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110 Sutter Street, Suite 108
San Francisco, CA 94104
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Cable Car Clothiers – Traditional Men’s Clothing

I visited this store twice as a visitor, not as a prospective product buyer or customer. My last visit was on August 10, 2010.

My first experience with this store was between 1994 and 1998. While walking around San Francisco I ran into this store’s impressive windows. The windows displayed the kind of merchandise that my father admires: traditional English men’s clothing. Those first encounters with Cable Car Clothiers left an indelible impression on me because of the unique products displayed on their windows: hats, shaving goods, ties, and bow ties, and other men’s clothing accessories such as umbrellas and even walking canes.

After a long and rich career in fashion and clothing retail, and after returning to the San Francisco Bay Area I made sure I paid a visit to what I found is an regional and national institution of men’s clothing.

Cable Car Clothiers is a traditional, old school, men's clothing store. This is the kind of men’s clothing store that is—sadly—in danger of extinction. This shop was, at least until my last visit, a no-frills, no-nonsense kind of place. The store is what it announces to be: A traditional men’s clothing store. By traditional clothing it is meant, clothing that men used to have to wear for work, such as a two piece suit, dress shirts, and sportswear, such as sports’ coats. Nowadays, you will probably only have to wear most of what they sell, if you work in the Finance or Banking sector, in the high-end/luxury goods retail sector, or if you are in politics—I think that former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown used to buy his hats here.

Please note that I did not visit this store as a potential product buyer—I cannot afford their stuff, but during both my visits I had very positive experiences. On both occasions I was allowed to wander through the store. The store is somewhat dark by today’s standards, but I don’t remember having any difficulty seeing the merchandise properly. When I passed by a counter station where a sales associate was sitting down—an admirable policy in any retail environment, but especially in this high-end clothing environment—I was politely acknowledged and greeted. I was then left to continue my wandering. All the staff looked busy, hustling and bustling around, or what appeared to be fulfilling online orders.

Although I don’t remember the brands carried by the store—quite possibly some of them are obscure even to the US GQ Editor in Chief—most of the products appeared to be of high quality. The patterns were tight, the construction and finish well executed. On my first visit, I was impressed by the no-frills, it’s-all-about-the-merchandise approach to their merchandising. This is a somewhat big boutique shop that was organized by sections (although such sections are not made evident by either the floor plan or the merchandising). On both of my two visits, the store had its merchandise well organized without the over-the-top neat-freak merchandising standards that are the standard today. As such, this store demonstrates a commitment to the visitor and prospective product buyer by organizing its merchandise properly, but by not wasting their human resources on superficial neatness.

In this store you will find world clas, high to ultimate quality men’s clothing. You will find all traditional men’s clothing: two and three piece suits, sports’ jackets, blazers, unfinished/to be tailored pants, and dress shirts. In these categories it appeared that you could choose from the ready to wear merchandise (to be tailored), the made to measure options, and the full, custom built options. I don’t know, but if there is someone who can make a custom built garment in San Francisco, and even the whole of the USA, these people are likely to be them.

The store also carries a sportswear section, but—I must admit—I am severely uninterested in that category of men’s clothing, and, as such, I don’t recall any impressive products.

Overall, I recommend this store to someone whose profession requires him to dress conservatively, and formally. Do note that all the traditional clothing here is of the English type. English men’s clothing is of high quality, and highly functional. You will not find here the tailored, pinched profiles of French and Italian clothing. The wools are heavy in comparison to their continental counterparts. That is fine if you live in San Francisco, but shopping here to build your LA, or Miami wardrobe would be a mistake. Shop here for the high quality of products, and the dapper bow ties and traditional men’s hats. If you hate the snobbery that is common in high-end men’s clothing stores, you will appreciate the no frills environment of this fine traditional British men's clothing store.

May 1, 2012
By: Pedro Pôla

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