How traditional masculinity has yet to embrace the “man”-icure movement.

By Lizzy Zarrello.

In popular culture, nails have become a form of self-expression. With the help of famous nail artists and the rise of ornate nail art, nails’ blank canvases are a way for people to be creative. However, nail polish is still correlated with the historical roots of feminine beauty. The concept of traditional masculinity has yet to embrace this “man”-icure movement.

It wasn’t long ago that punk stars of the ’90s like Kurt Cobain and glam rockers like David Bowie were rebelling against the social norms surrounding nail polish. Modern rock stars like rappers A$AP Rocky, Lil Uzi Vert, Post Malone, and many other artists have built upon this theme by sporting bright nail art. Others like Lil Nas X, Bad Bunny, and Machine Gun Kelly have been spotted wearing acrylic nail extensions. Even so, Lil Pump was recently ridiculed by others within the rap community for rocking long acrylic nails. Some are beginning to profit off the trend; Machine Gun Kelly has recently announced the launching of his unisex nail polish line. Rapper Lil Yachty, popular on TikTok for pushing flashy nail art, has also recently released his own brand of paints.

These rappers have turned the common black, chipped, and gothic nail polish into a vibrant and playful form of male grooming. In order to make this artistic expression more socially acceptable, nail polish brands marketed towards men are expanding. Crete, created by Lil Yachty, has taken traditional nail polish and rebranded the term to “nail paints.” By changing the packaging into a pen styled brush, it improves the functionality of nail polish, making it more user friendly to unfamiliar men. Currently available in three shades, black, gray, and white, the tones of accessible neutral options stand in stark contrast to the bright patterns worn by both men and women celebrities.

Men wearing black nail polish is not new nor groundbreaking, so why are these brands not experimenting in shade ranges? Clearly the men who are wearing nail polish are willing to break gender norms. However, these brands have just begun developing color concepts. Unfortunately, there are very few nail polishes designed for men, with the main focus of bringing the basics to consumers before branching out into brighter shades.

Faculty, a grooming brand marketed towards men, embraces the New Wave Masculinity that fights the pressures of the traditional masculine ideal. “We believe masculinity and identity are yours to define, we believe you should play with polish however you like. Trying new textures, colors, art, etc. is all part of experimenting with what feels more you,” state founders Umar ElBably and Fenton Jagdeo. Faculty’s main inspiration is taking celebrity nail art and transforming it into an easier format—nail stickers, allowing us ‘average joes’ to experience the form of self-expression these influencers are encouraging. Like with other brands, their range of polish shades has just begun. Faculty adds, “Our first few launches were very limited as we were in the early days of ideation. The bright colors are coming, we just needed something to get started.”

In an ideal world culture will allow people to express themselves freely and these brands will continue to grow, making nail polish a male grooming norm. As Faculty notes, “We created these boundaries at the dawn of our existence. That means we are in full control to bring them down and inherently; they are insignificant and mean nothing because they are just intangible constructs. These products are just chemical blends.” These chemical blends offer a way for people of all genders to show their inner selves, create conversation, experiment, and ultimately, have fun.

Image credit: Faculty