SHOP: Kyle Mueller of Austin's Sam Hill
Kyle Muller likes the real dirty stuff and doesn’t want you to know where he goes on the weekend.
“I often find myself in places that are -- oh, how do I say this without giving too much away?” Muller paused, mulling over his words carefully before stating, with finality; “Intensely undesirable.”
“Where do you go?”
“I can’t really tell you. I don’t really tell anyone. My mom knows where I go. And my wife knows where I go. But no one else does. And I won't tell them”
Muller is proprietor and picker at large for Sam Hill, his self-made vintage emporium of rad and raggedy menswear.
Located in east Austin, the shop keeps Muller on the run. Merle Haggard was right - the man who travels fastest goes alone. A graphic designer by trade, it was a two-year stint as a bicycle tour-guide in Paris that first turned Muller’s discerning aesthetic and love of history towards high-end apparel and styling. When it was time to move on from the city of lights, he landed in New York and worked in fashion PR, getting inspired on his off days by impeccable vintage showrooms in Brooklyn and Manhattan.
While Muller's understanding of the apparel industry was growing in time with his appreciation for authentic Americana, it was meeting his then-girlfriend, now wife, who at the time worked for the RRL vintage archives, when Muller realized that a shop of his own -- filled with perfecto jackets, world war II bombers, and nubby 50’s crewneck sweaters -- was what he truly wanted. The duo, once wed, moved back to Austin. Muller took various graphic design work while continuing to fan his shopkeep flames in secret, planning and waiting until the day he could open a store of his own, Sam Hill began as a traveling pop-up, with stints at Helm Boots. The Sam Hill brick and mortar at 1710 E. 2nd Street opened two months ago.
“Vintage clothing is kind of like the drug trade in a way,” Muller said. “You’ll be at these weird places, exchanging goods for cash, and there’s usually weird stuff going on around you too, you know?”
I laughed, envisioning stacks of crisp yuan being traded for piles of crusty denim in decrepit parking garages and of ‘Deilverance’ -worthy backwoods ranches, where the old men who lived there -- staunch and gruff as longhorns --chewed tobacco on their front porch, and piss-drunk on rye whiskey despite it being the middle of the afternoon, would squint into the sun as a be-spectacled city boy poked around their outbuildings with a flashlight and a pair of work gloves.
“I’ll go places that are out in the middle of nowhere -- and I really mean nowhere -- and I'll think, ‘How could anyone know about this? I'm pretty sure no one knows about this.' And yet, by the time I get there, there’ll already be a group of Japanese buyers milling about who’ve flown in, and I’m like, 'but how do they know?' It’s astounding."
While there may be heavy competition among vintage re-sellers, Muller's Sam Hill stands high above the throng. A truly branded experience, Muller's shop is his playground, a place to exercise his many creative talents.
His is the only vintage shop where a seasonal collection will be curated around a highly specific theme two times each year, and the only vintage shop of its size to also release webisodes and film shorts for promotional purposes.
While most of the vintage destinations in Austin have a sort of young and surly Townes Van Zandt aesthetic or a south Congress tourist trap sensibility, Sam Hill's sophistication and quality set the shop apart.
Muller brings in beautiful vintage, often doing his own repairs and mending. With an innate understanding of the historical significance in found artifacts and an eye for the details of high-quality apparel construction, Muller's shop is filled with quality relics, and it's no surprise that design teams and corporate creatives flock to his shop in the hopes of finding something that will spark their own creativity.
If you find yourself in Austin, pay Muller and his shop a visit. Open on the weekends.
SAM HILL 1710 E 2nd Street Austin, TX 78702 USA