#790 Boys with painted nails

By Cathryn Wellner / September 14, 2013
Painted nails

Photo by Calitar, who had his wife paint his nails; via Flickr Creative Commons

The guy (not the one in the photo) is a barista, and he paints his nails. So one day a mom comes in, sees his bright green nails and says, “Wow, you’re so brave!” It gives her the courage to allow her son to paint his nails. Next week she comes back in with her son, to show the barista the boy’s sparkling blue nails.

My friend Cathy Richards found the story on The Other 98%’s Facebook page. They found it on the FckH8 Facebook page, which posted it on August 27th. The brief story made me wonder if there was much online about boys and men painting their nails.

The ABC show, What Would You Do?, had actors play the parts of a mother and her son, a critical customer and an unhappy dad. The “son” wanted pink polish. He and his mother sat side by side for their manicures. The “customer” and the “dad” disapproved. Real customers were filmed reacting to the scenario. The responses were mixed, but enough of them were positive to reassure me that things are changing for the better. Watch to the end because the last woman, mother of three boys, speaks with such loving acceptance you will want to hug her.

I’m obviously slow to catch on because I also found:

  • Those who weighed in two years ago on the experience project’s question about whether or not guys should wear nail polish were overwhelmingly in favour of it.
  • Scott Gent devotes his blog, One Gent’s Ten, to encouraging men to wear nail polish. Men with Painted Nails takes a similar approach, as does Men and nail polish.
  • The New York Times published a piece in June 2013 with the headline, Manly Manicures End in Color.
  • Reddit has a whole stream on Malepolish.
  • Even Fox News watchers did not get overly bent out of shape in 2011 when J. Crew sent out advertising that included a picture of president and creative director Jenna Lyons holding her son’s pink-painted toes. Predictably, that did not stop the network’s contributing psychiatrist, Dr. Keith Ablow, from weighing in with dark predictions about the boy’s future need for psychotherapy.

A quick Google search is not enough to declare an end to bullying over gender-stretching issues. Still, if the Internet had been around while I was growing up, I can declare with 100% certainty that a similar search would have yielded near-universal condemnation.

A little dab of colour is a small thing, but it can have big significance. So I find reason for hope in the support for boys and men who want to wear nail polish.

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About the author

Cathryn Wellner

Writer, storyteller, foodie, enviro, animal lover, photo enthusiast, traveler - opinionated but open. I wake up eager to start the day.

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36 comments
Lydia - September 14, 2013

I love this entry.

When my nephew was 2 or 3 he was obsessed with lip gloss. Some family members thought such a thing was too “feminine” for a little boy, but it gave me hope to see so many people that I love not have a problem with it.

Things were more strict when I was a kid.

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    Cathryn Wellner - September 14, 2013

    And when I was growing up, no family would have allowed a boy to step outside of strict gender lines. How wonderful that your nephew’s fascination with lip gloss was accepted by most of his family.

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Jake - October 30, 2013

Having colorful nails is fun! (just ask a girl…). Sure, guys can paint their nails too. Last time I checked, nail polish was not listed on the “magic gender-changing” list, so I guess it’s fairly safe.

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Vicktoria - November 9, 2013

How awesome! Anyone should be allowed to wear what they want. Right now my little guy is sporting silver nails and his dad’s are dark gray! I see nothing wrong with any color on a guy! I am appalled at anyone who’s not accepting of anyone’s personal taste in fashion or individuality!

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Gustavo Acosta - November 11, 2013

Loved the report, and I am a male who goes polished all the time in any color I damn please!

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mark - December 15, 2013

It’s becoming much more popular as time goes on, Cathryn. I color too. Because there are zillions of great colors and I see no reason not to add a bit of color to an otherwise drab canvas. Girls are getting tattoos like it was going out of style, because humans are just naturally drawn to color. Note I didn’t say only girls, but all humans. And more men polish their toes than you’d think. Many never show because they’re so afraid of what others think. Besides, why in the world would anybody really care what’s on my toes? Seriously? There are plenty of really serious thing to be concerned about in this world today, and I doubt that color on a fellow’toes or hand ranks anywhere near the top. :)

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    Cathryn Wellner - December 15, 2013

    I think I was born too soon, Mark, and I really like your comment. Although it seems a small thing, guys with painted nails and girls with tattoos were major (and silly) taboos when I was growing up. I see the acceptance of both as a sign that attitudes are gradually softening, allowing for the uniqueness of human expression. And that gives me hope.

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    Nails Colored - May 29, 2014

    Right on

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Anthony - May 9, 2014

I have painted my foot nails private, but now by professionals. I think nature has so many colors, so I love seeing them in my feet. I started with my finger nails, so I would not bite them ( which worked my teeth does not like the sense ), them I gave a thought and wento my toes. Next week I already have booked to try a new color, more mennish. Next step is going outdoors. Cross your fingers

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    Cathryn Wellner - May 9, 2014

    When I watch colourful birds, I can’t help wonder why human males are expected to be drab. Your colour-FULL nails sound splendid.

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mdaniels4 - July 21, 2014

Actually Cathryn, it was in fact human males in most cultures to be the colorful ones, mimicking the natural world. Look at the mid 1600’s throgh the early part of the 1800’s. Both sexes adorned themselves with abandon for fun as well as notice me over another.

The current thinking was derived from the Victorian age, as well as the technological industrial age. It came about from a shift from rural life where women were not needed, as much, for sheer survival. So they had a bit more time on their hands through labor saving devices, and hence could spend more time on body adornment. Couple with that they were kept out of the regular workforce, except for the lower classes.

So what you had, beginning in the 1600’s was that there were the very wealthy, and the very poor. No middle class. the wealthy were ostentacious, the poor drab, both men and women of both classes. Then the industrial age started. Physical labor more required, and strength in the factories too, not for women as a whole. So men worked long hours, women able to afford it not so much, having more time to peruse beauty regimens. That led to women being viewed as more frivolous, and any man who did that must be as frivolous, therefore not respected by both men and women for the hardworking Puritan philosophy we had to begin with. That led to more disenfranchisement to women, which culminated in the 50’s until now with the feminist movement.

So you see, it is a rather logical, or rather illogical progression from where we came from to where we are, and because we are a particularly unthinking culture, it was a series of events: the industrial Age, coupled with a period of strict mores, then a shift in economics and compounded with the rise of mass media at the same time. That leaves us today with a still disenfranchisement of women, and theeir basic contribution, or cultural psyche versus men, but the funny thing is women buy into it more than men do. I think their point, through the overall feminist movement was they can do anything a man can do, so they raised themselves, but a man is NOT allowed into ANY province of a female, because she is afraid they might talke over the domain she has gained. There’s alot more of course than this, and had I desired at the time, I might have gotten my PhD in sociology on just this topic. But at my age it is not economically worth that effort. Sooner than later someone else with this passion will have that discussion, and I will render a “godspeed” to them from wherever I am at the time. LOL!

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    Cathryn Wellner - July 21, 2014

    So glad you weighed in here with an historical perspective. It has always struck me as odd that in the avian world males bear such bright plumage, yet human males were relegated to drab duds. Sounds as if you’d have turned in a fascinating thesis on the topic.

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mdaniels4 - July 21, 2014

Thank you, dear. As I said, not my thesis any longer, but if I were a woman, looking at the historical perspective, my view of things would be challenged indeed. I would be looking at what we have all lost as a function of what I have gained. On balance not a good trade except for a rather selfish viewpoint. However Malthus and Adam Smith did discuss the nature of human perspective and condition.

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    jesse - September 6, 2014

    Hello I love to see I’m not the only male to were nail polish iv been painting my toes for about 7 years now I do it bc it relaxes me And I love to see all the beautiful Colors so thank you

    Reply
      Cathryn Wellner - September 7, 2014

      Male birds are always the more colourful of the species. Wonderful that you are enjoying the variety and fun possible with nail painting.

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Andrew - September 9, 2014

I have painted my toenails for years now, I am now 29 years old. Today, I had a professional pedicure with black glossy nail polish & rhinestones on my big toes. Why should men not paint their nails? It’s just paint! More & more men should paint their nails, fingers, toes or both! It’s only fair, & it really enhances & improves the look of your hands & feet!

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Andrew - September 9, 2014

Thank you SO much Cathryn, you’re so kind!

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Andrew - September 11, 2014

As well as my current black glossy polish with rhinestones on my toenails, I have previously had my toenails painted all different colours! From left to right on each foot: red, orange, yellow, green & blue. I also enjoy wearing pink ladies flip flops in private, which I find MUCH comfier than mens sandals. In private, I also love crossdressing in skirts, tights, thongs, g strings, low cut tops, pink or black leggings, & have also worn lipstick! I also shave my body hair.

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Andrew - September 29, 2014

I’m thinking of having my next pedicure with a pink glossy nail polish, with daisies on my big toes. Maybe get an anklet & toe rings. What do you think Cathryn?

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    Cathryn Wellner - October 1, 2014

    Daisies? I think I’d be grinning to see those big toes, right alongside the pink polish, anklet and toe rings. Fun!

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Andrew - October 1, 2014

Or maybe glow in the dark nail polish on my toes, a nice scarlet red. I’ve sent you a friend request on facebook Cathryn.

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Andrew - October 24, 2014

I’m thinking of having my next pedicure with a glossie glow in the dark orange painted toenails, with either rhinestones or flowers painted on my big toenails. Maybe get some nice pink diamante flip flops or jewelled flattie sandals, toe rings, anklet, some cropped trousers, & shave my legs. What do you think Cathryn?

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Andrew - December 7, 2014

Just planning my next pedicure. Which colour does everyone think I should go for? I cannot decide. Hope you are OK Cathryn.

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    Cathryn Wellner - December 7, 2014

    Still recovering from the head trauma. Colour…? Maybe…green or purple? You have a flair and will make the right decision. And, of course, no decision is permanent, which is perfect.

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jose - December 14, 2014

This is so cool. Ive been doing my toenails since I was like 8 and now I’m really good at nail art. (I’m 20 now) but It’s a secret from like 90% of the people I know and all of my family though. It’s cool to see other people are accepting of it.

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