Sunday, November 29, 2015

Twist Back and Turn Left

Watching from the outside, the wooden planks that make up the enormous barrel of the DemonDrome Wall of Death pulsate like a beating heart as the motorcycles race around on the other side. 

It seems like a big step, taking a motorbike from a ramped wooden boardwalk to a vertical wall and keeping it there.  I guess that at some point though wanting to go faster and steeper leads to a Wall of Death, and that pretty soon even defying that most elemental law of physics isn’t enough to get your kicks.  That must be how Duke Seymour ended up riding a vintage 1927 Indian motorbike, that’s easily three times older than he is, around his family’s Demon Drome Wall of Death stood up with his t-shirt pulled up over his face or performing a side-saddle iron-cross hanging out fifteen feet above the floorboards.

The Demon Drome Wall of Death arrived in the UK from America in 1927 and started touring the country with funfairs.  Back then health and safety wasn’t such a big deal so the original owner, Elias Harris, went right ahead and built a car with a special platform on it so that he could drive it around his Wall of Death with his pet lioness, Rita, sat on the bonnet.  For the past ten years “Dynomyte” Dave Seymour and his family have toured the Demon Drome Wall of Death show around the UK and Europe, recreating the original show in every aspect apart from the live big cat.  Dave and his son Duke ride 1927 Indians and custom Honda CD200 hardtails, performing tricks and racing each other, with Dave’s daughter Alabama even sitting on her old man’s handlebars with her arms outstretched for a few laps, as if it’s a perfectly normal thing for a teenage girl to do with her Dad on a weekend.  The wooden wall flexes as the bikes pass the knees of the audience who peer over the top of the giant barrel, providing the suspension that the bikes lack.  The faster the Seymours ride, the greater the centripetal force that pins their vintage whips to the old planks and the safer they are.  It doesn’t look it though - from the top looking down the whole story looks insane; the roar of the bikes is damn loud, it’s hot and the incense of exhaust fumes rise up from the middle.  Every sense piqued, a spin on the teacups and a stick of candy-floss doesn’t seem quite so crash-hot afterwards.   

Monday, November 16, 2015

Your Jeans Are Over 100 Years Old

"For over 130 years 
Our celebrated and original XX denim overalls 
Have been before the public. 
This is a pair of LEVIS 
They are the original jeans 
And have a reputation for durability known the world over. 
Only selected materials have been used in their manufacture. 
Every garment guaranteed 
Exclusive XX special top weight denim 
And sewed with the strongest thread. 
We shall thank you to carefully examine the sewing finish and fit. 
Caution:  See that this pair bears the quality number which is XX and also our Trade Mark. 
Levi Strauss”
What do you wear on your legs, most of the time?  For an awful lot of people it’ll probably be a pair of denim jeans in one shade of blue or another, and they probably don’t take a second to think about them when they pull them on in the morning.  If the pair of jeans that you fall into is a pair of Levi’s 501s (which they could well be) then as well as getting dressed, you’re also getting into a story; 100 years ago, in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in North Carolina, Levi Strauss & Co shook hands with two gentlemen named Caesar and Moses and the agreement still holds today.  Caesar and Moses ran White Oak Mill, producing denim under the name Cone Mills and they had gained themselves a reputation for producing the best denim around.  The agreement with Levi Strauss and Co gave Cone Mills the right to manufacture the denim used by Levi’s to produce their Lot 501 jeans which went on to become their core product.  It’s odd to think that, as fashion continually evolves, one constant item in many men’s wardrobes is actually a piece of clothing that celebrates its 100th birthday this year.