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The Evolution of Nail Art on Men

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As gender-bending fashion veers more towards altogether genderless style, so does the beauty trend that has men flashing custom nail art. From Harry Style’s pastel polish to Bad Bunny’s iridescent manicures, the guys aren’t afraid to play around with painting their nails.

Rock stars like Mick Jagger and David Bowie were among the first to bring men’s nail polish into pop culture, but the trend actually has roots going back as far as 3,200 BC. In ancient times, nail polish was a status symbol in Babylonian, Egyptian, and Chinese culture, either with the color of the lacquer denoting social status or with the varnish itself only reserved for the higher classes, regardless of gender. While there is little recorded history about its evolution, it’s clear that by the early 20th century, cosmetic companies specifically marketed nail polish to a female audience.

Now over a century later, the gendered perspective of the nail art industry is being challenged by stars of the younger generations such as Bad Bunny, Jaden Smith, A$AP Rocky, and more. Britney Tokyo, a Los Angeles-based nail artist who created Style’s now-viral fruit slice nails and has worked with Playboi Carti, Benny Blanco, Luka Sabbat, and others, doesn’t consider men’s manicures a trend rather than a growing industry. According to Tokyo, who’s client roster also includes Beyoncé, Ariana Grande, and Hailey Bieber, men have been coming to her for designs for five years now, with the list only growing. “My first male client was Playboi Carti,” Tokyo tells CR. “I put his nails on Instagram and then a lot of other men asked me to do theirs.”

Like the rock ‘n’ roll idols that came before, men’s nail art seems to specifically appeal to those in the music industry today. “Many music types like the nail art,” Tokyo says. “It is like fashion, a new thing, but not just for the ladies. It’s for men, too. It doesn’t matter.”

The men getting there nails done now, however, are going beyond the chipped red polish of Kurt Cobain or black varnish of Lou Reed, instead opting for kaleidoscopic colors, personal details, and unique designs. “Before, old rock stars liked the black, but now [men] like red, pink, flowers–it doesn’t matter,” Tokyo explains. “”My clients like the glitter and sparkles. They are very open, genderless designs.”

For those looking for a more subtle approach to men’s nail art, Tokyo suggests starting with a clear base coat and a matching design for each nail. The uniformity keeps the look from becoming too flashy. The artist also encourages men to get manicures simply for the self-care regimen and sake of their cuticles.

But for the guys who want to try doing their own nail art at home? “I can’t imagine it,” Tokyo says. In other words, maybe it’s best to leave it to the professionals.

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createdAt:Tue, 17 Mar 2020 18:39:01 +0000
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