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Black Scale

Streetwear Grows Up

Started by three San Franciscans, Black Scale has quickly moved up in the ranks of streetwear since its birth two years ago. The flossy flagship is a quick elevator ride up to a second floor on Grant Street, among stores like Camper, Miss Sixty, Energie and Sisley. Unarguably required visiting for the discerning fancier of streetwear with a stylish yet sophisticated edge.

Former Huf General Manager Mega (Michael Yabut) founded the Black Scale brand with Alfred De Tagle (a former manager at Huf whose been DJing as DJ Dé in the Bay since ’93) and Alex Aquino (International Turntable Federation president with longstanding ties to the Rock Steady b-boy crew and director of marketing at Ankh Marketing) two years ago with a line of t-shirts. Since then, the Black Scale Flagship Store opened on Black Friday of last year and the collections now include denim, hats, woven shirts, jackets, shoes and accessories.

Everything in the boutique is of the Black Label brand and the spring collection just dropped. Dubbed “Intuition Experiment,” this collection is about being inspired and moving forward without excessive thought and analysis. Standout pieces include the purple wax waterproof canvas anorak, hooded varsity coat, waxed black long sleeve button-up, waxed black 14-ounce denim and 15-ounce Japanese raw selvedge denim ($150). The Black Label team tries to keep things affordable; their basic jeans (14 ounce minimum) start at $98. Admirable, considering everything in the store seems of supreme quality.

While Black Scale is known for and focuses on menswear primarily, summertime sees tees for tots and the ladies, and a women’s line is in the works. While the wares are distributed internationally, some pieces are only available at the flagship and select brick and mortar stores — another compelling reason to visit. Black Scale rereleases are very rare so if you see something you like don’t sleep on it.

The store setup itself is slick with a definite boutique feel but unpretentious, echoing the minimalistic design ethic of the brand. Mega describes Black Scale as “a darker brand — not too poppy.” It’s a breath of fresh air for the more sophisticated shopper tired of the all-over print and obnoxiously loud colors synonymous with other streetwear labels.

That’s not to say that everything is black, white or grey. In fact one of my favorite pieces from the winter collection was a lavender woven button-up shirt: classy but definitely not geeky.

Rotating art installations and frequent merchandise shuffles add a never-stale constantly evolving gallery flavor to the space. What looks like nails on steroids floating in space is the current installation by Alfred. Props may be added or shifted but full installation changes happen four times a year.

Black Scale is the brainchild of a trio with rich and true histories in the underground hip-hop and street cultures, and it shows. There’s no posing, cheese or corniness here; no attempts to capitalize on the next big fad. It’s refreshing!

The designs are versatile and can be combined to achieve completely different looks. Take the same pieces and the storeowners rock them in completely different ways, which is actually where the “Scale” portion of the Black Scale name comes from: the brand spans opposites.

Every third Thursday Black Scale hosts The Beginning at Otis — a dress-code-free evening with resident DJs Dé and Ruby Red I. What’s in the future for Black Scale? In addition to a standing women’s line, a New York store is in the works. Also keep an eye out for future collaborations. To date, collabs have included Android Homme sneakers in patent leather with zipper details, a Woolrich jacket and Mosley Tribes for Black Scale sunglasses.