Men can paint their nails, too and this is not anything new. Men have been wearing nail polish since 3200 B.C. It was reportedly discovered in Babylonia that men during that time wore nail polish with different colours signifying different classes. Other cultures known to have also done this is the Ancient Egyptians and Chinese who all used nail colours to denote class and status.
Why did this change? Nail polish became a feminine expression, mostly worn by women in 1800 France to represent their own cleanliness. And as commercialisation would have it, by the 1930s, Revlon began marketing red and pink polishes to women.
Though, the counterculture movement in the 70s did bring back the trend with celebrities like Iggy Pop, Kurt Cobain and David Bowie fashioning varnish on their nails. Nail polish became symbolic of their rebellious rock star status that challenged gender norms. Then also was the emergence of goth culture in the 90s with kids rocking black varnish on their fingernails.
The stigma still exists, but it is slowly changing. The trend has since become more acceptable with the rise of the “metrosexual” and male grooming growing in popularity. There is also more an acceptance of gender fluidity, especially since 17-year-old Jaden Smith hit Vogue Korea wearing a skirt, a flower in his hair and blue nail polish. Young people are now becoming more open and experimental with their own gender identities and their sexuality.
It also helps that you have big time celebrities and role models who are out and open to expressing their views on the matter. Take for instance, Gwen Stefani, who actively supports her kids’ gender expression.
“What I like to say is that being unique and original is what makes me happy, and I think that rubs off on them,” Stefani said. “My sons just did nails the other day… I literally have 400 bottles of nail polish, so they took them all out and put them all over the bathroom. We really played ‘salon’ and we did tiger strip nails.
This is not any different to Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s 8-year-old child who was assigned female at birth, but enjoys wearing suits and asked to be called “John”. We love parents who embrace their child for whoever they choose to be.
Then you also have genius designer Marc Jacobs who put the “man” back into manicure with the #MalePolish trend on Instagram. Marc Jacobs is the epitome of man, with his masculine stubble, cigarette smoking, and well adorned painted fingernails. Now, more and more guys are wearing nail polish and posting it under the #MalePolish hashtag – go Marc Jacobs, you trendsetter!
So, why are so many men embracing it? For various reasons – it could be to make a statement about their identity, to make a fashion statement, or to make them feel good. In his essay, “Why I Wear Nail Polish” published on Medium, Jonathon Reed wrote, “It’s a piece of self-identity, and it gets me through hard days.” It seems, sometimes men wear nail polish because they simply like it.
Others wear it for a cause. Zac Efron had sported a fresh coat of red on one finger and posted it to Instagram, which got people asking what his polish was all about. And that is exactly the purpose intended behind the Polished Man project by YGAP; to start a conversation and to raise awareness for 1 in 5 children around the world who suffer physical and/or sexual violence before the age of 18. It is a movement all about men who are unafraid to raise their voice on issues that matter and for a worthy cause. Other Polished Men include the likes of the Hemsworth brothers, James Marsden and Hugh Jackman.
So, if you ask us what our thoughts are on #MalePolish? The answer is: Fuck, yes! Why the hell not? AMR embraces people from all walks of life in whatever identity they which to express themselves. Self-expression is where true beauty lies. It’s time we start to break down those walls that stigmatise certain gender roles and embrace fluidity and acceptance. Adding colour onto your nails is a sure way to brighten up your day and share love into the world. It is all about love in the end.