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What to Wear in San Francisco: A Packing List for Your Next Trip
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What to Wear in San Francisco: A Packing List for Your Next Trip

With a few key staples on your packing list, you’ll avoid a wardrobe malfunction like a pro. Discover what to wear in San Francisco now.

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5 min read

November 15, 2021

We love San Francisco, we really do, but boy is the weather inconsistent over there. One minute you’re having a lovely stroll on the wharf. The next, Karl is slowly looming over with an impending rainstorm and you’re running for shelter. So, to prepare for the complex microclimate in San Francisco—and the other smaller microclimates within that microclimate—you need to know what to pack.

Your list of what to wear in San Francisco (and similarly, what not to wear in San Francisco) largely varies based on what month you choose to visit the city. With a few key staples on your packing list, you’ll be swiftly avoiding a wardrobe malfunction like a pro.

Still wondering what guys wear in San Francisco? Read on and all your mysteries will be solved.

While S.F. embraces an eclectic mix of styles, the easiest way to stand out is to dress poorly for the cool, windy, and foggy marine weather.

The Ultimate San Francisco Packing List: Summer

Mark Twain once wrote: “The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco.” And yes, it’s accurate, so don’t pack your tanning oil and beach towel just yet. While you might not exactly be freezing, you definitely won’t be able to wear sandals and shorts all day, every day. Here’s what to wear in San Francisco during the “summer” months.

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Layers 

No matter how much you pre-plan, summer in S.F. can and will remain unpredictable. So, the best thing you can do when it comes to deciding what to wear in San Francisco from June to August is to have handy layers in your luggage. Think short-sleeved shirts and jackets or long-sleeved shirts and puffer vests—you have to be ready for the worst-case scenario. 

In San Francisco, where the outlandish and subtle mix together, it’s hard to look like you don’t fit in here.

Jeans or Pants

If we’re being honest, a classic pair of jeans should be on your packing list wherever and whenever you’re going. Trust Levi’s to have a pair that’ll fit like it was made for you. If you’re shopping in San Francisco, get your jeans in the town they were born in!

Warm Sweater

Not the biggest fan of layering clothes? Throw an oversized sweater you can wear over anything in your luggage, and you’ll be good to go. California-based brand The Elder Statesman makes the coziest, softest, and most high-quality cashmere sweaters ever—check it out if you don’t mind the splurge. 

That always-sunny-beach stereotype? That’s really Southern California, and that reputation doesn’t stretch to San Francisco.

What To Wear in San Francisco: Fall

The warmer fall months in San Francisco make up for the chilly summers. Two months of sunshine and fogless skies allow San Franciscans to hit up the beaches and not panic over forgetting their umbrellas at home. Need help deciding what to wear? Your San Francisco packing list could benefit from these items.

From muted business casual to colorful retro resurgences, style in S.F. comes in many flavors. Photo courtesy of For Love and Lemons.

Lightweight Dress

A hot September’s day in San Francisco calls for lightweight fabrics and flowy silhouettes. That’s why the Simona Midi Dress from For Love and Lemons is a perfect choice of dress to add to your San Francisco packing list for fall.

Swimsuit

If you visit San Francisco during the earlier autumn months, chances are pretty high that you’ll experience prime beach-going weather. Don’t make the mistake of leaving your swimsuits at home and check out California’s sustainable swimwear brands for pieces that are both cute and eco-conscious. 

Sunglasses

With the sun out and about more often, you’ll need a pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes from the rays. Invest in a pair that’ll not only look good, but also last a long time. Los Angeles-based brand Garrett Leight has seriously cool frames that'll help you rock your S.F. style with effortless ease.

The city has a set of microclimates that, at any time of the year, might make it chilly and foggy by Ocean Beach, but sunny and warm in The Mission.

San Francisco Packing List: Winter

Think of what you would wear during a typical fall season; that’s basically what to wear in San Francisco in winter. The weather will be chilly and require you to dress up in layers. But other than that, the cold will be totally bearable. 

Bonus: you might want to pack a fancier dress just in case you end up going to a Christmas party.

Water Resistant Boots

While winters in San Francisco are warmer than in the rest of the country, they aren’t really as warm as, let’s say, Southern California. The clouds and fog are commonly accompanied by rainfall, which is why we classify boots as a must-pack for your S.F. trip. Make sure your boots are made of a material that won’t get damp too easily, so you can do your exploring without the uncomfortable feeling of soggy socks.

The Bromley is a long sleeve, midi length coat with a relaxed fit and two functional front pockets. Photo courtesy of Reformation.

Trench Coat

A puffer jacket for colder days and a cool trench coat for the warmer days are common outerwear choices for winters in the Bay Area. And if there’s one piece you should consider dropping a pretty penny on, it’s outerwear. Not only is a trench coat the first (and sometimes even only) item people see on you for a good 4–5 months throughout the year, but it can also seriously elevate an otherwise basic outfit to the next level. Take a look at the Bromley Coat from Reformation, a showstopper and a great example of what to wear in San Francisco. Are we right or are we right?

Umbrella

This one feels like an obvious entry, but we always forget to add an umbrella to our San Francisco packing list. Choose something compact, lightweight, and easy to carry around in your bag. The last thing you want to do is lodge around a large umbrella or forget it in a cab as you’re running around a new city. 

Wearing a short, flowy dress or skirt is a Marilyn Monroe moment waiting to happen in the windy city of San Francisco.

What To Wear in San Francisco: Spring

Spring is very pleasant in San Francisco, with longer days and warmer temperatures. You might still want to pack a sweater or two just in case the evenings get chilly, but overall, you’ll be fine if you wear your summer clothes with a light jacket.

Comfortable Capsule

Since spring is prime exploring weather in the Bay Area, put practicality first as you decide what to wear in San Francisco. Think athleisure sets, denim, T-shirts, and comfortable sweaters. James Perse makes staple and easy-to-style pieces for both men and women that fit the category perfectly.

Sneakers or Loafers

Like 90 percent of people today, you probably already have a pair or two of comfy sneakers in your closet on constant rotation. Add your favorite sneakers, a trendy chunky loafer, or maybe even a versatile ankle boot to your San Francisco packing list, and you’ll be on top of your footwear game. If you’re looking for a new pair of shoes, check out California’s coolest online stores for the best new releases. 

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