Screwy

Some people think it’s just nuts and bolts–any will do as long as it holds the trucks on the board. Others need and swear by certain 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 hardware has undergone a lengthy evolution–from nails and wood screws used to fasten roller skate trucks to two-by-fours, and custom-designed and tempered fasteners that come packaged with their own tools (Allen keys). Some even require only one tool (wrench or socket). 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 a while, and have made a comeback. But nowadays most brands feature similar head shapes and shafts, and fall into two distinct camps–Phillips-head and Allen-head bolts. But who uses which, and why do we need both? “Because people like choices, and we like to give them a choice, which is why Shorty’s still sells both Phillips and Allen head,” says Noe Flores, hardware-team manager for Shorty’s. “They both sell just as well as the other, both are the hardest to strip out, which is why we only offer those two, so why not keep on making them?”

“Skateboarders have a preference of either Phillips or Allen, and tend not to switch once they develop a liking for one type,” says Darkhorse Distribution’s Terence Friedman. “This is why we (Grind King) provide both. Both sell equally well in the long term.”

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

Russell Deming from ESP in Hanford, California says the generics are their biggest seller, simply because they are the least expensive. But Shorty’s one-inch Phillips dominate sales in most shops with 7/8- and one-inch screws usually in second place–of course, there are a few exceptions. FTC in San Francisco only sells FTC brand and Diamond Hardware, and the one-inch Allen head from Diamond is clearly the best seller.

But what makes the kids pick Shorty’s? Has their name dominated the industry in a way similar to Coca-Cola and soft drinks? Is it just the easiest name to remember? Possibly. But there is more to it than that. Rachel Christopher from World Wide in Sioux Falls, South Dakota claims, “The kids say that supposedly Shorty’s don’t break.”

Small Empire’s Joe Rajsteter says, “It’s definitely their ads and the lifetime guarantee.” But who knows how many kids mail their broken hardware back to the companies offering guarantees. I know 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 Lucky hardware–with the one green bolt. We barely sell any Allen-head.”

Peter Karvonen of Faith in Birmingham, Alabama says the older guys prefer Allen head because it strips less, and “Young kids love Randoms.”

And what about Randoms, Rocketbolts, and other “tool-less” or “one-tool” hardware? Are the industry and the customers ready to welcome back hardware “innovations”? Of the shops we spoke to, only Faith is selling any. According to Kent Uyehara, his customers at FTC can “see through the fluff,” and his shop never had any 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 in and out.”

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

What does Noe from Shorty’s have to say about innovation? “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, or worked in a shop back then, know how bad hardware used to be. We should remember that Shorty’s was the first hardware that was made to fit a deck without the excess bolt coming out of the nut. Before then, when risers were abandoned, the bolt was getting bent and ground up from nose, board, and tailslides. This resulted in the stripping out of the head when trying to remove them, or the complete inability to remove the nut at all (at which point hacksaws were wielded and baseplates were trashed). Also, Shorty’s hardware was the first hardware that came half threaded to strengthen the shaft.

It seems in the case of hardware, the technology and gimmicks are only good to a point, which we may have reached, and then it levels off. Could excess innovation be overkill? Maybe, because it seems that simple is better for most people. Perhaps they don’t think too hard about why, but two things seem certain–the shops and customers know what kinds of hardware they want, and Shorty’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.