Mani-pedis and Male polish

The saving grace of capitalism is that perceived immorality goes out the window when the potential customer demographic gets large enough. That’s how we got bilingual milk ads (featuring Salma Hayek and Sofia Vergara), and why Time Warner Cable has a float in our local Gay Pride Prade. (Of course, it’s also how we got cigarettes for women.) At any rate, the number of men sporting nail polish has apparently hit a tipping point, with new lines of “male polish” that include Nails for Males, Man Glaze, and Man-e-Cure.

MSNBC’s Health on Today writes about the trend among professional male athletes to get pedicures, calling it, “athletic dudes’ girly little secret.” Though the first paragraph refers to “busting the stereotype” that professional nail care is just for women, the article makes a clear distinction between “girly pedis” and a sports pedicure.

  • less a luxury and more about keeping their feet in great shape
  • It’s as much medical as it is cosmetic
  • more for relaxation as opposed to making my feet look pretty

On the other hand (pun not intended until I saw it in print), entertainment celebrity men seem to be increasingly showing off their decorative toes and fingers.


(Find out who they are here.) Apparently, the fashion for fingers is black or blue, with a little earth tone thrown in. It’s manly if you only paint one finger, or leave one unpainted. Feet get more freedom, with even a little pink showing up down under. On the site introducing men’s lines of nail polish, the biggest debate seems to be whether we really need gender-specific lines of polish (although maybe a better question would be whether anyone needs to buy something called “Party Girl Creme”). Here are some of the comments of guys who do their nails:

  • I like that the companies are starting to acknowledge men’s use of color, and having collections “for men” helps legitimize it in the eyes of our skeptics – I know the companies are really just interested in expanding their market and selling product, but I still feel like I have their support and encouragement, that I’m not alone in saying “There’s nothing wrong with this!”
  • I do it because I love the way that it feels and looks.
  • When you remember how the earring trend for men began as being considered for gays only, then took off for a large number of guys, it looks a lot like men wearing nail polish may follow a similar path. If me or my wife have anything to say about it, it will be sooner rather than later because we really like the way my feet look polished!
  • Women were not supposed to wear tattoos, but they have also adopted the tattoo trend. Remember the conversation 20 years ago about men wearing earrings???

Personally, I think this is great — quite a refreshing change from the comments when Jenna Lyons painted her son’s toenails pink in a J. Crew ad. But I do find it interesting that so many commenters seem to make the point that “it’s not weird for men to paint their nails because hey, I’m straight!”An article from the Fall 2011 issue (Vol. 1, Issue II) of The Duke Journal of Gender and Sexuality makes a similar point about responses to the J. Crew ad.  “When gay activists argue that pink does not equal gay, and thus people should not worry, activist[s] still do not address the bigger problem of the public’s desire for a non-gay outcome.” (Sofia Wilson. Pedicure Panic! The Public’s Reconciliation of Gay Children in the Media.)

Then again, the more guys are comfortable wearing nail polish and sporting pink, the less my son stands out in a crowd, and the less likely he’ll be to have the crap beaten out of him. So it’s hard to argue with reducing stigma by trying to separate the men-in-pink = feminine = gay trinity.

You know that trinity , right? This video of Mitt Romney released earlier today demonstrates he’s well-versed on it, as he is offered a tie and lisps, “Oh, I’ll take the pink one!”

(You can see the fuller exchange between Romney and Sean Hannity here – they also slam John Edwards for being pretty, and Hannity proclaims himself “a brave man” for wearing a pink tie himself.)

Pulling the pink-girly-gay trifecta apart certainly makes it easier for little boys to be themselves, though it’s a valid question whether it further stigmatizes feminine gay men.

This entry was posted in Clothing, Gender complexity, Masculinity, Musings on the News, pink, The boy box and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Mani-pedis and Male polish

  1. maddox says:

    “When gay activists argue that pink does not equal gay, and thus people should not worry, activist[s] still do not address the bigger problem of the public’s desire for a non-gay outcome.”

    We can talk about nail polish, earrings, and pink to death, but it’s all on the surface and not addressing the root of the issue: pink = gay = bad. If straight and gay are both equally “good” outcomes we would no longer care either way.

    • Craig Hill says:

      The entire attitude of the anal retentive is to demand conformity with whatever they are, no matter who they are or which “side” in this unfortunate fight they’re on. If you’re different, or “other than”, you must either be killed or altered. THAT is the true mental illness, not what each individual’s sexuality is, this so-called “dysphoria” that is not far removed from the discarded negative analysis of “neuroses” which used to plague psychic diagnoses. “Different” sexuality is made a big deal of because it dislodges the mental stability of those who feel threatened by it.

      Not until this mentally ill society can learn to leave people alone with their own individual sexuality, and to explore one’s own without fear some conformist dumb majority will find fault with it, will their assault on the most basic individual freedom end, the freedom to BE. And the only way to bring that about is exactly how we are progressing, pushing the envelope by demanding respect when our individual sexual identities publicly emerge, and to demand the respect each human deserves. Perhaps the next step will include a societal agreement to target the diagnosis and treatment of the threatened conformist, AS IT SHOULD. Why should the bully be ALLOWED to wreak havoc? They should be identified at a young age and treated, i don’t care, chemically even, to disarm them of their pathological illnesses. THEY are the threat to peace and civility, not any individual minding his/her own sexual business. Don’t like how anyone looks, or dresses? Get to know them or TURN YOUR HEAD.

      • Thomas says:

        I agree with you hundred percent. it is a that a hand full with a narrow vision I trying to tell us how we should dress ourselves. this is the twenty first century and we still have people so narrow minded that they forgot that the world is moving ahead. I wear kilts , sarongs and color my toes on occasion and, today my toes are in orange in support of the Dutch soccer team, their official color is orange and I was born Dutch, I wear panties, nylons tank tops etc. When I looked around after I put on my panty I looked up and did not see the world collide with an asteroid so it is OK to wear a girls outfit.
        please move on and wear pink earrings etc.that used to be for the opposite sex.

  2. H. E. Lexus says:

    I have been getting my nails done for over a year and a half now. I always get a French tip and in the winter I will get a color on my toes. it is a wonderful thing and says nothing about me other than I like getting my extremities massaged. 😉

  3. Ted says:

    Ive been painting my toes for a while now and love the way my toes look in color. I’m a father, Soldier, and marathoner and not only does it make them look good I really think that it helps me during runs to have that high gloss on the toes. Right now I’ve got opi black gel on (which is like some space age armor that wears like steel). Come on out with em dudes- there’s a lot of guys out there that paint em just don’t show em.

  4. Smadaf says:

    I’m another who found you through the article in The New York Times Magazine. So far, I really like your blog and your point of view. But nobody is helped by what to many is an easily refutable interpretation: maybe you and I have different ideas of the meaning of ‘lisp’; but I don’t see how the sentence “Oh, I’ll take the pink one”, which includes no ‘s’ sounds, can reveal a lisp at all.

  5. BD says:

    I’ve been married to a beautiful woman for 21 years, have two teenage sons, and don’t have a gay bone in my body (insert joke here). I’ve been going to the nail salon with my wife for about 3 years for manicures and started getting pedicures about 2 years ago at the suggestion of the husband of a client that is a construction worker. My wife loves that I take care of my hands and feet, and that I’m a bit eclectic. I’m a musician and photographer and have recently started doing product photography and hand modeling for the men’s line of nail polish from BB Couture for Men, who was the first to introduce a line of men’s nail polish. I wear polish 100% of the time. At first it was clear, sheer or a matte, but I started wearing color on my hands this year, and what I have found is that most people either don’t notice, or say nothing. 40 years ago, men went to barbers and women went to the “beauty parlor”. Long hair became acceptable on men and now there are few barber shops. in the 70’s, wearing an earring in your right ear meant you were gay, like some sort of secret sign for being a member of that club. Times are changing for the better. Just like long hair and earrings were once only a female thing, and tattoos, pants, voting and driving was a male thing, fashion options are becoming more readily available for guys–as it should be. I wear polish because it protects my nails and I like the way it looks.

    There are four companies I’m aware of that are marketing nail polish for guys: BB Couture, ManGlaze, Evolution Man and Alpha Nail. There are currently 313 million people in the United States with the split being about 50/50 male/female. The cosmetics industry is leaving a lot of money on the table by not trying to sell nail products to over 150 million males. It is a huge untapped market with only social stereotypes keeping them from increasing their revenue, which generates more taxable income and helps our economy. As ManGlaze says, “We guarantee, it won’t make you grow tits”, and someone has posted many times on other blogs, “It’s NOT magic gay sauce”. Hang on…checking…YUP…still NOT gay. It’s just paint!!

  6. pink says:

    Magic gay sauce – I love that!

  7. Jake says:

    I’ve been wearing my toenails painted for close to five years now, well before it was any kind of trend for men – even with the celebrities. And, as BD mentioned above, I can assure you that there are many men who already do wear their toenails polished with color but are hesitant to show them in public. Why? Many people wear all kinds of colors in their hair, earrings, gauging, tattoos and some pretty wild clothing, so why should a little paint on one’s nails evoke any kind of reaction? If you’re trying to please others, good luck! How about a new tactic – be yourself and enjoy life. Nail polish is just paint. Nothing much different than what’s on your car. And it not only protects your nails, it tells others that you’re not afraid to make your own choices, it’s fun and it’s not permanent so you can change it any time you want.
    So, maybe it’s not for you…yet. Are you a leader or follower?

  8. Pingback: 2012 – Thank you, and Year in Review | Pink Is for Boys

  9. mark says:

    What he said. I also have no proclivity to same sex orientation, I found I have been well trained in the no gender stereotype bias camp, having been born at the beginning of the modern feminist movement, came of age with girls and boys who could be and do whatever they wanted, and lastly indoctrinated by corporate world tomes on sexual harassment. I am a full believer in that and have no issue at all.

    Except when now I’m told those rules really don’t apply to me because I’m a guy, so man up dude, and be the stereotype we’ve always deemed for you. Sorry, if I’m supposed to play by new rules, and I’m fully committed to that game, then by gosh y’all need to also. I’ve been polishing my toes now for two years cause I like the shine and color too at times. Big flipping deal. It’s fun, it’s removable when I choose and I think it looks great, as everybody’s toes look better polished, IMO. But most folks just can’t seem to get past their own beliefs and will make everybody else miserable to prove their point of view is the only one.

  10. Bill says:

    I am an older male and agree with all that is said I have been painting my toes for 41 years and love it , also I show them in public and it is truly liberating and true freedom. 99 Percent of the comments are GREAT! and the few that arent are really nothing, those few I just say “I’m sorry no one told me I was supposed to live according to what you think”

  11. agustin gómez says:

    I Love wearing my Toes nail polish, I do it because I Love the way that it feels and Looks specially in Light Pink Color

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