Legendary California politician Willie Brown, the brash liberal with a devilish grin as wide as a $100 bill, will be remembered as not just a powerbroker and master fundraiser, but also as a clothes horse with few peers.
“I’ve spent more time in the closet than any straight man in San Francisco, but that’s just to choose my wardrobe,” the dapper former mayor of the city says in his 2008 memoir, “Basic Brown.”
Brown, 89, whose popularity was due, in part, to his mere presence on stage, in powerhouse restaurants, and the innermost circles of Democratic party leadership, recently donated a portion of his wardrobe to San Francisco Bay Goodwill.
“We are honored to have Willie Brown as a supporter of the good work we do,” Andy Simons, associate vice president of e-commerce for the charity organization, said in an interview on Saturday.
Proceeds from the “Willie Brown Collection” will help fund Goodwill’s mission to provide job and career training for people in need of a second chance. The clothes are up for sale on eBay.
“Own a Willie Brown fashion piece by shopping the exclusive collection online, while supplies last!” the nonprofit announced on Thursday, along with opening prices ranging from $24 to more than $300.
The 7-day auction, which lasts until Wednesday, features a taupe Kiton overcoat, a black Salvatore Ferragamo pea coat, a brown Brioni silk single-breasted blazer, and a multicolored hoodie with images of Brown printed on it.
If anyone was destined to wear $6,000 Italian suits, it was Brown. A great-grandson of Southern slaves, the Texas-born Brown never let anger get in the way of his determination to live large and for a purpose.
Over the course of his improbable life story, he was a two-term mayor of San Francisco after becoming the longest serving Assembly speaker in California history.
Through it all, Brown cultivated his image as connoisseur of the high-life whose daily fashion choices generated a steady stream of fashion bulletins in the media. His snap-brim fedora, for example, triggered a San Francisco-wide run on men’s dress hats.
“You really have to have more than just a good heart,” he told 60 Minutes correspondent Harry Reasoner in a 1984 interview. “You also have to have some style.”
“California is an image state. California is where it happens. You really — you really have to project something.”