As the food came, the waiter had linen towels draped over his hands to enable him to hold the hot plates. But something caught my eye, and I had to wait for a couple more visits before I could be sure I was seeing what I thought. The waiter, a young man of maybe 25, and not in the least feminine-looking, had fingernails more than an inch long, and painted in sparkling metallic green.
I commented on this to my mother who was part of the group. She replied "Oh, yes. He always does that. He's a very nice lad." (As an aside, my mother doesn't know about this aspect of me, and I wryly wonder whether she would be upset to find out. If she ever does, I will be sure to let you know her reaction!).
|His mother told him not to bite his nails.|
I didn't get the chance to talk to him ("Excuse me. Do you by any chance dress like a woman in your spare time?"), and certainly not in front of my mother. However, it did strike me that what he was doing was somewhat impractical (carrying around plates and serving dishes all day must practically invite breakage).
Wikipedia suggests (and I am sure it is correct) that colouring the nails with a variety of colouring substances has been practised for centuries. I am aware that henna is still used as a nail colouring agent in some countries (and I think that intricate henna patterns on the skin of young women is absolutely gorgeous). But it wasn't until the invention of nitrocellulose lacquer in the early 20th century that modern nail polish really took off. Nitrocellulose lacquer forms a quick-drying, durable, flexible finish which can be polished to a high shine.
Nitrocellulose lacquer is the same stuff they use to make the paint on cars and other vehicles, and for the same reasons (ease of application, durability and lustre). Wikipedia suggests that nail polish was originally used to hide the grime under fingernails, and I can see the utility in that. On the other hand, polished, long nails imply that the owner doesn't have to engage in dirty manual work, so I can imagine that, among aristocratic women (and maybe men too), the display of delicate, long nails could easily be a status symbol. Look at me: I don't work with my hands. (In the same way, the delicate, pale skin of someone who doesn't work with their hands contrasts with the dark, tough, leathery skin of someone who does, giving rise to the idea that noble people have blue blood, because their blue veins can be easily seen).
|And all for want of a nail...|
As with Men in Skirts, the more I click around on the Web, the more I find out. It seems there are plenty of men out there who just like painted nails. They don't wear skirts, or shave their legs. They don't adopt fem names. They just like painted nails, and for some of them, the more elaborate, the better.
Sometimes long fingernails have a purpose, such as when a guitarist grows the right nails long to act as picks, and keeps the left nails short to fret the notes on the fingerboard. But when taken to extremes (as in this individual, who incidentally shows us long nails in men is nothing new), nails begin to curl around on themselves and form spirals. Admittedly, the sort of very long and curly nails illustrated here seem pretty rare, even on the Web. Most guys with nails have only moderately long nails, and go with the elaborate nail polish.
So what is it with the long nails? You might well ask: why do I dress as a woman? Well, because I enjoy it. More specifically, I enjoy two things about it. I enjoy the way it feels, and I enjoy the way it looks. So I guess men who enjoy painted nails might enjoy those things too.
|He's totally nailed it.|
For me personally, I like long nails when I am dressed because they are considered more feminine. I am fortunate that my nails grow quite well, and are quite strong, and look quite good when I let them grow out a bit. I have also experimented with stick-on nails and other substitutes. Let's be clear: I love the way they look. I find myself holding my hands in such a way that I can see the nails. They don't even need to be intensely coloured. I quite like, for example, the French manicure style. But having long nails when I wasn't dressed wouldn't feel right. On it's own, it's not enough to "do it" for me in a crossdressing sense; and it does feel a little strange to mix male and female behaviour (which is one reason I don't "underdress").
Even when dressed, long nails irritate me because of their impracticality. I can't easily hold things, type, use my phone, unlock a door, or do any one of a thousand fine tasks-- and my nails are very much towards the shorter end of the spectrum I see out there!
And I am really sorry. I mean no disrespect to people who grow their nails to huge lengths, but seriously, I think it's really quite off-putting to look at. How do they wash their hair? How do they avoid getting them caught in doors? How do they even shake hands, or sign their names?
On the other hand, slightly long nails, elaborately decorated, look fantastic. From a feminine aesthetic point of view, I totally get it. They are gorgeous. So why do men want to do it too?
Scott_F_Nails has a blog here about his nails (and these sparkly blue ones are his). He writes:
Come on guys, you know you want to get your nails done, now is the time to do it. You can be straight, not a rock star and have great looking nails.Guy Purcella, whose blog is entitled It's Ok For Men to Have Painted Nails in Public, writes:
|He's hit the nail on the... oh, forget it.|
Society has led us to believe that for some strange reason, it is not okay for men to paint their nails. This is all silly thinking as painting our nails does not make us feminine, nor does it change us in any way, it is simply an expression of our sense of style. [...] This blog isn't about crossdressing or being fem, it's for ordinary guys who just happen to like painting our nails although we may discuss other emerging fashion trends for men.Jim ("Guy Polish") from Hawaii (pictured here), whose blog is entitled Men and nail polish writes:
I am regular guy that just happens to like nail polish. Polish should be for everyone. I played Offensive Guard in college and may not be the stereotype of a male polish wearer.So what is the stereotype of the male polish wearer? Is it someone like me, perhaps? Someone who wants to shave his legs and wear a frock? Or something else?
Steve Winfield at the blog Lacquer Man, writes:
I’m not saying that it “made” me a better man – but in that first week, I did a lot of thinking about how society defines masculinity, and what it really means to “be a man”. In a way, it gave me a different perspective on the issue, and it helped me to discover some of the absurd assumptions I had unconsciously accepted. By stripping these away, it helped me focus on and realize the things that really are relevant to who I am. [...] I’m more like the opposite of a crossdresser. To me, a crossdresser wears nail polish as part of an effort to appear female. His use of nail color depends on his acceptance of the premise that this paint is inherently feminine. I reject that premise. I wear colors that I believe enhance my masculinity as they demonstrate confidence and independence. I recognize that some colors are symbols of femininity – pink, for example, and many pastels – but it’s the color itself that is feminine, not the material that carries the color. [...]Man, it’s JUST PAINT! There’s nothing in the bottle that is inherently feminine, nothing that has any power to change you or make you less of a man. In fact, for a guy to wear nail color, he has to have an abundance of boldness, confidence, adventurousness, independence and a little defiance. These traits are at the heart of REAL masculinity.
And all of them seem to insist that there is nothing feminine about nail polish, and there is nothing feminine about a man who wants to paint his nails.
For all of these bloggers above, it seems to be about how it looks, rather than how it feels. They seem to be quite keen to point out that it isn't an expression of femininity. I basically agree with that: none of the bloggers I have seen seem remotely feminine in any other way, and if they did, I would simply assume they had autogynephilia.
So, to men who want to paint their nails: good luck to you all. If you have a particular perspective to offer, your comments are very welcome here. You might also be interested in the related topics, Men in Skirts, or Women with Beards, or that perennial question: what do men's underwear and Fight Club have in common?
Addendum: 30th September 2015
Well, I did promise to let you know if my mother ever found out about Vivienne, and now she knows, and has been amazingly accepting and supportive.