Men wearing nail polish is no new phenomenon. In fact, queer men — especially queer men of color — have worn it for decades despite the inherent, and unjust, risks that come with overt self-expression. (Think: societal or career exile, even violence.) But times are a-changin’. Even though nail polish has always been a gender-neutral product, brands targeted toward, let alone started by, men didn’t really exist until the mid-2010s.
It has to be said, though, that these new brands aren’t formulaically all that different from the classics you’ll find in the beauty aisles at big box stores. Instead of reinventing the paint itself, these debutantes are betting on cooler colors and backing from big-name celebrities. But unlike a category like liquor, where just about anyone can own or back a label even if they’re sober, the guys behind these products really use the stuff. They’re out every day in it, whether on tour or courtside for a Lakers-Clippers game.
High Profile Paint
Here are a few budding brands started by some familiar faces.
Founder: Harry Styles
Founder: Lil Yachty
Crete, initially backed by rapper Lil Yachty (he left late last year), ditches the traditional bottle and dipper brush for a marker. They’re easier to use, especially if you have little to no experience with the old types.
Golf le Fleur A Nail Polish
Founder: Tyler, the Creator
Golf le Fleur is Tyler, the Creator’s pastel-colored creative outlet. He uses it to sell France-inspired fragrances, fine leather luggage and a few blue and white nail polishes.
Founder: Machine Gun Kelly
With names like Mary Jane and Twenty Five to Life, rapper turned punk rocker Machine Gun Kelly’s nail brand, UN/DN LAQR, feels the least personal. But… it’s definitely on brand.
No Name, All Game
These two upstart options come without the celebrity surcharge.
Faculty wants men to embrace masculinity’s ever-changing nature — and that starts with being comfortable wearing nail polish.
To Be Frank
To Be Frank focuses on being gender-free, but also modern colors. Think: olive green, muted gray, pastel yellow and pink.