Green’s Dictionary of Slang

blues n.2

[the colour]

1. the police.

[UK]Fast Man 7:1 n.p.: A week in the blues. By a Discharged peeler.
[UK]Five Years’ Penal Servitude 257: He would chatter gaily and enter with gusto into the details of some cleverly executed ‘bit of business,’ or ‘bilking the blues’ – evading the police.
[UK]J. Greenwood Tag, Rag & Co. 114: I happened to know that in criminal circles to describe a person as being ‘shy of the blues’ is equivalent to saying that he has particular reasons for keeping out of the way of the police.
[Aus]K. Tennant Joyful Condemned 21: Don’t let’s have any blues [...] You know how the brush are? Screaming and yelling copper at the least little thing.
[US]‘Touré’ Portable Promised Land (ms.) 157: We Words (My Favorite Things) [...] The breaks. The beast. The blues. The vapors.

2. (Aus./US) a blue uniform.

[Aus]Kia Ora Coo-ee 15 Aug. 17/1: I am not handsome, neither am I vain; but when they issued me with ‘blues’ at the 14th. A.G.H. [...] I wanted to go away and die quickly in a dark corner.
[US]H. Hunt East of Farewell 131: I’m going to [...] get into my blues.

3. any trousers.

[US](con. 1940s) E. Thompson Tattoo (1977) 238: You ever see such a punk? Shittin his blues. Pissin his pants. [Ibid.] 358: He pulled out the tailor-made dress blues. He unfurled the trousers and held them up to his waist.

4. a police uniform.

[US](con. 1949) G. Pelecanos Big Blowdown (1999) 147: And here he was, a beat cop, wearing the same lousy blues given to him when he joined the force.
[US]J. Stahl Pain Killers 49: How was Roscoe supposed to know the man was police if his blues were ona hanger.

5. (US prison) a prison uniform.

[US]M. Braly On the Yard (2002) 226: Deliver a clean set of blues to Society Red. You know where he cells?
[US]M. Braly False Starts 232: Worn blues and scuffed shoes.
[US]J. Ellroy Silent Terror (1990) 67: Inmates awaiting sentencing and classification were called ‘blues,’ a reference to the denim uniform I was now wearing.
[UK]N. ‘Razor’ Smith A Few Kind Words and a Loaded Gun 127: I was given a set of blues to wear. Prison blues consist of jeans, T-shirt and denim jacket.

6. amphetamines.

[UK]Oz 2 13/2: Blues (drinamil) sell at 1/3d. each.
The Who ‘Cut My Hair’ [lyrics] on Quadrophenia [album] I clean my room and my shoes, / but my mother found a box of blues.
[US](con. 1982–6) T. Williams Cocaine Kids (1990) 133: On the corner of 162nd Street, three boys and two girls shout to me [...] ‘got that coke, got that crack, got red caps, got blues, got yellow ones – you choose. What you want, my friend? What you need?’.
[US]Source Oct. 154: We got reds! We got blues!
[UK]I. Welsh Glue 95: That boy Nicky that sells the blues is doon thair n we git yin each offay um.

7. (US) a sailor’s trousers.

[US]E. Thompson Garden of Sand (1981) 351: A pair of bell-bottom blues on a stiffly grinning landlubbery mannequin.

8. (US) blue jeans.

[US]‘Victoria Parker’ Pay for Play Cheerleaders [Internet] The lovely lassies were quick to obey their teacher, both doffing their blues, pushing them down their gorgeous legs until they gathered around their ankles.
[US](con. 1970s) G. Pelecanos King Suckerman (1998) 190: Last pair of these disco blues I’m gonna buy.

9. (Aus. prison) prison officers; thus used as adj. to refer to staff activity, e.g. blue talk, prison officer conversations etc.

[Aus]Tupper & Wortley Aus. Prison Sl. Gloss. [Internet] Blues. Prison Officers (NSW). A straightforward reference to uniform colour. Can be used as an adjective to describe staff activity, eg ‘blue talk’ is prison officer talk.