Why would a man have manicured long nails on only one hand?
June 28, 2019 8:09 AM   Subscribe

Other than personal preference/"there's no accounting for taste," why would a man have manicured long nails on only one hand?

In a work context, I have come across a man in his mid-50s who has ordinary looking trimmed nails on one hand, but long nails on all fingers of the other hand. The long nails look manicured and polished with a clear coat. The nails look "thicker" than untreated nails. It is possible they are acrylic, but they look more natural than that so I tend to think not. I don't know how to estimate the length of nails in cm or whatever, but I would say the nails are roughly this long and also similarly thick. It is not a french manicure, as in the picture, just natural color.

The man in question is a professional/white-collar type, middle aged, married, and presents as straight and also conservative-business-suit in the way he dresses. In other words, the nails are completely incongruous with everything else about this person's appearance and the way he presents himself. Multiple colleagues - male and female - have independently noticed the nails and said it puzzles them.

I wondered if maybe his "natural" nails on this hand have some kind of medical issue, and the manicure/treatment covers it up - but why then have long nails on only one hand, which would seem to draw attention to the issue if the goal is covering it up?

I totally get that the answer may be "he just likes it," which is fine and his right of course. But I am wondering if there is some reason - like health, fashion statement, culture, whatever - that might explain this. The combination of factors - especially that the two hands are different - makes me think there must be some reason explaining it -- i.e., if he is just into having a manicure, why would it only be on one hand?
posted by Mid to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Guitar or other stringed instrument playing?
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 8:10 AM on June 28 [56 favorites]

Seconding guitar as a possible reason...
posted by Wild_Eep at 8:11 AM on June 28 [1 favorite]

Yeah, my first thought was for finger-picking a stringed instrument.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:11 AM on June 28

All 5 fingers?
posted by Mid at 8:12 AM on June 28 [1 favorite]

Do a google image search for "guitar nails".
posted by smcameron at 8:14 AM on June 28 [1 favorite]

Classical guitarists especially do this - I played for years. Totally normal
posted by leslies at 8:15 AM on June 28 [4 favorites]

Have definitely known string players who get acrylics/gels on one hand. And yes, you pick with all 5 fingers (video quality's not great but kind of hypnotic watching all 3 guys playing in a row).
posted by Lyn Never at 8:16 AM on June 28

I do this for 3 fingers guitar, people have never remarked
posted by canoehead at 8:20 AM on June 28 [1 favorite]

The guitar thing sounds more plausible, however in certain cultures men grow out their nails as a status symbol, specifically to indicate they do not have to perform manual labor (which would cause nails to break before they could get so long.)
posted by griphus at 8:32 AM on June 28 [3 favorites]

I have 2 fingers with fake nails (clear, because they wear out fast) on my right hand for playing banjo, and I paint all 8 other nails just for fun.
posted by TheCoug at 8:40 AM on June 28

I’m a professional guitarist and my right hand nails are long, albeit not manicured, except by me, and often broken and bleeding (acrylics don’t work for me, I also use my fingertips). My left hand nails are as short as they can be. Occupational requirement for many of us. And yes I use all five digits of my right hand.
posted by spitbull at 8:43 AM on June 28 [1 favorite]

I knew a banjo player that got acrylics on one hand so nthing some sort of stringed instrument player.
posted by wwax at 8:55 AM on June 28 [1 favorite]

Definitely a player of a strummed instrument - if so his right right hand should be the one with long nails..

Orchestral string players (violin/viola/cello/bass) always keep the non-thumb nails on their left hand short and usually the pinky finger of the right hand, the other 5 don’t matter and could be long/manicured.

Source: I’m a violist who bought a guitar and can’t figure out how to have compatible nail/calluses across the two instruments.
posted by asphericalcow at 9:03 AM on June 28 [2 favorites]

It is the right hand with long nails. Strangely, he writes with his left.
posted by Mid at 9:59 AM on June 28

That makes sense if he learned to play the guitar right-handed, which some lefties do. He'd be picking with his right hand.
posted by fiercecupcake at 10:08 AM on June 28 [7 favorites]

Definitely a strummed/picked instrument player.

It is the right hand with long nails. Strangely, he writes with his left.

Not all that strange- it’s very common for lefty guitar players to play with a standard instrument setup (I am left-handed, and I do). It’s a pretty ambidextrous instrument.
posted by charmedimsure at 10:10 AM on June 28 [4 favorites]

there are even some right handed guitar players who play left-handed , usually because a sibling or neighbor who played lefty taught them
posted by thelonius at 10:16 AM on June 28

Yup. Dated a guy who played guitar and his fingernails were nearly an inch long on the hand that played the strings.
posted by Peach at 10:51 AM on June 28

If his pinky is long and manicured too, I think it's less likely that he plays classical guitar in particular, since the vast majority of players only use their thumb and first three fingers. When I was playing classical, I and everyone I knew just kept the pinky nail short.
posted by invitapriore at 1:30 PM on June 28

Yeah but us country fingerpickers use the pinky plenty. Often we are hybrid picking so there’s a flatpick between thumb and index (or rotated under the thumb when you need the fingers free) and the other three fingers doing the rest.

One player who is a lefty but plays righty and uses all of his fingers (and one of my biggest idols as a guitarist) is Mark Knopfler.
posted by spitbull at 1:55 PM on June 28 [1 favorite]

Here's James Taylor showing you how to do your own fake nails for guitar.
posted by magicbus at 2:56 PM on June 28 [5 favorites]

As a counterpoint, I knew a chap once who had beautifully manicured long nails on one hand and was commonly assumed to be a guitarist, but in fact just really liked having nice long nails.

When asked why he only had them on one hand, he would very tactfully and diplomatically express that there are places long nails may not be welcome.
posted by automatronic at 6:28 PM on June 28 [7 favorites]

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