I’m not sure what it is about humans, but we occasionally get very weird about the visibility of little round things. Nipples, for example. Headphone jacks. That ringworm scar on your thigh. But I think the most baffling little round things we spend a lot of effort trying to conceal are screwheads and other fasteners on cars. The efforts taken to hide the fact that things are connected to other things with other other things is just absurd. There’s nothing wrong with screws! Time to stop hiding them.
Just take a moment and consider that top image, if you don’t mind. Actually, if it helps, I’ll repeat it here, with the plastic hinged lid closed, and with it flipped open, so you can recoil in horror at the nice, shiny Philips-head screw that holds everything in place:
This fitting, by the way, is on a Genesis GV80’s sun visor mount, which means the whole assembly here is hidden when the visor is up.
Look at that damn thing. There’s an entire tiny plastic injection-molded steamer trunk, with a hinge and everything, just to hide a single, solitary screw. And this is by no means unusual—look on just about any car made since, oh, the 1970s or so and you’ll see similar ridiculous lengths taken, in the form of little lids, pop-off panels, plugs, and so on, all to hide the heads of screws.
Objectively, this is absolute madness.
Why, exactly, did we collectively decide that visible screws were so awful-looking that we had to hide them?
Screw heads aren’t ugly things. They’re utilitarian things, sure, but that’s not the same as ugly, and there’s no reason we should feel like they need to be hidden. There’s no shame in acknowledging that things need to be held together by screws. Machines aren’t just kissed together and held fast by the magic of elegant design, there’s thousands and thousands of hard-working fasteners making that massive conglomeration of parts a wondrous whole, and there’s no reason we should willfully ignore their contribution.
I get that there may be aero reasons to have smooth surfaces, and certain sleek designs look better with clean, unbroken lines. Okay, sure. Maybe that can justify covering some very visible exterior fasteners, but little interior ones, holding up the visor? Please.
It’s not like you can’t make quality screwheads or other fasteners seem “premium” or luxurious. In fact, the bold display of a really top-notch fastener does suggest real luxury, since nothing is hidden—it’s not some crap with a fancy coat, it’s quality all the way down.
Dutch supercar maker Spyker always understood this. Look at that interior—full of visible screw heads, and simultaneously incredibly luxurious. The two don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
I know some cars are unashamed of their fasteners, but usually they’re usually tough, off-road vehicles like Jeeps. There’s a utilitarian chic quality that these vehicles strive for, and while it’s founded in real practical concerns (doors and windshields you want to be able to remove easily) it can devolve into a sort of artificial fastener fetishization, which is how we end up with things like this:
Remember these Jeep Cherokee steering wheels with the eight hex-head bolts in the center there? Those bolts were fake. Fakey fake fake. And yet this same car had plenty of hidden fasteners, like on these visor brackets:
So, here we have a situation where some screws are embarrassing and must be hidden, while in other places we want to see fasteners so badly we’ll put fake ones on the part right in front of the driver.
None of this makes any sense at all, and it’s time we stopped.
I’m issuing a Jalopnik Formal Demand to the collective automakers of the world, based on my authority as head of the Global Fastener Pride Initiative, to no longer needlessly hide fasteners.
Let the screwheads be seen! Show your bolts! We can do this! We already love to show certain methods of fastening, like bold, contrasting-color stitching, so why not lovely, polished, high-quality screws?
It’s easier from a service and repair perspective, there’s got to be some cost-savings and logistics benefits to not having to make a silly little rubber plug or tiny plastic suitcase to hide half the screws in the car, right?
Just design mounts that let the screws be seen, openly and unashamedly, already.
Just to let you know I walk the walk with this, I’d like to show you how many visible fasteners there are on my daily-driver Pao:
I’m ashamed of none of those hard-working screws.
Screws and fasteners hold the world together. It’s time to stop being ashamed. It’s time to stop hiding every single screw.
Fastener pride, mothertrusters.