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The Lower Haight

Must-Stops in the Neighborhood

Going to the Lower Haight usually means that there is a night of bar hopping and cheap eating in the very near future. For drinking there's Toronado, Molotov's, Mad Dog in the Fog, and Noc Noc, and for good but cheap food perfect for pre- or post-imbibing, there's Naan N' Chutney, Ali Baba's, Rosamunde, and a late snack of pizza from Mythic or Volare's, but lately there's a lot more to this neighborhood than food and drink.

Although there have always been a few mainstays -- most notably Life and Upper Playground -- the last few years have seen a number of cool and funky shops. And, you can do your weekend shopping here without fighting hordes of tourists.

Upper Playground and FIFTY24SF Gallery
Start your shopping extravaganza at Upper Playground, a hip store where you can stock up on shirts, bags, and hats designed by Sam Flores, Estevan Oriol, Jeremy Fish, Herbert Baglione, David Choe, and Morning Breath, among others. Most shirts go for approximately $24, and if you ever wondered where you can get those hoodies with the names of the neighborhoods (some so specific that you might as well wear your address) this is the place.

Something to write in your calendar: Upper Playground will have an opening celebration for a new location on July 1st. Located at 218 Fillmore Street, this store will be an addition to the existing location and will feature a women's apparel line and accessories.

A couple of doors down is FIFTY24SF, the venue of choice for hipsters searching for urban art. Upcoming shows include Kami and Sasu from Tokyo, Japan in June, and Jeremy Fish in July. The opening receptions may be crowded, but it's a good place to see what the local fashion-forward set is wearing and the art is always fresh.

Haight Street Work Clothes
Haight Street Work Clothes is a newcomer. Filled with Dickies brand clothes, camouflage jackets, and outdoor work clothes that double as urban/hip-hop outerwear, this no-frills men's store is a welcome addition to the neighborhood; imagine an Army surplus store with a few name brands where the items are well-priced and the staff is friendly.

A Schott navy peacoat will set you back $149, Carhartt thermal sweaters are $69.99, and Ben Davis pants retail for $35.99. Because they're next to a popular marijuana club, it may not come as a surprise that one of their best-sellers is a leather belt with marijuana leaves that costs $19.99.

Doe
A few doors away, you'll notice a mural of a forest drawn by Jill Bliss, a local artist, for Doe. The cute orange deer on a hanging board above the store's door is Doe's mascot. Inside, you'll find pretty stationery, hip jewelry and clothes designed mostly by San Francisco artists such as Penelope Starr and Sunhee Moon. For cool children's gifts, check out the Dog and Pony Show bug shirts. The hand-screened tees were printed just for Doe and retail for $20. Proud San Franciscans will also love the leather belts with pewter or brass buckles that feature Sutro Tower for $40.

Life
Across the street is Life. Although the store opened in 1992, it closed for several months due to a fire above the store a couple of years ago. Hard work and strong will helped bring the store back to life and once again walker-bys can enjoy the sweet scents of exotic perfumes, essential oils and candles wafting from the store. The selection of silver jewelry, bold fabrics, and sarongs imported from Bali and India changes regularly. A recent addition to their offerings is a cute tea cup in the shape of a Japanese cartoon-like cat for approximately $13. You can get a temporary henna tattoo on Friday, Saturday and Sunday -- just call ahead to make an appointment.

Callou Designs
Tucked away from busy Haight street is Callou Designs, a small store that showcases Maria de Fatima Callou's latest clothing designs. The Brazilian native's collection of pants, jackets, and tops incorporates a riot of color, patchwork, and deconstruction while staying feminine and practical. Callou says she likes to include a Brazilian touch in her creations, sometimes she simply adds her country's flag; other times she makes the item a little more open and sexy as it would be worn in Brazil. She's inspired by things she sees here and in other countries. She travels as often as she can and is planning a trip to Bali soon. Expect to see an Asian/island influence in upcoming designs.

Most items are sold for around $50 and Callou is always happy to custom-tailor clothes and costumes, making her shop a must-stop when planning for Halloween or Burning Man. She also alters items purchased elsewhere.