For many men, waxing beards, plucking eyebrows or having a massage have all been elements of a self-care routine for some time. Now, it seems, they are embracing a new grooming activity: the manicure.
Men’s nail art has become de rigueur in celebrity circles, with the likes of Post Malone, A$AP Rocky, Saturday Night Live’s Pete Davidson and rapper Bad Bunny adopting the trend. Now salons are reporting a more varied clientele.
“Our clients are all different ages and professions,” said Amy Lin, founder of Sundays Studio a wellness nail bar in New York, who holds Menicure Mondays. “From a dad with a five-year-old daughter, to a business consultant, to men who work in a creative agency.”
Major fashion brands are getting on board. Last week Chanel expanded its men’s cosmetic line, Boy De Chanel, to include two shades of nail varnish for men: black and natural. Garrett Munce, grooming editor of Esquire and author of Self-Care for Men thinks that painted nails are no longer a subversive style norm, once sported by the likes of Lou Reed, Kurt Cobain and in music scenes like punk, glam rock, grunge and emo. “Subcultures that generally embraced it all have one thing in common: to rebel against accepted standards,” says Munce. “Since our culture has seen nail polish as feminine and marketed it exclusively to women for decades these cultures understood that a man wearing nail polish challenged that idea. They did it purposefully to make us think about what that means.”
Munce, who normally wears dark-coloured varnish on his nails, says he “sees a lot of ‘regular’ men with nail polish these days.” He thinks the popularity of “menicures” are due to their low maintenance. “Anyone can paint their nails,” he said. “It’s a low risk thing to do because it takes little effort, apart from waiting to let the nails dry, and if you don’t like it, it’s easy to take off.” Celebrity nail artist Mei Kawajiri told US GQ this month: “Now nail art is more like one of the tools to make you cool, like tattoos or piercings or makeup.”
Lockdown has given men the chance to take up trends they hadn’t previously bothered with. “I’ve heard from a few female friends that their boyfriends or husbands have let them paint their nails for the first time,” he said. “Maybe out of boredom, but also maybe because on some level they were interested.”
Aldwyn Boscawen, who runs the UK’s first men’s pedicure room, Aldwyn & Sons in London’s Fitzrovia, started the business to change the way men thought about treatments. “The pandemic has increased everybody’s awareness of hygiene and grooming. The sense of wellbeing and self-care is equally as important for men,” he says.