Screwy

Some people think it’s just nuts and bolts–any will do aslong as it holds the trucks on the board. Others need and swear bycertain brands or types: Shorty’s one-inch Phillips, Diamond 7/8-inch Allen, Monkey blue-painted heads, Randoms “skull” heads, etc.Whatever the case, for such a simple purpose, skateboard hardwarehas undergone a lengthy evolution–from nails and wood screwsused to fasten roller skate trucks to two-by-fours, and custom-designed and tempered fasteners that come packaged with their owntools (Allen keys). Some even require only one tool (wrench orsocket). Many kinds have come and gone: U-bolts, Bridge bolts, T-bolts, and the old-school bolts with the raised rounded head.

Some styles were big back in the day, hibernated for awhile, and have made a comeback. But nowadays most brandsfeature similar head shapes and shafts, and fall into two distinctcamps–Phillips-head and Allen-head bolts. But who uses which, andwhy do we need both? “Because people like choices, and we like togive them a choice, which is why Shorty’s still sells both Phillips andAllen head,” says Noe Flores, hardware-team manager for Shorty’s.”They both sell just as well as the other, both are the hardest to stripout, which is why we only offer those two, so why not keep onmaking them?”

“Skateboarders have a preference of either Phillips orAllen, and tend not to switch once they develop a liking for onetype,” says Darkhorse Distribution’s Terence Friedman. “This is whywe (Grind King) provide both. Both sell equally well in the longterm.”

It isn’t only the skaters who have a preference. Every shopI spoke with uses generic one-inch Phillips-head bolts and a drill toassemble their completes. “It’s just easier, although sometimes Itend to go haywire with the drill and strip them out right in front ofthe customers,” says Adam Haupt of Out Of Bounds in Scotch Plains,New Jersey.

Russell Deming from ESP in Hanford, California says thegenerics are their biggest seller, simply because they are the leastexpensive. But Shorty’s one-inch Phillips dominate sales in mostshops with 7/8- and one-inch screws usually in second place–ofcourse, there are a few exceptions. FTC in San Francisco only sellsFTC brand and Diamond Hardware, and the one-inch Allen headfrom Diamond is clearly the best seller.

But what makes the kids pick Shorty’s? Has their namedominated the industry in a way similar to Coca-Cola and softdrinks? Is it just the easiest name to remember? Possibly. But thereis more to it than that. Rachel Christopher from World Wide in SiouxFalls, South Dakota claims, “The kids say that supposedly Shorty’sdon’t break.”

Small Empire’s Joe Rajsteter says, “It’s definitely their adsand the lifetime guarantee.” But who knows how many kids mailtheir broken hardware back to the companies offering guarantees. Iknow I never bothered to.

We can’t overlook age and where it fits into the equation.Herb Grignon at Eastern Boarder in Worcester, Massachusetts says,”The little kids like colored hardware and the Silverados.”Joe at Incline Club in Lakewood, New Jersey knows that in his area,”The older guys buy Shorty’s, and the little kids like Luckyhardware–with the one green bolt. We barely sell any Allen-head.”

Peter Karvonen of Faith in Birmingham, Alabama says theolder guys prefer Allen head because it strips less, and “Young kidslove Randoms.”

And what about Randoms, Rocketbolts, and other “tool-less” or “one-tool” hardware? Are the industry and the customersready to welcome back hardware “innovations”? Of the shops wespoke to, only Faith is selling any. According to Kent Uyehara, hiscustomers at FTC can “see through the fluff,” and his shop never hadany luck selling anything but standard hardware.

Rajsteter at Small Empire in Ledgewood, New Jersey says,”Randoms and similar types of hardware are such a pain to bang inand out.”

Darkhorse’s Friedman is optimistic: “Our newly introducedand patented Rocketbolts (one-tool hardware) are showing thepotential for catching up in sales to our regular hardware.”

What does Noe from Shorty’s have to say aboutinnovation? “We still spend time experimenting with new concepts,and they usually fail.”

Although most people take modern hardware for granted,those of us who have skated for longer than eight or so years, orworked in a shop back then, know how bad hardware used to be. Weshould remember that Shorty’s was the first hardware that wasmade to fit a deck without the excess bolt coming out of the nut.Before then, when risers were abandoned, the bolt was getting bentand ground up from nose, board, and tailslides. This resulted in thestripping out of the head when trying to remove them, or thecomplete inability to remove the nut at all (at which point hacksawswere wielded and baseplates were trashed). Also, Shorty’s hardwarewas the first hardware that came half threaded to strengthen theshaft.

It seems in the case of hardware, the technology andgimmicks are only good to a point, which we may have reached, andthen it levels off. Could excess innovation be overkill? Maybe,because it seems that simple is better for most people. Perhaps theydon’t think too hard about why, but two things seem certain–theshops and customers know what kinds of hardware they want, andShorty’s was on to something way before the rest of us.

Shorty’s Nails Our Bolt Survey
We asked ten U.S. shops which are their best-selling hardware.

8 Shorty’s one-inch Phillips.
1 No-name one-inch Phillips.
1 Diamond one-inch allen.