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Men and Nail Art: A Creative Trend That's Beginning to Take Off

What do Harry Styles, A$AP Rocky, and Kurt Cobain all have in common? Well, besides the obvious wildly successful music careers and male celebrity-dom…. We may have miscalculated the difficulty of that question. However, the point is: they have all dared to use their fingernails as a fashion statement.

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Men’s nail art isn’t necessarily a new thing, but it’s a trend that’s beginning to take off. As we as a society begin to bend and break gendered stereotypes, men are increasingly willing to stray into “feminine” style territories. 

Guys And Painted Nails In 2023

Think about it: why in 2023 should we refuse to accept male nail polish? Why are men not even “allowed” a creative outlet that has nothing to do with biological sex or sexuality? 

I don’t think we should be surprised at this development. We have stylish earrings for men, for instance. Again–earlobes? Nothing to do with genitalia. There’s no reason why men can’t decorate their earlobes, and the same applies to nails.

man's nail art

Not only is it reasonable, but it’s also attractive for men to get their nails done. Going against gender norms is rebellious. It shows that a guy’s masculinity is not easily threatened.

If he’s comfortable enough with himself to get a manicure, that man is telling the world he’s confident and he doesn’t care if anyone were to tease him for being “girly” or “gay.”

How Did We Get Here?

Rock stars seem to have understood the gender neutrality of nail polish going back decades. David Bowie wore it; Steven Tyler wore it; eventually, it was probably always going to bleed into other celebrities’ styles.

Now we have rappers, pop artists, and even actors catching on. You can’t honestly tell me that Jason Momoa is somehow less of a man because he’s been photographed wearing nail polish.

We have “regular” men’s nail art, now, too. In the UK, nail artist Jess Young has been running the Instagram Boys in Polish since 2017.

Young shows off pictures of her male clients’ decorated nails and hopes to fight against toxic masculinity. As she told Scratch in 2021, everyday men having their nails painted is like “put[ting] a middle finger up to patriarchy.”

Masculine Painted Nail Styles: Where To Start

Cool nail designs for men are also usually the simplest. That tracks with a lot of style advice for men–simple is sophisticated; minimalist nail art is easier to see as “manly.” 

It’s also easier for men who don’t want to splurge on a manicure to paint their nails simply. Easy male nail art can be solid colors, often multiple different colors across different nails.

minimalistic nail art

Black is a favorite, but it’s far from the only stylish color. Creative color combinations can show off a bolder taste and artistic sensibility. 

Minimalist nail art designs are a great second step for men who want to explore more than the solid-color nail life. Think little accents like dots or lines. There are also neat French tips or simple two-tone designs out there that would be perfect for men just beginning with nail art.

The sky’s the limit when it comes to men and nail art. The only limitation we’ve noticed?

Nail length and shape. Across the board, almost all men who wear nail polish do so with short, trimmed nails. Maybe someday we’ll get to a point of everyone wearing pointy nails, but we’re not there yet.

One of the trendiest men’s nail art styles is abstract or geometric. Tons of designs fall under this umbrella, from wavy lines to simple shapes like circles or triangles.

abstract nail art

Often, abstract designs are done in black only or black and white nail designs, with the designs varying across the nails while sticking to a theme. For example, a guy might get simple black wavy lines that range from horizontal to diagonal and vertical. 

Another major trend, thanks to A$AP Rocky, is nail stickers. These tend to feature small, bold designs like words, smiley faces, or flames. They’re perfect for guys wanting to make more of a statement. Or maybe for guys who want an easier way to “paint” their nails!

Gold nails have also been drawing a lot of attention lately. It’s easy to understand why–they mimic flashy gold jewelry. Who doesn’t want to look rich, right?

Gold nails add a touch of extra class to men’s nail art. Interestingly, gold nails are not always just solid gold but are more likely to feature more elaborate 3D elements. Minimalism is not the only masculine style, thanks to men like Bad Bunny, whose nail art tends to more closely resemble jewelry.

Other Bold Style Choices For Men

While your style options are opening up enough to allow painted fingernails, you should know that many other historically feminine fashion trends are finding their way into the male mainstream.

One you might already know about is colorful socks. These are a great way to accessorize while keeping things lowkey.

Why not wear something bright and silly to work, if it’s safely tucked away in your shoes? You’ll also get the bonus of providing your loved ones with an easy gift idea for every holiday.

colorful socks

You might also consider unisex fragrances, because who decided men should only smell like Axe?

Many unisex fragrances accomplish their genderlessness by appealing to both stereotypical genders’ perfumes, with both sweet-smelling and musky or natural-smelling elements. Up your style game by smelling more sophisticated.

If you want to break the rules, there are men’s skirts out there that look good. Perhaps not a miniskirt, but the Scottish have been pulling off kilts for centuries. Likewise, man purses are gaining traction but have always been around as fanny packs, briefcases, and the like.

Final Thoughts On Men and Nail Art

Whether you’re personally ready to embrace men’s nail art or not, do yourself and everyone else a favor and at least resist mocking guys who opt for more “feminine” fashion choices.

You don’t have to love the most avant-garde trends (take these crop tops, for example) to recognize that the times are changing, and painting your nails doesn’t make you any less` of a man. 

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men and nail art

Born and raised in Austin, David is a dedicated writer and avid fragrance lover. When he's not trying out perfumes, he enjoys traveling and exploring new restaurants.