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June 13, 2018

Nail privilege

According to The Independent, a nail salon in London catering exclusively to men just opened for business.

Mainstream manis on men

Men wearing nail polish isn’t a particularly new or shocking trend – even Brad Pitt has been spotted with polished nails. And since the 1980s John Allan‘s been marketing exclusively to men. Their NYC flagship even offers manicures, so the notion is less about the shock of catering to men exclusively and more about catering exclusively to men in a domain that is traditionally seen as being geared to women.

Some historical perspective

If we take it way back–as I often do when teaching or lecturing about beauty history–in ancient China emperors had long pure gold ornamental nails signifying both position, and the fact that they never did any labor.

The article mentions the an excavation of royal tombs at Ur of the Chaldees in southern Babylonia, which reveals that “most men of the era wore nail polish, with warriors even taking hours to perfect their polish before battle.” In ancient Egypt, it was henna. Though centuries ago ordinary men might have coated their nails as a protective device to keep them from painfully breaking down during farming activities or combat.

Back to the future

The article mentions the awkwardness felt by founder Jay Jay Revlon when he tried to get his nails done at a more traditional mani joint. These experiences inspired him to found Guys That Nail It, his new pop-up salon in London. For me at least, the fact that it’s a pop-up founded by someone who describes himself as a dancer and DJ seems more about the shock factor than creating an experience for men to savor, share and return to time and time again.

The market is crowded with hundreds of brands and premature launches focused on immediate attention, rather than creating a brand with room to grow, evolve and stick around for the long haul.

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