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Why more men than ever are getting their nails done

Marisa Palmer , Business Insider US
 Feb 22, 2020, 11:29 AM

Nail polish for men is nothing new - guys have been using varnish for centuries.

As far back as ancient Egypt, kings and queens painted their fingernails and toenails red.

Fast-forward to the rise of counterculture, when artists like Kurt Cobain and Lou Reed painted their nails.

But now, millennial men like Harry Styles and Jonathan Van Ness are proudly leaning into nail art, and men around the globe are taking note.

"Now it's like a punk rocker cool thing. So it's not like you're put into a box if you get your nails done anymore. Now it's just kind of like, it's like putting a sweatshirt on," says Judge Khanna, a regular nail salon client in New York. There are even companies creating nail polish just for men.

Men are spending more money than ever on nail services.

Nail art is expanding as an outlet for self-expression among men like Judge Khanna.

Breaking down some of those social barriers was something Amy Ling Lin hoped to do with her nail studios, Sundays in New York.

"Personally, I feel like there are not many places for guys, besides drinking in the bar, to take a moment for themselves. They don't have this, like, girls' time. I feel like that's extremely important for them."

The influx of curious men prompted her to start "Menicure Mondays," a campaign that encourages men to come into the salon.

"We received feedback from clients. They were like, 'I need to bring my boyfriend, I need to bring my husband over, our therapist told me it's great to get to know each other.'"

Since launching the programme, Lin  says the studio has seen a 10% to 15% increase in male clients.

Khanna never thought he'd find himself getting his nails done.

 "I actually would go in with my mom and my sister and they'd be like, 'Oh, do you want to get your nails done?' I would say it like, 'No, absolutely not.' That was something that I just didn't want to be associated with. Amy's created kind of a sanctuary for nails. You know like, you come here and you feel like just a weight taken off your shoulders."

"It's very neutral. It's not feminine, it's not masculine."

One New York City salon, Sundays, launched "Menicure Mondays" to draw more male customers.

But the trend hasn't reached every nail salon.

Garrett Munce, Esquire grooming editor, says: "I recently had an experience where I went to a new nail salon and they didn't treat me that great. And it wasn't overtly because I was a guy, but I kind of got that feeling that I was, like, not exactly the most welcome person in that space."

It's this very perception that Lin is breaking down with Menicure Mondays. She says women shouldn't be the only ones expressing themselves through their nail art.

"I personally feel like that the women's movement is going so strong and I feel like set a very good example too for the whole society to show that your individuality to bring."

The men's grooming industry is expected to reach $81 billion within the next five years.

Munce, a longtime manicure enthusiast, acknowledges that his nail art makes a statement.

"I've recently been experimenting a bit more with nail art, and when I do that people definitely comment a bit more."

"I feel like with nail art specifically, like there's a design choice there, there's like a story there."

And it's not just nails. The men's personal-care market in the US is expected to reach $81 billion ($1.2 trillion) over the next five years.

In a myriad of ways, guys are tuning in to self-care needs. Men's spa attendance went up 16% from 2007 to 2017, according to a survey of consumers by the International Spa Association. And they're getting more nonsurgical chemical procedures, like Botox and chemical peels - such procedures increased 17% from 2005 to 2014.

"With nail art specifically, like there's a design choice there, there's like a story there," Garrett Munce said.

While men's grooming has traditionally been seen as purely functional, that perception is shifting. And for Munce, nail art is one of many ways men can explore their own style.

"It kind of is this unspoken thing of like, function versus aesthetics. And I think the two are merging quite a bit, because more and more guys, while they are still getting manicures … they want to add a little bit more. And it's a really easy way for a guy to like, experiment with something."

"Maybe he's not going to go buy a whole new suit, but he might like, paint his nails, you know."

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