Satchel of BlackBlue

Satchel B. Moore is the most infectious person in St. Paul, in a good way. His engaging personality, genuine care for everyone and passion for his work, compels customers to come back time and time again. Satchel is the shop manager at BlackBlue in St. Paul, a store geared to bringing men and women the best quality clothing that is made in the U.S.A., driven by durability and with the long term in mind. You won’t find anyone in the Twin Cities who knows more about jeans than Satchel, ask him anything, we dare you. He loves his hometown of St. Paul, his Saabs and everything crafted with purpose and intention. After reading this interview, you’ll never look at your ratty pair of jeans the same way again.

 

How do you choose what to sell in Black Blue?

Well a lot of it is trying to have this store be an extension of ourselves. We would prefer to be out in the woods all day everyday as opposed to working in the store. If we can’t be out in the woods, we should sell things that remind us of those wonderful places that still exist and to bring some of that into the store with us so that these clothes feel more at home, where they’re supposed to be. These clothes aren’t designed to be here in the shop, they’re designed to be out in the woods, fishing, hunting, climbing mountains, taking pictures of Denver (Satchel points to a landscape photo on the wall in the store).

Do you do any of those outdoor activities personally?

Yeah, I do all those things! Except for hunting, I am deathly afraid of guns. In high school, we played airsoft assassins. There were ten groups of two, it got so serious and scary. You’re not going to get killed or anything, but you were figuratively going to get killed. I would come home at night, I lived half an hour away from anyone in my high school, and there were three different cars driving around sticking their guns out the window following me around the city. It was a good thing I had a driveway and a garage, or else I would have been frickin’ capped! That mentality scared the shit out of me. I had a gun under my pillow and under the seat in my car, all while trying to hide it from my mom. I was living in fear!

I love fishing more than anything in the world. Other than maybe my Saabs or playing soccer.

What’s up with your Saab obsession?

Growing up, my mom always drove Saabs. They’re made in Sweden. I will never drive an American car. I had a Volvo for a while, I love Volvos too.

Which Saabs do you own currently?

I own an ‘87, a ‘99 and a 2008.

Wasn’t 2008 their last year?

2011 was their last year, but they hadn’t updated my model when they stopped making them. It’s just fine, I love my cars. Even though they don’t love me back, they just take my money. They’re like really hot ladies. They just want your attention, they want you to show them off. Then they’ll have a breakdown in the middle of a bar in front of all your friends.

Do you know why Saabs are designed with the ignition in a weird place?

The reason for having the key in a weird spot is when they were designing their cars they did a ton of research. They found out that a lot of people fuck up their knees in accidents by hitting the ignition. Every other car company seems to be ok with that. Saab was like, we’re gonna save your knee and move the key. It’ll probably cost about one-hundred bucks more per car to move it down there, but it’s worth it.

What is your position at Black Blue?

Shop manager, I think that’s my position. I do whatever needs to be done. CEO of alterations and sales. It’s just me, Steve (the owner), Andrew and Tori, who does a lot of our merchandising.

Many people come to the store by referral and to interact with you. How important is that to your business?

Extremely important! We don’t advertise, so we need everyone to have a frickin’ awesome experience. Either with the clothes themselves or just hanging out here. People can’t help but talk about it. Customers want to be the one who tells their friends.

Do you know that you have created a culture of impassioned people who love to talk about you and BlackBlue? How did you do that?

Yeah, I don’t know. I wish I knew. Part of it is that we don’t sell anything that we don’t love. For example, for nearly two years we didn’t sell shorts because we didn’t really wear shorts ourselves. It’s kind of like decaf, if you don’t drink it, why would you serve it. It’s a similar idea. We love every single thing in here and we want you to know about it. Then it feeds itself. We could never tell you everything we know about our stuff because we don’t have infinite time. I’m always trying to absorb things and geek out with people in Japan on the internet about different types of thread. Part of it is the joy of learning. I didn’t know that these things were important about clothes, or the reasons why I liked this kind of clothing or why I didn’t like another. This is why my jeans fit better now than they did two weeks ago. The reason why I thought another pair of jeans were great, but never really worked out. Why I love a certain brand and why I don’t like another. Don’t forget the clothes themselves, like what they’re made out of, the thought that goes into making them and the thought that goes into selling them.

It’s also the joy of appreciation. For example, if someone gives you a shot of Jack Daniels and says, this is Jack Daniels it was made in Kentucky. Then, another person gives you the sane shot of Jack Daniels and says, it was made in Kentucky in cherry oak bark barrels and the guy that bottled this is eighty-five years old, his grandpa worked for Jack Daniels way before they were Jack Daniels, and his last dying act was to write a letter to Jack Daniels telling him to hire his grandson. Then you’re going to love that shot of Jack Daniels more. You know more about it, it’s more familiar to you. You become part of the story when you take that shot. It’s hard, we don’t have infinite time to learn everything and have everything explained to us. Others don’t care where their gasoline is from, you know? We have to pick our battles. But, if I was to find out about this awesome kind of gasoline, that comes from a guys farm in Texas where the filmed Giant and it was the farm Jet Tex was based on. You would only be buying that gasoline.

What lead you to Black Blue? Will you share your background with us?

Yeah! I got into jeans being left handed in high school. I remember not being able to find a pair of jeans where a sixteen year old would shop that didn’t have a fake wallet fade on the back right pocket. I thought that was stupid. I don’t want evidence of something that never happened in my life on my pants. I just wanted to buy jeans. I would go into mall shops, anywhere a sixteen year old would want to shop. I didn’t want to shop at Fleet Farm. I didn’t want to shop at Walmart. I didn’t want to shop at Target. I wanted to shop at Abercrombie or Urban Outfitters, but there were no jeans without the fade on my right pocket. So I started doing research. What’s up with distressed denim and why is that a thing? It took me five years to find a pair of non-distressed jeans that fit. That weren’t made for farmers or sixty year old fat dudes. I found them in Sweden for thirty-eight hundred Swedish Kroners, or whatever. It was a sixty dollar pair of jeans and I paid forty dollars of shipping. They were skinny, raw and frickin’ tight. I ordered them thinking the measurements were in inches, not in centimeters or something like that. My first pair just exploded in the crotch after a month. So I ordered another pair because I still couldn’t find them here. Then I would order two pairs, one size up, then two sizes up. The one size up also exploded, so I took them to Tom (tailor) and had them fixed. I realized that I liked these jeans enough, I could get them fixed! I don’t need to throw my money away and buy new jeans only to have stack of jeans with holes on them that I don’t really like. So, slowly I realized that I have a pair of jeans I liked. I started wearing the jeans everyday, watched them age, watched them become part of me. Then, I did more research. Nobody in my life was into this, they thought I was stupid. They all thought my jeans were too tight and I was a frickin’ idiot. Then, I started geeking out on the Internet, and people told me to try Red Wings, leather shoes and more.

When I would come home for winter break from college, I would have four days to find a Christmas present for myself. I literally could not find any clothes in Minnesota that I liked. Then, I continued to order stuff from Sweden, getting my Christmas presents in January. Then I came home, worked in the Levi’s store and hated it because all the jeans were stupid and beat up. They had selvage jeans, but with fake right back pocket fades! One day, there was a Catholic good store that came in 2008 because they named the Cathedral an international catholic monument. They thought there would be all the pilgrims or something. I thought this was a great spot. I drove past here every couple months to see if something would replace this Catholic goods store. Then, one day I drove by and saw two people putting together what looked like a shoe store. I slammed on my brakes and thought, oh my god maybe they’ll sell jeans here. So I came in, talked to the people and they said they were starting a design studio and clothing store. So I asked, what kind of jeans are you going to sell? They said, what are you talking about? So I told them about the jeans I was wearing, Samurai jeans from New York City that were made in the Okayama Prefecture in Japan, it’s selvage and raw denim. If you’re going to be selling Red Wing boots and Filson, you have to have something awesome to complement. You’re not going to sell 5 Hour Energy next to your Dogwood Coffee. You have to keep the bouquet consistent. So now it’s about bringing people up, showing people that we can get these things in America and telling them why it’s better.

Even before I was employed here, I would hang out on the couch, mooch Internet and worked with him to create my dream store, in tandem with him to create his dream store. I didn’t want to buy my jeans from Sweden or New York, so when I met Steve and saw this store I saw a perfect opportunity and it was in St. Paul. I love St. Paul. I’m happy to shop in Minneapolis, but if my dream store can be four blocks from where I was born, that’s even better. It seemed too good to be true.

Do you ever feel like you’re working when you’re at Black Blue?

To be honest, I was once dumped because I wouldn’t take time off work to spend time with a wonderful, very attractive young lady. That was a huge wake-up call, it made me feel very grateful because I couldn’t stop working because it never feels like work, I don’t want to do anything else. Even before I was paid to be here I was sitting on the couch stealing internet and helping Steve. Then Steve was like, I haven’t eaten today, would you mind watching the shop for a bit? Then it was, I have a dentist appointment, could you watch the store for the day. Then, I’m going to New York, could you watch the store for the weekend. Then, hey I’m going to France for a family wedding, could watch the shop for two weeks. I was using my vacation time at my other job to work here. So I would go home, talk people on the internet. Get jean shit sent here from Philly or Tennessee to get hemmed. I wasn’t getting paid for that, but I couldn’t help it. It’s what I do, I nerd out hard on this stuff. I love it, part of me can’t believe that I get to sit here and geek out on jeans. It doesn’t mean I don’t work hard, it doesn’t mean that I’m folding clothes all day, it’s fun.

I hope it’s true that because I love my job people have a better experience in here. It’s like, I don’t care if you’re not going to buy anything, but I want you to know everything about it because once you know everything about it, you’re going to want to buy it. It might not be right now, today or this year, but eventually this click goes off in your head that you want to buy jeans and I want to buy them when this dude is in the shop because he’s not just interested in selling me a pair of jeans. He’s interested in selling me a pair of jeans that I’m going to love. I think that’s pretty cool and it comes naturally.

How do you break in your jeans?

At this point, I break jeans in differently than I did in 2006. In 2006, it was like, get your jeans then try to beat them up and faded as much as possible. They way to do that is to wear them all day everyday. Then it becomes, how long can you wait until you wash them. The sooner you wash them the more you’ll get that fade, the longer you go the better those fades will be. You can get it at any number of washes, but the true awesome fades, the high contrast fades, come with time. When it’s dark then light. The dark blue can only stay by not washing them. But, that being said at this point it’s my job just know what happens to all the jeans, it’s like how you taste every cup of coffee. For example, I would tell customer that these jeans are tight now, but in thirty days they’ll stretch “X” amount and I know that because here’s my pair hanging on the wall. I also need to know what would happen if you bought them, washed the right away then threw them in the dryer. I would never do that, I would never recommend that, but some people are going to do that. They’re their jeans, they can do whatever they want to them. It’s my job to sell them jeans they’re going to love, I have to know what happens in every situation. I can instruct them on a size and fit to, make sure that it’s long term.

What’s the deal with distressed jeans then?

The reason people sold distressed jeans was to keep people buying jeans all the time. Distressed jeans fit you best in the dressing room, when your money is on the line. Then they never fit after that. They’re designed to fit you the first time you put them on, they’ll form fit to you, making you think that this is going to the best pair of jeans and how could they not fit like this forever. They’re designed to stretch out.

But with raw denim, it’s not my job to make you love your jeans when you walk out the door. One, you probably won’t walk out with your jeans because I’m going to hem them on a machine you’ve never heard of that is really important to me. It took us two years to find it, it cost a ton and there’s only one in the midwest, and we have it.

What’s it called?

A Union Special Chain Stitcher.

Sorry to interrupt, continue.

Ok, so it’s my job to make you love your jeans a month from now. Then, even more six months from now. I want to be there for you at the nine month mark when they’re starting to get so worn out that a new hole pops everyday. It’s denim, it’s cotton, it’s not invincible. If I’ve done my job right, when your crotch blows out or your pocket has a whole, you’ll go to Tom’s on Grand, to the Lost & Found on Nicollet, or your favorite tailor, to get them fixed first. Then, once your girlfriend or boss is like, yo don’t wear those jeans anymore. Only then come in and get a new pair of jeans. Because you loved that pair so much you can’t wait to spend your money here. Boom. Done.

That’s really fun for me. There have been guys who will buy two pairs of these, its a five-hundred dollar sale. It’s like yo dude, just take this two-hundred and fifty dollar pair, wear them for six months then if you want something else get yourself a sweatshirt, jacket or bag. See what you think about these, then come back to buy that other pair. If you have too many jeans you’re not going to get what I want you to get out of it.

It’s so much fun, I love this stuff.

Why jeans?

Denim is probably the best fabric every created. There’s a reason why everyone in the world wears jeans and for the past forty years, jeans haven’t been made to do what jeans were made to do. Which is, to get better every time you wear them, last longer than any other pants, and really take your shape, something that jeans do really well. By the late 60s and 70s it became more about what your jeans said about your shopping habits, telling your friends how your money and what your place is society was. Then, all these denim companies decided to beat up your jeans for you so you would need to spend more money on jeans.

For me, I love the honesty of raw denim. It’s not about how you spend your money. Of course there are jean companies that sell raw denim that are all about how you spend your money, like special pocket designs. Some people will argue that the selvage is an example of that, but that is a functional piece, it comes naturally, it’s not added. Selvage means that the loom was really wide, so it’s one white thread that goes back and forth, when it get’s to the edge it turns around. As opposed to getting cut then shot across the factory at the speed of sound. These old looms are like pour overs, you could make coffee in a drip machine all day for much cheaper. When you use a pour over, you’re taking more time, there’s more love there, it’s a better product.

We have homeless guys come in here who need a jacket that’s going to be their house. They don’t have rent or car payments, they want to spend three hundred bucks on a jacket and make it last. He smelled like piss when he came in here and that jacket is going to smell like piss in a week, but that jacket is going to hold up for a long time. Then we’ll have guys pull up in Maseratis and say I’ll take a pair of jeans. I’ll ring them up and they won’t want to spend the one-hundred and ninety eight bucks for a pair. They like their Lucky jeans, seventy eight bucks. You just never know.

credits: photos by Eliesa Johnson