Most ‘neck-beard’ references I’ve seen are for relatively chubby, a little creepy, and transfer their social awkwardness to others via their sense of self-confidence, like Don Knotts. Never heard of an atheist connection.

    On topic: my father still dresses like Karl Malden.

  27. “The coldest winter I ever spent…” line is often attributed to Twain, but he probably didn’t say it. I remember a piece by San Francisco columnist Herb Caen claiming that it was a really writer from Portland, Oregon. Please don’t ask me his name. Good line, though.

    My favorite story about San Francisco weather is the one about two grande dames from Boston who stepped out of the Fairmont Hotel one July morning. The first remarked, “I’m surprised that it’s so chilly in here.” “Of course it is,” her friend answered. “We’re three thousand miles from the ocean.”

  28. I lived in San Francisco circa 1974-76, when a “studio” apartment in a small clean building on the California Avenue cable car line just west of the crest of Nob Hill cost all of $90 per month.

    One day I passed a downtown men’s store which displayed a plaque engraved with the name of suit maker Hart Schaffner & Marx under which someone has written graffiti in a black marker that read “Nixon’s best friend.”

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