East Bay Fashion Gets Freer, Bolder, More Enduring

But the general feeling is still “anything goes.”


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Jeremy Smith

Photo by Lance Yamamoto

In the East Bay, men are perhaps freer than they are in other places to express their personal style. The article from 2014 in The New York Times also featured barber, blogger, and Oakland resident Pierre Jones dressed in his signature khaki shorts, V-neck sweater, and gold teeth — such distinct style makes him instantly recognizable when spotted around town. In general, East Bay men take more risks with hairstyles, facial hair, and jewelry. It’s not uncommon to see tattooed arms peeking out from under a T-shirt’s sleeves or for someone to wear a smart blazer on top with basic sneakers below. Occasionally, someone — like the aforementioned Mr. Jones — will be dressed to the nines on an average Tuesday. But what are the rest of the men who like to look good without pushing boundaries going to do?

Tommy Mierzwinski opened his denim-centric menswear clothing store, Two Jacks Denim, in Uptown in 2013. His customers now express an affinity for longer-lasting pieces, especially selvedge denim. Selvedge denim “molds to your body and fades at your natural creases,” he said, explaining this means that over time, one’s selvedge denim jeans become molded to one’s body, and in this way, they are essentially customizable.

“Here you are what you wear. Your style depends on age, music groove, and lifestyle: punk vs. techno vs. hip-hop; service industry vs. tech industry vs. creative; burner vs. beer bro vs. crafter. All have their own style,” Mierzwinski said. “Overall, anything goes in [the East Bay].”

Mierzwinski’s long-term goal is to get men to invest more in their clothing, which for him requires continued trading in “slow fashion, not disposable fast fashion” where high-quality denim and other basics are involved.

“We listen to our customers and take the time to find the best fit and style for them,” Mierzwinski said.

Jeremy Smith of Standard & Strange, a menswear retailer in Temescal Alley, also focuses his inventory on high-quality basics. 

“East Bay style is becoming broader and more interesting over time, which is reflective of Street Style in general. We’re at an anything goes point for men’s apparel,” Smith said. “People definitely respond to our core story, which remains buy fewer, better things.”

As at Two Jacks Denim, Standard & Strange shoppers are more inclined to spend big, shelling out $250 for one pair of jeans instead of $50 on six pairs of poorly constructed denim that will need to be replaced much sooner, Smith said. Smith said appreciates how men take what they buy at Standard & Strange and make it their own style.

“It’s cool to see someone walk in, grab a reproduction WW II-era MA2 bomber jacket from The Real McCoy’s — a Japanese brand offering reproduced vintage military, work wear and sportswear clothing — and combine it with very modern sneakers and denim,” he said.

Getting down into the nitty-gritty about what gets heavy rotation around the East Bay, Smith said, “The dominant denim cut right now is the Back to the Future cut. It’s a very early-1980s fit with a roomy block top and then a tight taper to the ankle.” Whereas jeans with wide leg openings were popular a few decades ago, those transitioned to very skinny jeans, but the Back to the Future cut works better with the streamlined sneakers men are showing favor for these days, Smith said.

“We do get guys sizing up a few sizes for a very anti-fit look and some sizing down for a tighter style. Almost everyone is doing more of a high-water thing, with cuffs and hems ending above the shoe rather than stacking on the shoe,” he said. It’s a concept that most women are already hip to, because, as women intuitively know, the shoes do make the outfit.

All trends aside, men’s fashion in the East Bay appears just as eclectic as women’s, with men moving into a new era in which they are free to dress however they please. That could be the high-quality denim and everyday wear from Two Jacks, Standard & Strange, and the like, or it could manifest as a totally different expression of personal style.

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