When it comes to great places to shop for fine clothing, it’s usually a woman’s world. But here in San Francisco, there are a few men’s clothing and accessories emporia that would make any girl a bit jealous. With impressive offerings, stylish décor and extraordinary personal service, Cable Car Clothiers, Wilkes Bashford and Wingtip transform a regular shopping experience into a can’t-miss event.
The dapper Charlie Pivnick opened the original shop in 1946 as a war surplus store, but in the following years it morphed into one of the most popular men’s specialty stores in the city. Pivnick wanted to offer his clientele handcrafted woolen suits by Robert Kirk, Scottish cashmere sweaters, club ties in his signature cable car pattern and good service. His oldest grandson, Jonathan Levin, who now runs the shop at 110 Sutter Street in the Financial District, continues in the same vein, with modern additions such as made-to-measure hats by James Lock & Co., grooming tools by Camila Solingen and handmade walking sticks. There’s also an onsite two-chair barbershop that’s straight out of the 1940s — Nicky the Barber runs it — where you can receive trims and hot shaves topped off with a splash of Royall Bay Rhum.
This Union Square store has been outfitting bold-name San Franciscans since 1966, and the man behind the department store is something of a San Francisco legend, too. Guests at Mr. Bashford’s recent 80th birthday bash included familiar faces such as former Mayor Willie Brown, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi and former Secretary of State George Shultz. The shop currently occupies a seven-story townhouse — Wilkes moved across the street from its original location in 1984 — and is known as a place for big spenders with a taste for fine European imports. Be on the lookout for items such as Loro Piana cashmere, suits by Kiton and Ermenegildo Zegna, and footwear by Brioni. If your salesperson takes a liking to you, he or she may even break out canapés and a tumbler of bourbon.
Situated in the shadow of the Transamerica Pyramid, Wingtip offers an immersive shopping experience in the Carrara marble- and gilt-encrusted space that once housed the Bank of Italy — it’s a lesson in all things opulent. Previously involved in the software business, owner Ami Arad is now a purveyor of cashmere sweaters in every hue, Peter Millar sportswear, Wolverine boots, Mulholland bags and classic sunglasses by Gold & Wood. The shop’s downstairs vault is where clients are measured for bespoke suits, ties, hats and belts under the gaze of silver-screen dandies such as Gary Cooper and Cary Grant. Cigars and culinary accessories like Shun knives, barware and books on entertaining — plus a planned retail wine and spirits department — make it a complete lifestyle store. After picking up some new wardrobe essentials, members can pop up to the tenth floor for 30-year-old Highland Park scotch and a cheese plate at the Club at Wingtip (fun fact: the seating is upholstered with luxe Dormeuil suiting fabrics). Veteran barman Brian MacGregor runs the imbibing space, which offers educational tastings of brown spirits. Monthly club dues can be used towards purchases — an idea we find quite fashionable.
Photos Courtesy of Cable Car Clothiers, John Lee Pictures and Romulo Yanes