Manly manicures: how men are reclaiming nail polish

Men throughout the United States are reclaiming the use of nail polish as a way to express their identities and defy ideals of what it means to be a man. Prominent rapper and singer Tyler, the Creator released a set of nail polish colors through his GOLF le FLEUR* brand this past December as a means to express his femininity and break norms of masculinity that are held throughout the world. 

The rapidly growing beauty and cosmetic industry now includes a market that caters to the needs of men. Rapper Lil Yachty also released his own brand of gender-neutral nail polish under the brand name “Crete,” while Machine Gun Kelly has also released his own shades of nail polish.

“There’s a whole culture and…market behind all that stuff,” PHS math teacher Mr. Michael Fitzgerald said. Fitzgerald, like many other men, has recently started painting his nails as a unique form of aesthetic expression. He believes that just how society perceives hair and clothes as extensions of one’s identity, nails are also an extension of that expression. 

As society as a whole adopts a more open outlook towards different expressions of masculinity and gender, all age groups participate in this cultural phenomenon. 

“My brother started doing it and I liked it…I really don’t see any problems with just having colors on your nails,” Charlie Helfert, a senior at PHS stated. 

Lil Yachty believes that many men have wanted to paint their nails, but because of the stigma around it, many men are hesitant to do so. However, this stigma has not always been perpetuated throughout history.

This new market of men who are willing to spend money on cosmetic enhancements also presents itself with a potential for economic growth. In fact, according to Hypebae, a fashion website, searches for male manicures and nail-related beauty products for men jumped by 457% after Harry Styles released his beauty brand, “Pleasing”. The male nail industry is a rapidly growing one that could promise investors a lot of money and economic opportunities.

Although in recent history, nail polish and cosmetic enhancements have been associated with femininity, an archaic version was used by men in Babylonia since 3200 BCE. Within the past millennium, men in the Qing dynasty of China adorned their nails by making them absurdly long. The long nails represented the social class of the man because long nails symbolized that the wearer had to do less physical labor and therefore was of a higher social status. Despite all the history behind men wearing nail polish, it was only recently that black culture and the 80’s punk scene helped revive the wearing of nail polish by men.