Nail paints on men? Yes, please. With nail paints becoming the new style statement, is nail art going to be the amplifier of personal style? The beauty industry weighs in
Men flaunting manicured polished tips is not uncommon—music legends, including the likes of David Bowie and Kurt Cobain, have been mastering the art of coloured nails for decades. But to give credit where it’s due, the new pop culture icons have brought the limelight to this trend once again in the last two years.
First things first, nail paints is not a cishet man-led trend. The queer community has forever been bending these rules of beauty and style. But there has been a shift in the energy when it comes to bending the rules for men, and the encouragement has come from the artists we so dearly follow. Ever since Harry Styles started off as a solo musician, he has been the flagbearer for menswear trends such as statement everything, sheer blouses, grandpa chic style, and among many others. While the singer may not be a nail art pioneer, his fondness for playful nail art has not gone unnoticed. He joins the growing list of male celebrities, including Colson Baker aka Machine Gun Kelly, Pete Davidson, Bad Bunny, Ansel Elgort, Jaden Smith and A$AP Rocky, who use nail polish to amplify their personal style.
In 2021, Styles showed his love with the launch of a beauty brand, Pleasing, which does nail products and skincare. Similarly, Baker also dropped nail polish brand UN/DN LAQR, and recalled that his deep appreciation for nail polish began due to an encounter with a stranger, after getting a manicure. With these increasing business moves in the beauty industry, we wonder if this is the next trend for men.
Designer Neeta Lulla opines that men’s grooming is not just a passing trend, but a full-fledged category of lifestyle. “The meaning of masculinity is changing, and our society is becoming more open and appreciative of new gender roles. Painted nails for men are going to be a great trend. It’s more about self-expression than being masculine or feminine. It’s like how people use tattoos or piercings as self-expression.”
While some celebrities and designers like Davidson, Marc Jacobs, Elgort turn to nail polish to complete a look to express their personal style, rapper A$AP Rocky has used nail art to make statements unrelated to fashion. Following his release from prison in Sweden in 2019, the rapper was seen with the words “F*ck Off” painted on his nails.
When asked about nail paints taking the spotlight on the runways, designer Kunal Anil Tanna says that runways essentially are a medium to express one’s creative ideation and conceptualisation. “We have beauty products specifically for men today, and I won’t be surprised nail paints for men will become a specific product category in the near future.”
“Although beauty as a category has traditionally catered to women, men are becoming more and more open to using make-up, which is now becoming prominent, courtesy of social media. At Colorbar, we’ve consciously launched shades in nail paints targeting men in particular,” opines a spokesperson from Colorbar, a beauty brand that focuses on make-up.
Celebrity MUA Deepal Haria says that the idea of beauty is unisex, genderless, and has no boundaries. “The male male-up industry is flourishing, and it’s a part of many people’s daily lives. In countries like the USA, UK, and others, manicures, pedicures were absolutely genderless, and customers line up to file and polish their nails. If skincare is common today for men then, why not nails? No doubt it’s an absolutely personal choice, but I feel it’s totally cool to have done nails, and also maybe a little make-up if they like to enhance their features. I’m sure you need to be brave enough to try it the first time and show it off, but go for it if that’s something that fascinates you.”
Thanks to the increasing awareness of gender-neutral fashion, the acceptance of genderless beauty is in a far better form than expected. “There certainly is a demand for nail paint among men in metro cities. We have also seen a demand for nail paint among men in quite a few mini metro cities in India, particularly for transparent and translucent nail polishes that give a neat, manicured look. Men are now increasingly taking an interest in beauty and skincare,” explains a spokesperson of Colorbar.
The future looks good. “The industry will see a major shift in narrative from being largely female-centric to being gender-neutral. We will find fewer beauty brands that cater exclusively to women, and gender neutrality will be at the core of all beauty products. We will see more diversity and representation in advertisements and campaigns as well,” explains the spokesperson from Colorbar.
The fashion industry has welcomed the genderless nail art movement with open arms, and it is a shift that was quite needed for a while where a man can express himself in his ways without judgements and remarks. Tarini Peshawaria, skincare and beauty influencer says, “I think make-up, colours, or any sort of body art is a way to express and empower oneself—and why should the expression be gender-specific? I am just glad that the lines between what’s traditionally male and what’s traditionally female are becoming blurred. At the end of the day, these roles about wearing nail varnish or make-up are socially constructed. Something as little as men wearing nail polish could potentially help with more representation, bashing societal norms and equalising gender roles.”
Parth Singasane, who has been wearing nail paints for quite a few years, explains how he got around wearing them. “My mum and sisters used to let me do their nails when I was young, so I was always fascinated with nails. While I was in college, some girls were doing their nails, I just tried putting on black nail paint and it looked bomb to me. Johnny Depp and Marilyn Manson were my inspiration. I faced a little criticism from a few people, but who cares? I wear bright colours so they notice even more.”
“I think it’s the conditioning that only women should grow their hair, paint their nails, wear pink, and also, beauty standards described by big brands, advertising companies. We all grew up with this kind of conditioning, and it’s difficult for people to accept the change,” he adds.
2022 may just be the year to show off your kickass nail art.