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Dress like Willie Brown: Former mayor’s annual clothes sale hits eBay

Willie Brown in a red suit and hat.
Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown has always had an impeccable fashion sense. Now some of his clothes are up for sale on eBay. | Source: Jason Henry for The Standard

San Francisco has a handful of special weeklong celebrations each year in which everyone stops what they’re doing, pays respects and parties with a singular uninterrupted focus. 

There is Fleet Week, with its U.S. Navy warships and sailboats, Blue Angel flybys and acne-scarred sailors scouring North Beach for some strange. And then there is Pride Week, with its parade floats, laser light shows and dance clubs, and more sailors in the Castro looking for some strange. 

But perhaps it’s time we make room for a new week, one in which all of San Francisco stops and takes part in the grandeur of … the annual Willie Brown Wardrobe Sale.

A plaid silk blazer.
Willie Brown’s plaid Kiton cashmere blazer was put up for bid on eBay. | Source: Courtesy eBay

For at least the last five years, the dapper former mayor of San Francisco has donated a portion of his closet to Goodwill. This year’s #WillieBrownCollection—posted on the secondhand store’s eBay page—has 36 items that include an assortment of silk blazers and cashmere jackets, designer Italian overcoats, a sick SF Black Wall Street varsity jacket and even a Nash Bridges zip-up for that nostalgic Don Johnson fan of the family who just can’t shake how wonderful the ’90s were.

The auction will last until Wednesday morning, and some of the slickest items have already received dozens of bids and topped over $200. Below are more of some of The Standard’s favorite selections.

A cashmere shirt.
The auction of clothing owned by former Mayor Willie Brown also includes a cashmere Maurizio Baldassari button-up shirt on eBay until Wednesday. | Source: Courtesy eBay

To be clear, this isn’t a joke. Mayor Brown’s swag has been well documented, from a shoutout by the Menswear Guy to a 2014 feature in SF Weekly that focused on Wilkes Bashford, Brown’s personal stylist over the years. 

In the SF Weekly story—bylined as a “staff report” but actually written by The Standard’s very own Jonah Owen Lamb, who at that time was still an un-jaded reporter ironing out his own look as a rockabilly handyman—the bespoke clothier explained what makes the former mayor so dapper.

“The reason he is so unique in his field and in his life is because he is comfortable in those clothes. … He’s gonna wear what he wants,” Bashford said. “There is a difference between being who you are … and believing in who you need to be, and flaunting something. Willie doesn’t flaunt. Willie is that person.”

An overcoat.
A brown taupe Kiton overcoat with reversible sleeves had 21 bids on eBay as of Thursday evening. | Source: Courtesy eBay

It should come with little surprise that a fair amount of items up for auction in this year’s sale were tailored items by Bashford.

Lee Houskeeper, a longtime press agent and close friend of Brown, said the relationship between the former mayor and his stylist, who died in 2016, was as tight as it gets. But also unsustainable.

“His relationship and deep friendship with Wilkes was responsible for his look and having more Brioni suits than anyone else,” Housekeeper said. “Wilkes somehow knew what was in his wardrobe, what needed to be in his wardrobe, what appealed to him and what was something that nobody else had.

A trenchcoat.

A front, back and detail of the label for Willie Brown's khaki trench coat, which is up for auction on eBay. | Source: Courtesy eBay

“Every time [Brown] went there, he walked out with another suit," he added. "There’s not enough room in his apartment for that.”

Brown was in meetings Thursday and unavailable for comment, but an official for Goodwill of the San Francisco Bay confirmed that the sale was authentic and the organization was grateful for the former mayor’s donations.

“He’s very generous and it's always some nice suits, sport coats, shirts—it’s not usually casual wear, although we sometimes get that,” said Andy Simons, associate vice president of e-commerce. “We keep asking for the darn hats, but we can't seem to get those.”

So there you have it. Henceforth, we dub the annual sale: Willie Brown Week.

Three images of clothes with photo prints: two men with a street sign, a collage with text, and a group of smiling people.
A graphic hoodie from the Willie Brown Collection is up for auction on eBay. The hoodie includes imagery of family and friends including California Gov. Gavin Newsom, left. | Source: Courtesy eBay

Josh Koehn can be reached at josh@sfstandard.com