The male manicure is having a moment.
Harry Styles, a veritable gender-neutral fashion god at this point, was an early adopter of the trend. The “As It Was” singer has experimented with everything from smiley face-emblazoned manicures to subdued, earthy, oat-milk-colored nails. (Last year, Styles smartly cashed in on the mani and pedicure market with a beauty line that offers a handful of nail polish shades.)
The Puerto Rican rapper is such a big proponent of the manicure as self-care that in 2018 he called out a nail salon in Spain for denying him service because he was a man. “Men also take care of themselves,” Bad Bunny later told Refinery29 in an interview. “Stop the ignorance, and let’s think with a more open mind. We’re in 2018, and we are supposed to have equality.”
Los Angeles-based manicurist Brittney Boyce has worked with a number of nail-art-loving male celebrities. She’s done skull graphics with Travis Barker and textured art like a diamond plated look with the DJ Kayzo. Rapper Machine Gun Kelly is one of her most adventurous male clients.
“He’s always up to doing something really cool, whether it’s a chrome look, sharp 6-inch nails that feature a bright pink shade along with chains and spikes, abstract checkered patterns or a $30K diamond manicure,” said Boyce, who’s the founder of Nails Of LA.
As for why male manis are having a moment, Boyce thinks the revisited trend ― let’s not forget, David Bowie painted his nails in the ’70s and Kurt Cobain followed suit in the ’90s ― is part of broader trend: In 2022, even guys who identify as cisgender heterosexual men are feeling free to experiment and get gender fluid in their fashion.
“This moment actually reminds me of the ’70s,” the manicurist said. “Beyond Harry Styles, you have Pete Davidson in a dress for the Met Gala in 2021, Eugene Lee Yang in full makeup, nails and heels while rocking a suit, and every moment Billy Porter has on the red carpet.”
Non-celebrity guys are coming into nail salons and asking for a little TLC with their nails, too. Sigourney Nuñez, a nail artist in Los Angeles who has worked with Styles for his beauty line, thinks the pandemic and chaotic political times created an environment where guys realized they deserved to treat themselves every now and then.
“A lot of us are reevaluating what’s truly important in our lives,” she told HuffPost. “Amid all this tumult, self-care is more imperative than ever and a manicure is just that: a form of self care.”
Nuñez said the guys she’s worked with may even enjoy the mani process more than her women clients.
“In terms of a reaction to manicures, typically my clients who identify as male laugh or show gratitude during the cuticle detailing,” she said. “I guess it’s because it’s a relaxing sensation they just haven’t been exposed to prior. It’s really cute.”
What kinds of designs are they opting for? Nuñez said multicolored manicures have been super popular.
“It’s kind of a gateway to more elaborate nail art,” she said. “Once someone sees how fun it is to wear a variety of shades, the next time they are more open to something minimal, and the journey continues.”
Robbie Tomkins, a manicurist in London, thinks that, when it comes to nail art, many guys are learning to walk before they run with designs.
“They favor negative space and minimal designs at first but are braving more color, too,” he said. “Before, I found guys that did ask for a manicure wanted a buffed nail or if painted, a black or dark blue block color, but I’ve definitely seen a shift toward brighter nails which include some form of nail art. It’s all about individualism.”
Below, we spotlight some of our favorite gender-inclusive manis we’ve seen as of late.
Hand-drawn roses on Adam Levine
A simple black-and-white graphic print for Machine Gun Kelly
Rich Fury via Getty Images
Machine Gun Kelly went relatively understated with his manicure at the 2021 Billboard Music Awards.
Rainbow drip nails
Noelle Fuyu Moore
Noelle Fuyu Moore
Moore created these 3-D nails for a particularly adventurous client.