Archive for March, 2012

Shorty’s Cooper Draper Pryce

March 29, 2012

Necessity is the mother of invention, goes the old saying. You can put lipstick on a pig, but you can’t stop him from eating the whole tube, goes another. Deceased Macho Man Randy Savage repeatedly shouted “oh yeah.” All of these phrases are different ways of expressing the idea that ever since the days when cavemen urinated on cave walls, mankind has yearned and urinated to express himself and develop a personal branding motif.

So it is with mounting hardware, that little-loved backwater of hardgoods commerce usually relegated to some lowly corner of the scratched-up glass merchandise case, forgotten between professionally colored trucks and expensive Black Label stickers autographed by Jub. Or is it? A detailed analysis of history reveals that hardware purveyours rank among the creamiest in skateboarding’s would-be crop of self-styled marketing necromancers.

The original baron of bolts must be known as Shorty’s Tony Buyalos, who swept aside faddish concerns such as “Bridgebolts” to zero in on an increasingly truthful fact of the world in the early 1990s, which was that mounting hardwares generally were too long and got sort of wavy from street skating*. At the height of its power, the Shorty’s empire commanded consumer loyalty not only to its nuts and bolts but to an array of multicolored bushings, bearings and even riser pads, a shocking twist of fate since the declining popularity of riser pads was what first helped to develop a thirst for Shorty’s bolts that were shorter. An unrelated line of snowboards came to be sold, Rosa became the industry’s diva of the 1990s** and the Muska was signed as an employee, skateboarding but also innovating new objects like the “short stacks.”

Today the hardware kingpin with the wealthiest fame must be Nick Tershay who built a profitable clothes company by starting with some difficult to use but heavily endorsed mounting hardwares bearing the Diamond brand. I never did see many people ever use Diamond hardware, but a knack for color schemes and a knowing of the right people bolstered Diamond’s standing to the point where one of its premium t-shirts may fetch near $100 in an open auction format. The company separately has Mike Carroll signature hardware currently on offer.

The expansive market share and well-loved logos nurtured in our time by hardware companies raises queries as to why bolt-makers have been able to capture valuable soft dollars while companies competing to sell “sexier” products such as footwear and boards have struggled to stay afloat in recent years. Seven-ply maple decks and minimalist suede shoes have steadily marched toward commoditization but selling nuts and bolts, basically a commodity to begin with, has birthed lucrative empires that have helped clothe rappers and introduced the world to the multifaceted talents of Peter Smolik. Are hardware sellers forced to hustle harder than the next outfit because they are starting with a humdrum product? Does a major corporate superpower like Nike or K-Mart or BNSF Railways possess the credibility to jump into the hardware fray? Could Torey Pudwill launch the next great mounting hardware dynasty? Is mounting hardware a right or a privilege?

*Not good wavy like “Coke Wave 2,” bad wavy like going to prison for 75 years
**Runner-up, Ricca Gentry?

“Metal Plates On My Nuts So My Shit Don’t Scrape”

March 26, 2012

To Have And Have Not

March 18, 2012

The mildest U.S. winter in decades has helped reduce reliance on private indoor facilities rented for the purposes to safeguarding 360 flips from rust and cobwebs in recent months, and probably also helped to nurture the “Occupy” movement such that occupiers across the country were able to blow out half a candle in recent days, situated atop a free-range cake and served family-style at a sanctioned local park/streetcorner. But deeper strife may yet lay ahead.

Zered Bassett, raised in the shadow of a failed Dukakis presidential bid and a onetime beneficiary of Mitt Romney’s health programme, suggests in the Appleyard TSM that skateboarding may be watching the rise of its own so-called 1%, and an inevitable widening of the income and performance gap between two increasingly disparate camps:

The Skateboard Mag: To go back to Street League, why don’t you compete in that contest?
Zered Bassett: Why are we talking about Street League? I’m not a contest skater, man.
TSM: I think you’re capable of doing really well in contests.
ZB: I don’t have a skatepark that I can skate and learn tricks at to take to a contest and feel confident enough to skate the contest well. If I had a skatepark that I could skate with my homies every day and learn shit, not in the public eye, I’d feel way more confident.

It’s a well-worn chestnut that for every Mark Appleyard, switch backside flipping in finely tuned leathers and pushing a Jaguar, there are a half-dozen Rob Welshes manning liquor-store tills and Wade Speyers filling large dump trucks full of debris and then dumping them at a dirty dump. Even Heath Kirchart, receiver of several signature shoe payment deals, was reduced to delivering pizzas and servicing snack machines upon his self-directed retirement. Things are tough all over out there and keep in mind this isn’t some fly-by-night youtube hot-shoe we’re discussing here, this is Zered Bassett, who’s either awash in Red Bull energy beverage endorsement fees or a consistently poor chooser of hatwear.

Yet Zered Bassett goes wanting when it comes to private parkdom, ensuring he will never develop the machinelike consistency that makes Nyjah Huston, Chaz Ortiz and Ryan Sheckler such riveting competitors to watch amass those hard-to-follow Street League points, and bring home the big moneybags (or at least get the chance to fall victim to high-profile jewelry heists). While Paul Rodriguez parlays his Fuel TV heroics into lucrative sponsorship arrangements with Target Corp., that in turn provides branded obstacles with which to expand his personal training ground, Zered Bassett moves to Brooklyn and farms his beard.

While Nyjah Huston blows tens of thousands of American dollars on hot cars, Ricky Oyola spends his winter driving a truck in Philadelphia. And as Rob Dyrdek lays peacefully asleep on his yacht off the shores of Key West, the bullet-riddled body of Danny Renaud, stone dead, is borne ashore by friends and well-wishers in the still of night after a lifetime of hard choices and short chances finally caught up with him on that one last run back from Cuba.

When Colloquialisms Attack Or, The Time Something About A Muska Shoe Ad Bothered Me For 13 Years

March 9, 2012

Recently as part of a broader discourse on the state of the modern skateshop I deployed the phrase “branded product,” and even with scare quotes highlighting a wry and half-joking nature, heh heh, I felt kind of like a dork. There’s any number of breadcrumbs dropped along skateboarding’s meandering path into the deep dark forest of institutionalization lo these past couple decades, and embracing this type of industry jargon seems like shaking the bag. For the youngsters there’s maybe some cachet to dangling such terms around the park or the curb, suggesting you’re familiar with the industry and maybe a little bit of world-weariness to go along with it, but as time passes I feel sometimes like these little phrases get to be more of a reminder of how weirdly and wonderfully insular our little universe can be, what with pretty much all the media by/for/about its advertisers and well-documented revolving doors granting exit and entry from jobs at companies or distributors the same as pro team rosters.

Of course at a time where our planet is regularly threatened by dangerous solar storms and powered by a steadily expanding sun that may one day engulf us, or heat us up too much to live anymore, this is all minor league shit. But, for a tribe that has developed its own vernacular to the point where a factual complete sentence like “He kickflip backside noseblunt slid that hubba for his ender in the Firm’s ‘Can’t Stop’” sounds like gibberish to the man on the street, I’m getting on my Académie Française on for some grievance airing. Disclaimer, this blog webpage has maybe abused any or all of these phrasings.

Product, singular: Sorta remember first noticing this in interviews in the late 1990s, now it is the parlance of our times when it comes to discussing numerous boards, sets of wheels, pairs of shoes and so on. During especially sensitive moments this word could be seen to carry an elitist tinge, like an offhand description of sponsorship spoils. But it’s also useful as a reminder of the commoditization of boards and wheels over the past decade, and maybe now shoes too, until the pendulum finally swings away from canvas low-tops and back toward the Es Scheme.

Colorway: Distinctly recall first seeing this in an ad for Muska’s first pro shoe for Circa. Disliked it because it always seemed a little poofy and, dare I say, girly. Why not just “see other colors of the Scheme at http://www.esfootwear.com”?

Core: When referring to a shop or a company. To me the word “core” in this sense comes from the same land where they farm those big neon-coloured hats with the fake dreadlocks, step-in snowboard bindings and surf shorts with big flames down the sides. I understand what the word’s trying to get at but attempting to affix this label flounders on the same slippery slope as Justice Potter Stewart grappling with a definition for hard-core pornography. Know it when you see it, etc.

Brand: Instead of company. Comes off a little high-falutin’, or maybe like the product of an overheated marketing 101 lab session. Rather than make things, it must also be things, perhaps to certain people at certain times and for certain favors to be delivered at an agreed upon date.

SKUs: Here you toddle down the path to the strange and surreal dimension of retail merchandising acronyms. SKU stands for stock-keeping unit, and can be used to refer to Es Schemes or other products kept in a store for sale to customers. Confusingly, a shoe* can be a SKU, and a SKU can also be a shoe, or in other cases a hat or even a Hurley sticker.

*such as an Es Scheme


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