While on my travels to San Francisco, I visited Distractions in Haight Ashbury – a bohemian area of the city situated close to the San Francisco Park. They cater for anyone with an interest in steampunk and Victorian culture as well as other genres.
It took me quite a while to get to Haight Ashbury in San Francisco. Arguably because I didn’t have a map and couldn’t find an information desk. I managed to get the correct bus and 20 minutes later I was in the Haights standing outside the shop.
As I crossed the threshold, my eyes became accustomed to the dark interior and I became giddy with excitement. The main floor and left wall are filled with racks of clothing from waistcoats (vests in the USA) to trousers and coats. There’s plenty of ladies costumes to the rear of the shop. The main desk runs the length of the right side of the shop and I was greeted warmly by Adam who worked there and I had a great chat with Jim, the owner. We talked about steampunk and how Distractions isn’t actually a steampunk shop so that it isn’t categorised in case it puts off potential customers who aren’t steampunks. He’s extremely knowledgeable and can answer any questions that you may have.
The wall behind the desk is full of hats from Steampunk Hatter and there are cabinets with wonderful accessories from hip flasks to canes. There’s also a display of goggles from Mack McGowen. You can purchase rings, which rotate in a cabinet to allow you to view them all.
Towards the back, there’s a small ramp and you descend into the rear of the shop where the more eclectic clothing and accessories are. One thing I noticed while strolling around Haights Ashbury that day was that glass, vibrantly coloured pipes are very popular at the moment and Distractions has a large range of these.
Prices range from $10 for small accessories to hundreds of dollars for larger items. My waistcoat cost me $60 which in the exchange rate was ok at around £45. If you think that it’s on the steep side, consider the fact that you’re in a large city. The way to get it cheaper is via the aethernet, but you don’t get the benefit of visiting the store and chatting to people.
The shop is decorated wonderfully with Victorian era inspired artwork and dark tones with wood finishes. Even the fitting room is a place where you’d want to exist as a steampunk.
The great news is that Distractions isn’t alone on that strip of road. There are a number of other shops that sell items that would please steampunks, including Loved to Death which is a shop featured on Oddities SF. They specialise in antiques, jewellery and taxidermy.
If you’re visiting San Francisco at any time in the future, you need to visit Distractions and also leave time for a stroll around the rest of the shops. I bought a lovely monocle and waistcoat from Distractions. I’ve been looking for a waistcoat that has lapels for several years, but British ones are styled differently. It just proves that if you want something, odds are they’ll have it.
While I chatted to Jim, he gave me a list of stores in the area that would cater for the steampunk and it’s this kind of community spirit and mentality that makes Distractions and The Haights such a lovely place to visit. The sunshine helped too.