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Nail the California Look: NorCal Vs. SoCal
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Nail the California Look: NorCal Vs. SoCal

Between the on-the-go outfits typical of NorCal to the Instagram-explore-page looks of SoCal, anything can pass as a so-called California.

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6 min read

October 29, 2021

It’s no secret that Californians have amazing style. Between the practical chic, on-the-go outfits typical of NorCal to the Instagram-explore-page-come-to-life looks typical of SoCal, anything and everything can pass as a so-called California look. While we don’t claim to have any authority to tell you what to wear to nail the California style, what we can do is give you a few pointers that’ll help you seamlessly blend in on both ends of the state. Sounds intriguing? Here are all the staple pieces you need in your closest to nail the California look.

How To Nail the Southern California Style

While swimsuit season is year-round in SoCal, now's the time to restock on splash-ready pieces before the rising temps spark a retail therapy dash.

A Great Sustainable Swimsuit 

If you live in SoCal and aren’t going to the beach every chance you get, you’re missing out big time. And if you’re seizing that opportunity, then you already know that your fellow Southern Californians bring their A-game when it comes to beachwear. So, a cool yet practical swimsuit is a non-negotiable staple of Southern California style. Wondering where you should shop? We have an entire article that’ll help you nail your beach style with sustainable pieces.

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Classic Pair of Sunglasses

Living in sunny SoCal calls for having a trustee pair of sunglasses that you take with you everywhere, day and night, shamelessly. So, the key here is to invest in a pair that’ll not only look good but also last a long time and match everything. Los Angeles-based brand Garrett Leight has seriously cool sunglasses that’ll take your California look to the next level. From classic shapes like Coopers S to trendier frames like Mayan Sun, this California brand has Los Angeles style down to a T.

Nothing but blue skies and flowy dresses! If a dress can twirl, it's a good dress. Photo courtesy of For Love and Lemons.

Flowy Everyday Dress

You can’t go wrong with an easy-to-style, flowy dress wherever you are in the world. But, if you’re living in Southern California, this clothing item is more of a need than a want. Whether you’re running errands, heading to the beach, or just hanging out, a comfy yet flattering dress is a California-style staple you’re going to reach out for time and time again. L.A.-based brand For Love and Lemons has a wide variety of pretty dresses on their website which they update regularly—check them out! 

Sandal for Every Occasion

Don’t get us wrong, we love a good pair of sneakers as much as the next person. But, when the weather permits (which is almost always the case in SoCal), nothing elevates an outfit like a good pair of sandals. Add the Emerald sandals from Jeffrey Campbell to your rotation of California looks and get ready for the influx of compliments. If you don’t mind a bit of a high heel, the Una-Flor sandals are also divine.

When in doubt, wear denim. White shirt. Ripped jeans. Black heels. There you go. Photo courtesy of RE/DONE.

Top Tier Denim

California designated denim as the official state fabric in 2016; no, we’re not kidding. While denim was invented in San Francisco during the Gold Rush Era, most people associate the fabric more closely to the Southern California style. And if we’re being honest, one good pair of light and another one of dark jeans should be in your wardrobe at all times wherever you are in the state. If you want a pair that’ll last forever, shop from vintage Inspired brand RE/DONE.

Although their jeans lean more towards the pricier side, they’re absolutely worth the purchase for how good of quality they are. Plus, their styles won’t ever go out of fashion, so you’ll have your California look on lock for years to come. But if you prefer to spend less money on denim, a pair of Levi’s 501s are just as good and timeless.

All the Items You Need to Rock the Northern California Style

Walk into any room and you're guaranteed to see at least one person in a bomb jacket. Photo courtesy of Lisa Says Gah.

Trendy yet Timeless Outerwear

The weather is still very pleasant in Northern California, but it does tend to get a little chillier and gloomier around the fall and winter months. So, you have to accept the fact that your outerwear will steal all the spotlight from the rest of your outfit for a good 4–5 months throughout the year. That won’t be an issue at all if you make a good trench coat or jacket a part of your NorCal style. This Gaba Polo Jacket from S.F.-based Lisa Says Gah is super trendy and chic, so give it a look!

It’s that perfect time of year when the weather starts to cool down and those #sneakergame memories flood back…

Great Pair of Sneakers 

People basically live in sneakers in 2021, so we doubt you don’t already have a pair or two on constant rotation as a part of your Northern California style. In an age where people bid on shoes, spend more money on them than on fine jewelry, and wait in line for hours before releases, your sneakers say more about you than probably any other part of your outfit. Check out California’s coolest online stores for streetwear to find a pair that resonates with you most. If you prefer to wear sustainable shoes, we have an article on that for you as well.

As the air gets crisper, your entire wardrobe shifts from sandals to layered outfits. Photo courtesy of American Giant.

Practical Layers

Smart layering is the key to looking and feeling your best and most comfortable during the colder months, which is why having a good collection of sweaters, leggings, and zip-ups as a part of your NorCal style is crucial. Look no further than San Francisco-based brand American Giant for great quality wardrobe basics that are easy to style and match. American Giant’s clothing is perfect for layering with bolder and brighter statement pieces and completing the California look.

BRB, replacing our feelings with a new bag. Totes are like friends, you can never have too many! Photo courtesy of Cuyana.

A Trustee Tote

Tote bags have become trendy in 2021, but they’re nothing new when it comes to trendy Northern California style. Practical San Franciscans have been carrying around cool totes for a long time now, and the world is just now catching up. Want to get in on the trend? Nail the Northern California look with a tote from local brand Cuyana. Their newest System Tote is designed to adjust with customizable add-on compartments and made to fit every role you play in your day-to-day life. Did we mention it’s totally chic to carry around?

Trendy jewelry is the style statement every urban woman craves for. Let your desire meet style. Photo courtesy of Marisa Mason.

Cool Jewelry

Last but not least, we’ve noticed Northern Californians take their jewelry game pretty seriously, and we’re all for it. So, the very last step in nailing your NorCal style is investing in jewelry pieces you’re willing to never take off. Whether it’s a dainty chain, an heirloom bracelet, or an eye-catching ring, adding a bit of tasteful bling to your outfit will help complete your California look. Check out Holly Yashi and Marisa Mason for pretty jewelry made in Northern California. If you’re on the hunt for something more for a ~ special occasion ~ Rebecca Overmann is another local brand making beautiful pieces in San Francisco.

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