Is Halloween the only time straight guys can wear nail polish?
October 15, 2009 7:51 PM   Subscribe

Is Halloween the only time it's ok for straight guys to wear nail polish (either on hands or feet)? And even then, only black, is it?

On the off-chance the answer happens to be 'not even Halloween', feel free to convey as much. Also, I realize there's a difference between "it's ok" and "it's attractive", so I'm interested in that angle too.
posted by Handcoding to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (67 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You should wear what you want when you want to wear it. Nail polish will not make you gay.
posted by shaun at 7:53 PM on October 15, 2009 [21 favorites]

What shaun said. You could totally pull off nail polish year round anyway. Just be prepared to have to fend off the goth / emo girls.
posted by youcancallmeal at 7:55 PM on October 15, 2009

I don't know of any laws against it.
I wouldn't think less, or less sexually, of a guy who wore any color nail polish on halloween or anytime.
I would be interested in the reasoning for a guy who wore nail polish regularly, but again, it wouldn't be a big deal. It could be attractive, probably mostly as a quirk that I believed was genuine to his personality.
posted by lilbizou at 7:56 PM on October 15, 2009

I've worn clear polish before, applied as part of a manicure.

Other than that, it depends on the subcultural context, and the rest of your outfit.
posted by bingo at 7:57 PM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think it's okay to wear nail polish whenever you want, but yeah, dark (like black or blue) or punky (green or yellow) colors seem more masculine to me. Your age and look matters, too. I think this works best on teens or guys in their early twenties. You can really get away with anything, though, on Halloween, which is why it's awesome.
posted by lunalaguna at 7:57 PM on October 15, 2009

I'll chime in that it's completely okay, but you're likely going to be spending more time than you're comfortable with explaining it and possibly justifying it to people who get confused and who may start labeling you with teh ghey.

As an aside, fend off goth girls? That's pure silliness. Enjoy your goth girl magnets. :)
posted by phredgreen at 7:58 PM on October 15, 2009

It's an odd choice, but you already know that. I enjoy odd fashion choices, particularly when carried nonchalantly.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:59 PM on October 15, 2009

Pale green is acceptable May 11-14.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:00 PM on October 15, 2009 [6 favorites]

I used to like painting my toenails red. I thought it looked good and felt sexy. I'm a guy, and no one bothered me about it.
posted by alms at 8:01 PM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

One of the hottest men I know rocks dark nail polish pretty regularly throughout the year. It suits him. For me, there's something really, really attractive about guys who are secure enough to not care whether other people might make lame assumptions about them.
posted by corey flood at 8:05 PM on October 15, 2009 [7 favorites]

I've never seen a problem with guys painting their nails. Indeed, you have no idea how difficult it was for me to convince any of my male friends to come along with me for a manicure. There's such a weird stigma about it, at least, there was before I gave up. Now, though, it's more and more acceptable.

All that said, I say go for it. I find it attractive and fun.
posted by neewom at 8:06 PM on October 15, 2009

Do what you want.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:06 PM on October 15, 2009

Your nail polish only decorates you. It doesn't define you.
posted by hermitosis at 8:11 PM on October 15, 2009 [4 favorites]

I was at a BBQ this summer and two different friends of mine were sporting painted toenails. And they're both straight suburban middle-aged guys. They're both Unitarians and certainly gay-friendly but otherwise pretty boring average people, one's a network researcher and one's an insurance adjuster. The reaction at the BBQ was pretty universally, "hey, cool nails!"
posted by octothorpe at 8:11 PM on October 15, 2009

It depends on the look you're going for. Most of the straight men I know that wear nail polish regularly stick to black, though. An interesting thing of note is that if you have a girlfriend, it's an automatic excuse to have on nailpolish of any color at any time.
posted by biochemist at 8:12 PM on October 15, 2009

The same sort of person who is comfortable having fluoro colored hair, is usually comfortable wearing nail-polish.

Same again for specific subcultures - goths (black, crimson, silver), hippies (green, purple, daisies), ravers (fluros)

I think metallic blue often looks good.

If you have some kind of color themed costume for Halloween, of COURSE you should do matching nails!
posted by Elysum at 8:14 PM on October 15, 2009

Here's what makes you gay -- being sexually attracted to someone of the same sex.

Here's what doesn't make you gay -- what you do with your nails.
posted by modernnomad at 8:17 PM on October 15, 2009 [16 favorites]

If I should paint my fingernails green, and it just so happens I do paint them green, well, if anyone should ask me why, I say "I think it's pretty!"
"I think it's pretty," I reply.
posted by ellenaim at 8:20 PM on October 15, 2009 [3 favorites]

If you'd wear a hot pink shirt to work, you can have painted nails. Pretty much the same level of self-confidence is required.

As for "only black" on Hallowe'en, I don't think that's true. What if you're wearing a bright red dress, for example?
posted by rokusan at 8:28 PM on October 15, 2009

I do note that you live in Dallas, TX. So a lot of the "wear what you want" advice may really only be a recipe for being dragged behind a pickup truck down a dirt road.

But really, do what you want. If you have the confidence and swagger to "make it work", then it will work on you, no matter where you live.

(I'm a gay man who has never worn nail polish. Well, that's not true... once in high school (before I was even aware of my sexuality), I went to a showing of Rocky Horror dressed as Frank, and wore nail polish that night.)
posted by hippybear at 8:34 PM on October 15, 2009 [2 favorites]

Straight or not, some men can pull it off, and some can't.

The presence of the word 'straight' in your question, though, might suggest that you're in the second category.
posted by box at 8:36 PM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Everyone here seems to be saying 'it's okay', and I agree.

That being said, I'm sure you'd find many people (depending on how in public you are, and what your friends are like) who disagree, and who'll express that disagreement from mild questions through to verbal jibes. I'm not saying don't wear it, just that Metafilter probably isn't representative of the wider world.
posted by twirlypen at 8:40 PM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

I did this for a couple of years when I was 23 - 25, in the progressive town in a generally conservative state. I used black, blue, and two kinds of red (on different days, not at the same time). Be prepared for comments from strangers (sometimes compliments), double-takes, stares, and disapproving looks. The comments decreased if I wore it on only one hand (perhaps only half as many people saw it, but I suspect that the "harmless fruitcake" label was easier to apply in that case). Wearing colors other than black drew more comments. So, pretty much what other responders upthread have said. Why did I do this? No particular reason.

I enjoyed it, but gave it up after awhile. For one thing, color-matching became kind of a pain. For another, I sometimes had to hastily remove it when going to places/functions where it really just wouldn't have worked. I'm not so self-confident that I'd wear it during a job interview or to a funeral, for example.
posted by Maximian at 8:40 PM on October 15, 2009

life is too short to not be yourself.
posted by anya32 at 8:48 PM on October 15, 2009

I have a guy friend who wears black nail polish, and it looks great on him. Colors, I think, would be more difficult to pull off, but it definitely would depend on your confidence level.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 8:55 PM on October 15, 2009

If you lived in a big coastal city, I'd agree with the you-can-do-anything crowd. Nail polish certainly does not define your sexuality. I saw plenty of straight dudes in Philly wearing nail polish, of many different colors.

However, since you live in Texas, wearing nail polish would just be asking for trouble. And I mean trouble of the ass-kicking, gay-bashing variety. It's the same as when I wore my kilt: it's a kilt, a decidedly masculine form of clothing, and yet I still got all sorts of shit about it, including death threats and assault (in Missouri, not Texas).

So, while the common wisdom around here is that you can do whatever you want, the consequences of doing what you want could easily be much worse than anybody here has imagined.
posted by Netzapper at 8:55 PM on October 15, 2009 [2 favorites]

Well, that and a little thing called goth night.
posted by General Malaise at 8:57 PM on October 15, 2009

netzapper, i agree with you, that potential consequences are a reality. the same is true for me in terms of my being a queer-identified person who does not conform to the gender norms assigned to me. and coastal cities are not immune. a gay man just had the crap beat out of him in nyc. and queer kids are taunted, beat up, or worse. and while i respect people's decisions to closet themselves, because everyone needs to make their own choices, i wouldn't suggest that someone do so because of the possibility of reprehensible violence. at least not in a society where that violence is, at least in theory, punishable (we all know that there are some places still where you can get away with this). i think if you let the few individuals who are hateful and violent dominate our freedom to be ourselves, they win. and i personally refuse to do that. but again, not my choice to make for anyone, and so i appreciate your comment for raising the issue.
posted by anya32 at 9:04 PM on October 15, 2009 [2 favorites]

The closer you are to college age and a collegiate or non-traditional community the less problematic it will be.

20 years old at an ultra-liberal college in New England? No problem.

28, in the punk scene in Seattle? Nothing to worry about, unless you head somewhere with lots of "norms," then be prepared to be stared at.

34, stay at home dad in midwest? It will be weird when your at the market or playground. You'll definitely be made to feel an outsider at least once in a while, maybe often if the town is strongly conservative.

40 or more, and a banker pretty much anywhere? This will not end well.
posted by oddman at 9:05 PM on October 15, 2009

It's Dallas, not Jasper. He'll be fine.
posted by youcancallmeal at 9:05 PM on October 15, 2009 [3 favorites]

Sport team colors might go over pretty well in Texas. Dark metallic in blue, green or bronze would be more fun on Halloween.
posted by stray thoughts at 9:05 PM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

I do note that you live in Dallas, TX. So a lot of the "wear what you want" advice may really only be a recipe for being dragged behind a pickup truck down a dirt road.

However, since you live in Texas, wearing nail polish would just be asking for trouble. And I mean trouble of the ass-kicking, gay-bashing variety.

That's a little much, fellas. Aggressive intolerance is not limited to Texas. There are parts of Dallas where one might find a fight for wearing fingernail polish, having nappy hair, or wearing an OU ball cap. That's just as true in NY, San Francisco or Tokyo, I'd wager. If you're considering wearing nail polish, my guess is you won't be going to any of those parts.

"Give the rednecks a wide berth," is good advice -- nail polish or not.
posted by GPF at 9:09 PM on October 15, 2009

"It's okay" to whom? Context is needed. To me? Sure. To my mom? No way.

In an abstract sense? Of course it's okay. Wear what you want, there's no intrinsic reason why it wouldn't be okay. It's just colorful lacquer you decorate your nails with. Who cares if you're a guy?

But if by "okay" you mean "socially acceptable," that totally depends on your context. I live in San Francisco and nobody gives a shit what you put on your nails. But where you live, it might not be as okay, in the sense that you may experience social backlash from it.

If in great doubt, go with black. It's got punk rock cachet.
posted by granted at 9:10 PM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Nail polish doesn't make you gay, as I'm sure you know. How people will perceive you will depend greatly on their own perspectives as well as how you wear it (are you wearing it nonchalantly? is it something you're displaying purposely, or drawing attention to your fingers even moreso than the polish itself would? etc.) and probably even what colors. Black or very dark red polish worn outside Hallowe'en will quite likely have you branded by onlookers as gothy, punk, hipster, or some other alternative-type label.

But it doesn't really matter. Wear what you like and what makes you happy, so long as it's not hampering your life seriously, say if you have to dress businesslike for work. You may end up not wanting to handle the comments, questions, or idle curiosity of strangers, though, so be prepared.
posted by asciident at 9:14 PM on October 15, 2009

I love my polished nails! I am a girl but think anyone that wants that feeling should have that feeling, and it's easy to get (paint!) and take off if you want, in case there is a funeral. Easy and so fun!
I think people will easily get used to nail polish on males. I am no historian but men have been posturing and strutting like peacocks forever, and they are not (in histoical accounts) shy about "fussing" for looks, especially the "straight" guys.
Does it look gay? It's a little funky for most women of my age, but I say put on another coat!
posted by bebrave! at 9:18 PM on October 15, 2009

"You can do whatever you like." It's 2009, man. I've found that I'm far more happier when I just ignore outmoded notions about gender roles.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 9:32 PM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you want to wear nailpolish and like how it looks, you should do it. I'd never assume a guy was gay because he had his nails painted.
posted by angelchrys at 9:50 PM on October 15, 2009

As many of my (straight) male friends wear nail polish (fingers or toes) as my female friends, though I am sure that says more about my taste in friends than it does about broader fashion trends. They do mostly stick to dark colors. However, they're all people who're pretty confident about how they look and dress, and don't mind dumb comments or questions from random strangers. You might or might not find it to be too much of a pain to deal with. But really, it's only nail polish: try it out for a few days, and if you don't like how it looks, or the reaction you get, bust out the acetone and take it off.
posted by ubersturm at 10:00 PM on October 15, 2009

I do note that you live in Dallas, TX. So a lot of the "wear what you want" advice may really only be a recipe for being dragged behind a pickup truck down a dirt road.

Oh, that is not really true about Dallas, but nail polish on a guy will take you pretty far to the edge of alt/subculture/whatever around there, if my sense of Dallas culture has remained current over the past four years. More so in the suburbs.
posted by furiousthought at 10:06 PM on October 15, 2009


But I'm a former demi-goth who is cheered by such small, charming tokens encouraging erosion of the more useless of the trappings of gender roles. If that's the direction you're heading, then you're totally fine.

For a time in the early-mid-nineties, flirting with nail polish-wearing was practically mainstream on men. If anyone gives you shit, tell 'em your girlfriend thinks it's hot."
posted by desuetude at 10:21 PM on October 15, 2009 [2 favorites]

I think folks here have the sexuality angle pretty well-covered. FWIW, I imagine that in many progressive circles, you would be fairly unlikely to be seen as gay - I'm straining to think of gay men I've known who wore nail polish when not in drag, but I've known lots of straight men who did.

One thing, though - I can imagine that some people might see you as less mature because of the nail polish, in the same way that some people would see you as less mature for having pink hair or wearing any kind of look primarily associated with a youth subculture (ie, punk, goth, etc). That's not fair, and it's not a reason not to do it (especially if you are pretty young or like to be perceived as such!) but it's something to be aware of.
posted by lunasol at 10:37 PM on October 15, 2009

Do what makes you happy, but that doesn't mean people won't judge you for it. It is likely that some people will assume fingernail polish = either a) gay or b) angsty emo kid (the latter probably only if you're doing black or another dark color). I can't recall ever seeing a man with painted toenails, but maybe I am just totally square.
It really depends on what you're asking: if the question is "Should I do this?" then I say go for it - it can be kind of a cute look. If the question is, "Will people think this is weird?" then I say quite possibly so.
posted by naoko at 10:44 PM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

I´ve been hoping that a trend would start up amongst the ridiculous paint job on the car or pickup set to have nails painted in fancy matching patterns. You could start off with just one nail, painted to match your car, if you feel you would need to explain it.

Years ago now, the morning after a campout, I hauled out two bottles of nailpolish and managed to assemble guys and gals together into a roughly circular twister-like mass, and everyone took turns painting each other´s toenails, in pink and silver no less. It was a fun and flirty time all around. Months later, one of the guys came up to me on the street. ¨I still have it!¨, he exclaimed, and whipped off his sandal to show me the tiny crescent of polish remaining on his big toe.

Does it look attractive? Like so many things, it depends on how it works for you -- but consider:
Some women will find it attractive on you, and perhaps a larger number will not.
Presumably you wish to meet someone who finds this to be attractive.
Think of the situation from her perspective: when faced with a number of men to choose from, only one of whom is wearing nailpolish, will be able to clearly see that you are the only man exhibiting this thing, this attractive element that she rarely sees.
You will have a much better chance of her wanting to meet you than if you are not wearing nailpolish.

Of course, as someone who is confident enough to wear a look like this, you should be perfectly confident in approaching any women who are checking out your nails.

Do have excellent grooming on your cuticles and nails if you are going to try this. Halloween is the perfect time to give it a shot.
posted by yohko at 11:03 PM on October 15, 2009

I gave this a go when I was a freshman at a small private college in rural Ohio. Many people assumed that I was gay; I didn't care very much because I was trying to work out a long distance relationship with my high school sweethart (now we are married woo!), and I would say that it negatively affected my social standing and made things more difficult for me in terms of fitting in with the sorts of people that I enjoyed fitting in with. I was sort of doing it because I was consciously trying to be different and trying out new identities, and I expected that it would mark me as an interesting person and not as a weirdo, but those turned out to be bad reasons and assumptions, based on the sorts of social settings that I enjoy. I guess that I learned that "dude who wears nail polish" was not an identity that I wore very well.

I think that a ton depends on your particular motives and circumstances.
posted by Kwine at 11:38 PM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

"Anytime" says Penn Jillette
posted by artdrectr at 12:26 AM on October 16, 2009

There are parts of Dallas where one might find a fight for wearing fingernail polish, having nappy hair, or wearing an OU ball cap. That's just as true in NY, San Francisco or Tokyo, I'd wager.

Clearly, clearly, not just as true.

In some of those places, people doing any one of those things are so common, that anyone wanting to pick a fight with all the people they saw doing this, would, gosh, wear their poor selves out what with all the exertion, and perhaps become a little less inclined to do so, 'desensitised' to such 'provocation', or dare I say, civilised.

Meanwhile, in other places, folks so inclined as to go bashing, would only find someone so attired on, oh say, every 4th night drunkenly rampaging on the town, and thereby keep it as an occasional pursuit.

Question is, where does Dallas rank in that?
posted by Elysum at 12:53 AM on October 16, 2009

Nail polish meets up with macho-functionalism when it comes to the specific task of strengthening your nails to help you play killer licks on your flamenco guitar. Works year round but you may need to elaborate with a few calluses and bits of clumsily applied micropore tape. At some stage you may be challenged to produce and play an actual guitar - but you can expect a grace period of a few months.
posted by rongorongo at 1:13 AM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

In certain social circles it is definitely not OK for any guy to wear nail polish, in others it is fine. If you are the kind of guy who likes to wear nail polish then you should be friends with people who find it OK. There's no absolute moral prohibition on it. Without knowing your friends and acquaintances, we can't tell you how they would react.
posted by creasy boy at 1:40 AM on October 16, 2009

In case you are convinced, there are nail polish collections especially geared toward men. Of course, it's mainly a marketing ploy but at least you get all the colors you might like in one place and you won't be stuck with just black. I personally love Blue Steel!
posted by like_neon at 2:03 AM on October 16, 2009

Back when I was a punk rocker (80's), it was considered completely OK for men to paint the nail on their little finger. I also dyed my hair near the neckline. Nowadays, I attend Burning Man, where it is ok for me to wear whatever skirts, jewelry, body paint, hair color, you name it for a whole glorious week.
posted by telstar at 3:57 AM on October 16, 2009

It's kind of strange for me to read how nearly everyone above me thinks it's totally fine for guys to wear nail polish, yet in my daily life, I never see ANY men with nail polish. I may not run in the same scene as these folks but as someone who lives and works in San Francisco and belongs to a Burning Man camp of over 30 people, I would really think that if it were as socially acceptable as everyone seems to be saying it is, I'd at least see it occasionally in my life. While I don't think there's anything wrong with men wearing nail polish, I do think I would think it odd on most men.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 4:27 AM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Ha, I think otherwordlyglow has a point.

It's not unacceptable the way that wearing an offensive symbol would be, but it's definitely unusual. Most people would probably just notice, be a bit startled, and move on, but you would be doing something different -- more different than a piercing or a tattoo, less different than a skirt. Maybe sort of like a woman with a shaved head or unshaved other displayed body parts - just a little bit conspicuous because it's outside the norm.

But why not just do it and see how it goes? It's removable :)
posted by Salamandrous at 5:08 AM on October 16, 2009

If its part of a costume, it's definitely fine to be wearing nail polish on Halloween. I personally would never wear nail polish, unless sometime in the future, I have a bored daughter (and then it wouldn't last very long). On occasion, I'll see a guy with nail polish and my instant assumption from the way he's dressed, is that he's going for an alternative appearance. I think it's kinda strange, but I'm old fashion.

I also think that if you want to do it, do it. I also agree that there certain social situations where you shouldn't, such as in certain work environments where if your boss or fellow workers think its strange, it could have negative ramifications. I also can't stand guys who wear their hat brims flat or to an off-angle, and baseball players who wear their pants to their ankles, and kids on my lawn. So take my opinion for what you will!
posted by Atreides at 5:33 AM on October 16, 2009

I've seen this with two men in the workplace. I will say, both were gay (obviously, not because of the nail polish, and this wasn't a perception: I met both of their significant others). They also wore powder and mascara to work, and lipstick in the evenings when going out. Neither have been beaten up, or lost jobs, or whatever.

I'm not saying that these things don't happen -- in Texas and really everywhere -- but in big cities you see all types of people, wearing and doing all types of things, and so I think there's more tolerance as a result. There's a big difference between the culture of small towns and big cities in Texas. I honestly don't know how it would play out in a small town here, but in Dallas I think it would be the same as many cities of comparable size: It will be ok in some situations, and less ok in other situations

If you do it in the workplace, I think it matters a lot where you work and the type of work you do. If it's a laid-back place, nobody will care. If it's an uptight corporate environment, it won't be taken well. Corporations spend a lot of time and money on their corporate image, and they want their employees to match that image, not undo it. So if the workplace positions itself as artsy, edgy, independent, free-thinking, then this might be good. If the workplace positions itself as older, established, conventional, then this might not be good.

I think how it will be perceived also will depend on the colors you choose. Pink colors pristinely painted on well-shaped nails will be seen as more feminine. Green, blacks, yellows, blues, etc., chipped and unevenly painted on short nails will be seen as artsy.

If it were me, given that it's hockey season, I'd wear green and gold in support of the Dallas Stars (and perhaps the Stars jersey if you can on game day), and progress from there. Or, blue and silver in support of the Dallas Cowboys. I've definitely seen men with nail polish at sports games.
posted by Houstonian at 6:13 AM on October 16, 2009

I'm with box. The fact that you feel the need to specify your sexual preference as background to the question suggests to me that you're less likely to be able to pull it off than someone more confident about themselves and less uptight and confused about gender and sexuality roles. It's hard to say you're rocking the nail polish because you do your own thing, while at the same time implying you think it might cause you to emanate some sort of gayness waves.
posted by majick at 6:24 AM on October 16, 2009

There's a great big pile of "it depends" that comes with this answer. I think nail polish is like hats or suspenders or jewelry or any other fashion choice that falls a little or a lot outside the mainstream: some people can pull it off and look comfortable and it's not weird; some people can't. Only one way to find out!
posted by Neofelis at 6:32 AM on October 16, 2009

I know all of this is about fingernails, but I've been wearing polish on my toes for at least the last 5 years now. I get my wife to paint them for me.

For me, it's a great conversation starter. It's a window into who people really are - it's interesting to note who thinks it's interesting, and who just
posted by Irontom at 6:35 AM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm from a small, conservative Midwestern town. If you were someone I came in contact with throughout my day, I honestly don't think I'd notice or care if you were wearing nail polish (as long as it wasn't bright pink or red). I also don't think I'd assume you were gay, although admittedly I admit I might assume you were associated with punk or goth culture or were simply "artsy." Of course, as many above say, it probably depends on a lot of other factors.

If you are looking for a way to try it out without feeling too flashy, you might want to check into matte nail polishes. There are several different brands that are coming out with them now and most of them are geared toward men. I believe that it would appear like you frosted your fingernails. It might be a cool look and a way for you to try it out/get used to the idea of wearing polish.

For more information, I recommend checking out the Makeup Alley nail board. They would probably be able to help you find several options for whatever look you'd like to try.
posted by bristolcat at 6:51 AM on October 16, 2009

Do it! I can't stand gendered beauty standards. As far as attractiveness is concerned: if I saw a man with polish on, I would admire his personal style and confidence. It would be a sign to me that you're not afraid to express yourself and you don't worry too much about backwards attituds. That's a major plus.

A side note: my tween son went through a phase where he wanted to wear black nail polish (the whole goth/emo style thing) and I fully encouraged him. However, his principal saw him (and a couple of other boys that followed suit) and told him to take it off. Ha! I advised my son that if he wanted to wear it, keep it on--if the principal has a problem, he and I can have a discussion about his homophobia and why he doesn't have a problem with girls the same age wearing nail polish. (The end result? He kept it on awhile longer, but ended up removing it because he was stressed about angering an authority figure. I left the decision up to him; but anytime he wants to rummage through my finger nail polish, I would be perfectly happy with that.)
posted by Eicats at 7:07 AM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Fingernails at work would be the biggest challenge, though it would depend on the work environment. And taking off nail polish just for work is a pain in the ass. With toenails, you have so much more control that you can pretty much do what you like. If you're wearing sandals to work, then the dress code is such that it's unlikely someone's going to get their dander up about customers seeing it, which is the excuse HR will give about anything they're a little gray-area about. If you wear closed shoes to work, then it doesn't matter.

Halloween is generally a free pass, sometimes even at work (especially if there's a costumes-at-work tradition, but even if not you can be all "Yeah, it's part of the costume, going straight to the party.").

Socially, it depends on where you'll be. I wouldn't go to the OU game this weekend wearing it. There are certainly subcultures where it's not particularly surprising for men to be wearing nail polish and there's a much higher incidence of it being found attractive. Even in those circles, though, black or dark on fingernails is the norm. As far as I'm concerned, toenails are meant for funky colors regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, cultural affiliation, or skin tone. Electric purple and neon yellow toenails for all!

Tip: if you need to practice, start with clear or very light-colored polish. It takes an act of beauty-supply-strength acetone to get intensely-colored polish off without staining the outlying finger/toe a smeary version of the original polish color. Always use a clear base coat under dark and red-based colors as well - the really cheap black stuff won't stain so much because it's too busy flaking off, but over the $3 mark it starts to get more serious.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:08 AM on October 16, 2009

As long as it matches your outfit, you're good to go.
posted by Solomon at 7:39 AM on October 16, 2009

Penn Jillette has only one finger painted (red). It is a mystery on what it means so obviously it's a personal reminder, statement, etc. to him. Whatever floats your boat.
posted by stormpooper at 7:40 AM on October 16, 2009

Not worrying about what others think doesn't make them not think that way.

You open yourself up to 99.9% of people thinking "he must be gay" if you wear nail polish.

It's as simple as that.
posted by Zambrano at 10:21 AM on October 16, 2009

To the either hands or feet angle, it was indeed a thing in the mid- to late-90s for men to have painted toenails and it's still not that unusual. People magazine had a featuer on some hero guys who painted each other's toynails on weekends - that's how mainstream it was at the time.

I have several straight male friends who often paint their toes because they believe their natural colored nails look "icky." They tend to go with blues and greens and browns.

Don't know any non-cross-dressing men, gay or straight, outside of Penn Jillette (who usually but not always has a single crimson pinky) who wear colored fingernail polish. Lots of black men buff or use clear polish on their nails.

If you do want to paint your fingernails, please please please tidy up your cuticles first. Nothing looks worse on anyone that a nice paint job on raggedy nails.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 1:03 PM on October 16, 2009

To the either hands or feet angle, it was indeed a thing in the mid- to late-90s for men to have painted toenails and it's still not that unusual. People magazine had a featuer on some hero guys who painted each other's toynails on weekends - that's how mainstream it was at the time.

Uh. I didn't know a single guy in the mid to late 90's who painted their toenails. Nor do I recall any trends, either.
posted by Atreides at 1:29 PM on October 16, 2009

Uh. I didn't know a single guy in the mid to late 90's who painted their toenails. Nor do I recall any trends, either.

Well, there was Kurt Cobain.
posted by desuetude at 4:12 PM on October 16, 2009

Sorry to be the lone buzzkill, but when I see people - women or men - in nail polish, I think they're using overpackaged, overpriced chemicals for the sake of a tacky, tacky effect, and that they also need other gross, stinky chemicals to remove the stuff. Also, flakes of enamel in your food etc. is yucky. So, if you're comfortable flaunting vanity without taste, then go ahead and paint those nails, be you xx, xy or other.
posted by Bergamot at 10:05 AM on October 22, 2009

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