I discovered Blue Works Vintage Clothing on styleforum recently and had an opportunity to visit the store in Surry Hills. Walking into the shop from the street is like setting foot in a museum of Americana and military history. Denim is everywhere you look and there are plenty of items in khaki and olive. The owner Steve was looking every part the spirit animal of Yuki Matsuda, the founder of Yuketen, with his ponytail, olive fatigue pants, heavy boots, and rhinestone belt. And it is no coincidence that plenty of Yuketen footwear can be found in the store. “Are those Yuketens?” were the first words out of Steve’s mouth as he point to my Maine Guide Ox mocs. He tells me he quit his day job and opened Blue Works 2 years ago (which is basically my dream). Asked what motivated this risky decision, he answers simply “Passion”.
Blue Works stocks Denime which was founded in 1988. Denime is in the Osaka Five, one of the five original brands at the beginning of the Japanese denim movement. Denime’s models are inspired by Levis vintage clothing 501 cuts so the “xx” is similar to the 1947 and the “66” is similar to the 1966. Denime has a reputation for fast fades so you get a very nice looking fade after a year of wear. You can see some of these fades on Steve’s instagram. At 14.5 oz, the unworn raw denim was extremely thick and stiff, so much so I had trouble buttoning up the fly. Steve assured me that the fabric will soften with use and develop a unique patina. He can also hem the jeans with his Union Special 43200G sitting in the corner of the store. I’m no denimhead but I have read that the chainstitch produced by this machine produces a roping effect as the denim fades, due to an inherent fault in the design of the 43200G model.
Steve also stocks Buzz Rickson’s, one of my favourite Japanese military repro brands next to The Real Mccoy’s. Their garments are often more faithful to the original than actual American brands like Alpha Industries which actually supplied the US military, and the quality is second to none. The methods used to create some of these garments are also faithful to how the originals were made, such as their sweatshirts (jumpers to us!) which are made on vintage 4-needle loopwheel looms so that the body is one continuous tube with no seams on the sides. I have one of these which I scored for a bargain on eBay and it is damn good quality. Their outerwear and leather jackets are also extremely good quality and extremely awesome (also extremely expensive but they will probably outlive a few generations).
Every item in the shop is oozing with quality and craftsmanship. There are Red Wing boots, chore jackets (I have basically been looking for the right one since forever but unfortunately I couldn’t find one that fit me well), Sugarcane denim, and Yuketen footwear (of course). The pricing was very reasonable, especially once you factor in the shipping from overseas and lack of risk since you can actually try the clothes and shoes on! Blue Works also stocks Nigel Cabourn, and I just could not walk past a pair of navy high top WWII army trainers. These are made by a Japanese company called Moonstar which uses kilns to fuse the rubber bottoms of the shoes to the canvas uppers. These also came in low top versions and in olive and off-white uppers. I’ll be writing a full review on the shoes in a later post.
I had quite a long chat with Steve about the state of menswear in Australia and his outlook is pretty positive. He says the denim scene is alive and well and actually people are starting to cycle back to buying quality items over fast fashion. He said most of his customers seek him out (although he gets plenty of walk-ins as well), and they tend to be a little bit older – I’m over the 30 mark and he said I was one of the younger customers to set foot in his store. I guess you have to be a little bit more mature to appreciate the merits of quality clothing and shun fast fashion trends. It was really cool to meet and talk to someone who is passionate about his work, and had the same enthusiasm for Filson bags!
Blue Works is definitely a gem and I will be a repeat customer. Now that Big Trouble Store has moved to Surry Hills, and The Standard Store is also in the area, Surry Hills has become a one-stop shop for Japanese niche brands, quality selvedge denim, military inspired and repro clothing, and streetwear!