Neo-Prep News: Chens On SF Prep For The Nob Hill Gazette

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post on Cable Car Clothiers, here’s another San Francisco treat, a little piece on prep I did a few years ago for the Nob Hill Gazette, for which I’m still scribing. — CC

* * *

Back in the year 2000, I finally got myself to the big city: San Francisco. It wasn’t very far, just 60 miles from where I grew up, but a big change.

Full of an earnest interest in elegance and an ironic fascination with social hierarchy, I reached out to the society paper The Nob Hill Gazette, which gladly threw some assignments at me. As I recall, one was about buying a European noble title (such as a baronetcy), which in France and Scotland are passed down via land instead of primogeniture. I interviewed some upper-class British fellow living in SF who said “It’s all so very middle class,” in the most contemptuous drawl you can imagine, so in other words I was having a good time.

The magazine even did a segment on the local TV morning show and had me on as an eligible bachelor (I think I modeled pajamas), yet another example of why you shouldn’t trust the media.

Recently I reconnected with the publication, and, despite now living in New York, they’ve been keeping me busy. My first story just came out and is a little ode to San Francisco as a West Coast bastion of trad style. An Ivy Style reader provided some quotes, along with the illustrious Richard Press, and the delightful Scot Meacham Wood.

Here’s a tease:

In the years before the Summer of Love, San Francisco (along with its alter ego, Pasadena, to the south) was California’s prime WASP outpost, a pocket of Eastern genteelism and discrete good taste in the Brooks Brothers mold. You can glimpse this vanished world both in the 1961 Nob Hill-set comedy The Pleasure of His Company, starring Fred Astaire, and in the ’70s TV show The Streets Of San Francisco, where Karl Malden plays an old-school detective clad in button-down shirts, rep ties and gray suits that would have been right at home on Madison Avenue.

The style was originally known as the Ivy League Look, but when that went the way of pipes and supper clubs, the sporty remains were christened “preppy.” By 1980, that sacred document of American social history — Lisa Birnbach’s The Official Preppy Handbook — became a bestseller, punctuated with references to such San Francisco institutions as Perry’s, the Bohemian Club, the Stanford Court hotel, Balboa Cafe and the St. Francis Yacht Club. They were ideal spots for drinking bloody marys and being rich and dull.

Head over here for the full story. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD

28 Comments on "Neo-Prep News: Chens On SF Prep For The Nob Hill Gazette"

  1. Great picture of Scott Meacham Wood. The mustache suits him. Looks like an English aristocrat. Add an English Lab, tattersall shirt, Cheviot tweed jacket, Cavalry Twills, a bottle of Lagavulin, and a Barbour Border, and he’s the lead in Julian Fellowes’ next offering.

    Smart of him to lose the glasses and start combing the (slightly slicked) hair back.

  2. Scot should replace Ralph Fiennes as M in the next James Bond movie.

  3. Five years ago, San Fran was voted America’s preppiest city, but I doubt that that’s true today.

    In the past few years the homeless population has exploded on the west coast leaving cities like San Francisco plagued by zombie-like drug addicts and sidewalks fouled by human feces. In the Mission district there are rows of tents where the homeless live under the freeway. It is really a tragedy for the world’s most beautiful city.

    I am scared to visit San Fran again these days, and I am planning to vacation in Charleston instead.

  4. I haven’t been to San Francisco in years but I remember it being a marvel. I wish I had known about Cable Car back then. More reason to visit again I guess.

  5. Old School Tie | September 16, 2018 at 6:00 pm |

    S.E. – I disagree. Totally. He looks absolutely nothing like an English aristocrat. You presumably have had very little to do with them, so can be forgiven. He does, on tve other hand, look like your typical golf club member from the home counties circa 1982. Very, well, very Terry and June really….

  6. Scot is an American/Hollywood idea of what an upper crust Brit looks like. They are far less healthy looking. By the way, can anyone identify the Timex model that he’s wearing?

  7. James J. Horton | September 17, 2018 at 4:16 am |

    Scot certainly got the watch right, a Timex. No English aristocrat (or country gentleman) would be caught dead wearing a flashy wristwatch.

  8. “Scot is an American/Hollywood idea of what an upper crust Brit looks like. They are far less healthy looking…”

    It’s not easy to pull off the aristocratic mustache. With all the negative affiliations (the 1970s, hipsters, Burt Reynolds, etc.), all the pieces have to be in place.

    He should go (and stick) with a British Country vibe for his clothes. Suits him.


  9. Looks a bit like Roderick Spode from the PBS Wodehouse series.


  10. Greetings gents,

    This is easily the most chatter either my watch or my mustache has ever received. lol. Thanks for the feedback!


  11. Old School Tie | September 17, 2018 at 12:07 pm |

    British aristocrats, Timex? Ok….

  12. Old School Tie:


  13. Simplex Munditiis | September 17, 2018 at 1:20 pm |

    Please do be so kind as to let us know what watch that is.

  14. He looks great. Damned great!

    As the mustache–the Edward Elgar remains top of the heap, but there’s a lot to be said for the Guardsman’s (a.k.a. “Dean Acheson”).

    Runners up: The “Taft” (William Howard) and the “Holmes” (O.W. Jr.).

  15. Simplex,

    I think it might easily the cheapest watch they make – lol – a stainless Waterbury.


  16. Mr. Wood’s mustache looks like John Hillerman’s (AKA Higgins on Magnum P.I.). Very English country gentleman.

  17. I recently bought a Timex Indiglo for $35 at my local drugstore. Maybe it was old stock because the Timex website shows no watches for under $100.

    As for Mr. Wood’s style, it appears to represent the best elements of trad: comfort, style and timelessness.

  18. Charlottesville | September 17, 2018 at 4:26 pm |

    Nice article, Christian, and Mr. Wood looks great in his mustache.

    Mitchell S. – I think you will enjoy Charleston. My wife and I spent Memorial Day week there this year, and while it is no longer the traditionalist’s Mecca it once was, it is still dressier than most smaller cities these days, and the food and architecture are delightful.

    GS – I too happen to be wearing a Timex Indiglo today, which I bought NIB on eBay for $10 about a year ago. It is stainless steel with a dark face and Arabic numerals. I added a made-in-USA Hadley Roma band bringing the total with shipping to something like $35. Most of my other watches are Hamiltons, which was the brand my father favored.

  19. Richard Meyer | September 17, 2018 at 4:27 pm |

    My D.C. club remains an oasis, with a strict jacket and tie dress code.

  20. Charlottesville, that’s an even better deal for a fine watch. I bought a “grosgrain” (nylon) strap for mine (blue with a maroon stripe) online. I was wrong about Timex not having any watches under $100, here is the exact model I bought for $35, it was probably on sale for some reason:

  21. Thanks, Charlottesville.

  22. One bastion of old San Francisco style was Jack’s Restaurant on Sacramento. Tuxedo clad, brusque waiters, one page tiny font menu that probably hadn’t changed since the Coolidge administration, and NO credit cards. You needed a house account or (gasp) cash.

  23. Bill C: Great reflection on Jack’s. Class.

  24. Robert C. Haines | September 18, 2018 at 12:15 am |

    I can confirm John Crichton’s views of the membership drift at the University Club; the management has gone out of their way to market memberships to people who would be better suited to The Battery. Or at a sports bar in the Marina. I can also confirm that trad clothing at the P-U Club is alive and thriving (although given the dress code, one only sees a narrow slice of the idiom).

  25. Timex 20491 (silver) and Timex 20501 (gold). So classic that they don’t even show the date. Both under 50 dollars.

  26. Charlottesville | September 18, 2018 at 12:19 pm |

    Jacks was a classic. Swan Oyster Depot and Tadich Grill were other favorites, although very different in atmosphere. The latter two are still around, I think, but I am sure much changed from the turn of the century when I was last there. So few places anywhere these days where a coat and tie are the norm.

  27. Vern Trotter | October 7, 2018 at 12:15 pm |

    Jack’s and Tadich Grill for sure. Some others used to be but always a chore to avoid the tourists in SF.

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