“That alpha frat-y energy doesn’t do well in start-ups,” explains Trevor Crowe, a tall 29-year-old with stippled facial hair and an open-collar shirt, and one of what seems like thousands of New York finance expats who’ve parachuted into the Bay Area over the past couple of years. “But I still have that finance mentality. I need to shake that off.”
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It’s two days after Facebook acquired WhatsApp for $19 billion, and Crowe is sitting in a banquette-filled bar in the lobby of the Hotel Vitale, near the Bay Bridge. As it does to a lot of finance bros who’ve fled here in a gold rush, San Francisco looks strangely humanitarian to him. But to anyone who’s been here a while—even just a couple of years, when the city first took on its moneyed sheen—it’s the new arrivals who are remodeling the city, not vice versa. A recent post on San Francisco Magazine’s website reimagined American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman as a San Francisco tech worker: “I am creating value. I am a maker. My Klout score is well into the nineties. My network is resilient.”
The transformation of San Francisco into a postcollegiate theme park for white-collar workers is on full display most weekends at places like Fort Mason’s park area, which the San Francisco Chronicle dubbed “Frat Mason” for the way 20-something tech workers have re-created quad life. On a recent Saturday, there were dudes in Duke T-shirts and American-flag trunks playing Frisbee and cornhole. One drank Bacardi straight from the bottle. Women with high blonde ponytails cheered between glances at their iPhones. And you can see more evidence of the transformation in the Marina, the district of boutiques and cupcake bakeries on the city’s north side, which people alternately compare to the Upper East Side and Murray Hill, and where it’s possible to see every varietal and shade of Lululemon yoga pant on a single street. In a town once known for drag-king competitions, there’s now a contest called Mr. Marina, a tongue-in-cheek male beauty pageant aimed at finding the guy who “epitomizes the values of the neighborhood.” Prizes include gift certificates for bottomless mimosas and sake bombs, and a year’s worth of argyle socks. Crowe, who lives there, calls it a “protected version of San Francisco, a little bubble,” which calls to mind the old saw about never saying “rope” in a hanged man’s house: One should never say “bubble” inside a bubble. “It’s just a bunch of bros,” he says of Dolores Park, a formerly hipster gathering spot. “I don’t like that. But then I look at myself and I go, Wait a second, I am one of those guys, Goddamn it!”