What do Zac Efron, Darren Criss, and Brad Pitt all have in common (I mean, besides the fact that they are all ridiculously and unequivocally handsome)? They all have recently been added to the short but ever-growing list of men who have begun wearing nail polish. What has been, for decades, deemed a “woman-centric” form of beauty, fashion and expression, is now seeping into male territory. And I, personally, am not mad about it.
In today’s world of heightened masculinity and daily (yes, daily) gender hate crimes, it would likely surprise many people to know that: 1) nail polish is depicted and noted in ancient art and texts as early as 3,200 B.C., and 2) it was worn by women and men. In fact, for a time, it was worn primarily by men. According to archaeological findings, Ancient Bablyonian soldiers would paint their nails green and black before entering battle as a method of appearing more intimidating (weird flex, but OK). In fact, studies of ancient Babylonian civilizations have even revealed manicure sets of pure and solid gold hidden amongst battle tools (OK, that’s actually a good flex). It wasn’t until 3,000 B.C. that women began performing any form of nail treatments–and not as a war strategy. It is said that they would soak their nails in a formula consisting of beeswax, gelatin, and egg whites in hopes of facilitating rejuvenation and healthy nail growth. Several centuries later, in 600 BC China, nail polish evolved into an indicator of social status. Those of higher status would paint their nails the colors that represented the royal dynasty. Those of lower status, on the other hand, were forbidden to wear such colors and were limited to boring ol’ neutral ones. Skipping ahead to Ancient Egyptian times, it is even believed that Cleopatra and Queen Nefertiti (just absorb that name for a second) used henna on their nails as a symbol of their royal position (and otherwise bad-assery, probably). The infamous “You can’t sit with us” scene from Mean Girls comes to mind, but that’s besides the point. The point is that, evidently, nail polish has served many purposes and has been worn by all kinds of people throughout history. Including men.
So what does this mean for men like Harry Styles, Bad Bunny, and Brooklyn Beckham (just thought the article was due for some more name-dropping) who have ventured into the glitter, neon, and rhinestone-filled world that is painted nails? Well, that depends on who you ask. For men who cling desperately to the antiquated, “macho,” cargo shorts-wearing concept of manhood (Piers Morgan and the like, we’re looking at you), these powerful Hollywood male figures who have chosen to sport adorable, smiling daisies and ruby red red cherries on their fingertips (see image) have likely lost all of their respect. If you ask nail beauty product companies like Essie, Orly, and Sally Hansen, they are probably bouncing off the walls at this point–new customer base, hello! If you ask me (which you probably didn’t), I welcome these men with open arms. Now that we’ve added some men on our side, maybe we can finally get some polish that isn’t made with toxic chemicals…but, hey. Baby steps.
Pictured: Harry Styles with painted nails
Credit: Courtesy of Britney Tokyo/Instagram