Blue Highway Clothing was founded in 2007 by me, Douglas, and my brother Hampus along with our friend Patrik Andersson. All three of us grew up in the city Eskilstuna, a small city about one hours drive from Stockholm that is mostly known for being a city built around it's industries. Factories in Eskilstuna produced lots of different tools and equipments before the productions were moved out of Sweden.
Anyway, me and my brother started to develop a deep interest for denim and the history of the workwear from the era of American industrialization in our teenage years. We were digging for knowledge read all the books we could find on the topic and later we also started to collect vintage garments that we mainly found on Ebay. Sadly, it's very rare to find American made jeans in Sweden that are older than the 60's.
The name Blue Highway was actually the name of a blog that we started back in 2007. It was our friend Patrik who saw our growing interest for denim and the passion we shared for the details behind the garments, so he told us that we should write about it in a blog and that he should help us to build it. In these days blogs and online forums were just starting to become popular and it was a new world for us! We decided for the name "Blue Highway" because we felt that the blog was synonymous with the feeling of traveling down a road of denim history.
The garments and the knowledge we acquired turned into a desire of making something new. I myself had been learning about how to make clothes for a few years, it was a growing hobby and I liked the process behind garment making and it fascinated me to be able to shape a flat fabric in to something wearable. I still remember that one of the first denim garments I made was a longer version of the Type 2 Levi's denim jacket, my brother owned the original version at this time but the 1950's shape of it didn't match his long and slender body so he asked me to make a reproduction with a more contemporary fit. The result turned out pretty good and with it came the desire to create more clothes!
Back in spring 2009 we first got in contact with our friend Michael Allen Harris. Our first contact started out with Hampus writing him an email asking some questions regarding the pieces of clothes he was selling on Ebay. In that time it was common to find denim garments from the mid to late 20'th century on Ebay, but we had never seen anyone selling denim from the late 19'th century so that really caught our attention. I remember that we bought some scraps of fabric and that some of them went in to new design ideas that we came up with. Michael also told us that he was working on a book covering the early days of workwear garments manufactured on the west coast between 1850 to 1900, and the book which was called "Jeans of the Old West" was released one year later. It's a great book by the way, and if you are into the history of workwear or just looking for interesting design ideas it's definitely a piece worth having in your library. Anyway, cutting a long story short Mike later asked us if we wanted to come visit him and also join him on his hunt for abandoned workwear in the old mining towns of California and Nevada, so in June 2009 we got on the plane to visit him for the first time. We also got company by our friend and like minded denim entusiast Viktor Fredbäck.
What we came to experience when we visited California for the first time is a chapter of it's own and I won't be telling that story right now, I'll say only that we arrived back in Sweden a few weeks later, filled to the max with inspiration. I can still recall the feeling I had when camping in the middle of nowhere out in Nevada, realizing that the best thing about the trip for me wasn't really about the fact that I could be a part of finding a really old pair of jeans... It was a feeling of reaching the end of my interest for the material and the garments and standing in Nevada was sort of the core of my search of understanding the history of denim garments. I realized that I was now more interested in understanding how I could use all the inspiration and knowledge I had learned and to put it in a contemporary context.
Back home, we were eager to get to work on our sewing machines and since then Blue Highway has made many garments. To mention a few, we have made a reconstruction of a pair miners jeans from 1874, designed a collaboration with the Swedish denim brand Pace and we made a limited run of hand-made jeans with pocket-bags made of dead stock 1930's fabric woven by Amoskaeg (one of the earliest American mills known to produce denim). We also made a shirt out of chambray fabric from the 30's featuring three buttons that we actually found in abandoned mines in Nevada. We still have a roll of dead stock Cone mills fabric from the 60's that was stamped with Levi's logos when we got it, waiting to become something.
Later on, we produced 15 pairs of custom made coffee roaster jeans for the Swedish coffee company Johan & Nyström and we also teamed up with the Swedish tannery Tärnsjö to produce a reproduction of a classic US Mail bag and if you would like to know more about it you can find it here. We also made our own interpretation of a 1870's miners jacket, trying to create a garment that wasn't made back then but that actually could have been.
Today Blue Highway Clothing is owned and run by Me and Kerstin Neumüller. We run Second Sunrise together and are also the authors behind the book "En handbook om Indigo", a craft book about how to dye using Indigo. It's only available in Swedish at the moment but in June 2018 there will be an English version out and yes, we will make sure to let you know once it's released. To me, indigo was the way to dig deeper into my ongoing interest for denim and to my delight I found 3500 years of history in different cultures to explore, rather than the 150 years of American culture that had been my previous focus. Kerstin came from the Swedish crafts scene and had spent years exploring different traditional crafts and also studied to become a classic mens suit tailor so when we met through our interest for indigo it felt like a great collision where we came to inspire each other and also to learn from each others experience and knowledge.
Our latest project was finished a couple of weeks ago. Our idea was to redefine the fit that me and my brother made for Blue Highway Clothing more than ten years ago, which was inspired by the 40/50's and based on the jeans from our collection. The new fit is still a classic cut, but we wanted to see what we could create based on the preferences we have today. The result is called B002, and we wanted to show you some pictures of the very first pair of jeans in the new style!
The fit has a straight leg and a high rise. We also reshaped the top of the jeans, giving them a more contemporary fit that we think could be appreciated by many.
We believe that less is more when it comes to making a pair of jeans and that if you can make them without unnecessarily details, you should. If you are going to make a garment that can be worn on an every day basis you have to be careful not to add details that you might grow tired of in the long run! A detail might be eye catching but for me I have always thought that the details should be in the materials used and the construction of the garments. In 1896 the American architect Louis Sullivan said that his goal was to see that "Form followed function" and that is what inspires me to keep things as simple as possible.
High rise and reinforced weak spots using hand hammered copper rivets.
The shape of the coin pocket is inspired by a pocket used by Levi's, Wrangler and other denim brands from back in 1880's. The idea is that the wearer should be able to reach the pockets contents easily by sliding their index finger in at the front of the pocket, and then scoop up the desired item in a smooth movement.
Since out buttonhole sewing machine has broken down at the moment (again) Kerstin is sewing the buttonholes by hand at the moment. We think it adds a nice detail to the jeans and a wink back to the early days of denim workwear made prior to the invention of the button hole machine in the 1870's!
In this picture you can also see the inside of the jeans, and that we have chosen to sew all the seams using a single needle lockstitch machine. The main reason for this is that we consider the lockstitch to be more durable than the more commonly used chainstitch seam (as described Here), that often will break after years of use and can easily be ripped up. It's important to know that the chainstitch used to be preferred in large scale productions due to the fact that no under thread was needed. The small under thread bobbin in a lockstitch machine often brings trouble and adds time in the sewing process compared to a chainstitch machine. When we make a pair of jeans our main goal is not to finish them as fast as we can but to create the best product that we can, so the lockstitch machine works just fine for us. Another detail thats not visible is that all the folded seams are made made with a third seam that holds the piece together before we fold them by hand. This concealed seam adds to the strength and durability of the jeans.
We don't do hidden rivets or the so called "V stitch" behind the top buttons. These are details that were only used by Levi's back in the days and I never wanted to use details that was synonymous with a particular brand.
The patch is the last detail that goes onto the jeans. We brand them one by one on veg-tan leather using a branding iron with our sewing machine logo on. We don't use chrome-tanned leather, so the patch will age naturally with wear and eventually become stiff, and unreadable just as they were back in the middle of the 20'th century. The logo features a picture of the first machine I got, the same machine I used used to make my very first pair of jeans.
We hope to make many more pairs of the B002 in the future, but at the moment this pair is the only one existing. We can't say exactly when it will happen, but our goal is to have a full size-range of our very own Blue Highway jeans in the store. You can rely on us letting you know when that day comes!