Stars like Harry Styles are making men’s nail art and polish popular, and normalising something seen as for women only until now
- Nail salons are attracting a new clientele – men – and the likes of Chinese rappers Zhou Zhennan and Kris Wu are helping drive the trend in Asia
- ‘Nail art is just another way of self-expression, like tattoos,’ says the co-founder of a Hong Kong salon
In May, Machine Gun Kelly and Megan Fox caused quite a stir at the Billboard Music Awards in Los Angeles for their outré appearances and public displays of affection.
The looks served by the musician-actor, who had dyed his tongue black, and Fox (in a barely-there Mugler dress) were so distracting that you would be forgiven for not noticing that Kelly was also sporting immaculate nail art. A few days later, his talons were unmissable at the iHeartRadio Music Awards.
The micro trend is pushing into the mainstream and a growing number of nail salons in the United States and Europe are drawing a new clientele – men who are looking for something different for their hands.
“It’s definitely a real trend – we see more men coming to the studio and asking for nail polish and now nail art,” says Amy Ling Lin, founder of Sundays, a nail care studio in New York that’s focused on wellness. “It’s interesting that guys are not limiting themselves to using safe colours or art; we’ve seen men asking for pure black to bright blue, or painting their toes all white. We’ve had clients also requesting evil eye nail art and also minimalist designs.”
Lin points to A$AP Rocky as a celebrity who has done a lot to normalise nail art for men and help make it a trend, saying the rapper “does a good job of expressing himself and making his nail designs an extension of his outfits”.
“Nail art is growing in Hong Kong,” says Carroll Lee, co-founder of Tinted., a nail salon in Causeway Bay on Hong Kong Island. “We wouldn’t say that it’s mainstream yet, but among the more adventurous and creative communities, we’ve seen an increase in demand. We feel like nail art is just another way of self-expression, just like tattoos.”
As a result, painted nails for men have been seen as the rebellious quirk of a rock star, not something fashionable or a form of expression.
Nail salons have also been making themselves more attractive to male customers. “We actually launched a campaign called Menicure Monday where we were offering 20 per cent off manicures for guys and, if a girl brings a guy, both would get 20 per cent off services. We wanted to promote the idea that nail care as a form of self-care is for everyone, not just girls,” say Lin.
Underpinning this is young men with fewer hang-ups about what is deemed masculine or feminine in fashion, who have the freedom (or at least the appearance of freedom) to be more creative with their personal style.
“‘I think it’s going to become more popular as more men become comfortable with the idea of going to nail salons,” says Lin. “This, coupled with more male icons trying nail polish, will lead to a trickle-down effect – but we are still a few years away from seeing it on men every day.”