On a Saturday night, polished nails glimmered under The Thirsty Hippo’s waning lights and brushed against lips with every cigarette drag. There is nothing unordinary about this – not even that the nails belong to men.
According to Hattiesburg rock show regular and nail painter Jordy Boof, men around town are breaking gender barriers in a minimalist fashion by painting their nails, and that is okay.
“Mostly, I just like to feel pretty,” Boof said. “Painting my nails helps me distinguish myself from others. I’ve always been someone who embraces their femininity, and I think it’s fun to toy with the idea of masculinity, especially because we live in such a God-fearing environment.”
Hattiesburg musician and USM English major Dylan Kern said he likes to look pretty as well.
“Basically, for me, it was originally a subtle way for me to express my thoughts about fashion and how boys should be able to feel pretty too,” Kern said. “Fashion in the sense that bright colors are important in a form of expression, and being pretty is important.”
According to the Medical University of Vienna, while most people may strictly identify as men or women, gender can be seen as a spectrum. A person may fall anywhere, such as on one of the two gender “poles” or somewhere in the middle.
“While the biological gender is usually manifested in the physical appearance, the individual gender identity is not immediately discernible and primarily established in the psyche of a human being,” the university stated in a press release.
Two common myths about gender, according to tolerance.org, are that there are only two and that sex and gender are the same thing.
“Every person is either male or female, and the distinction is based on that person’s anatomy,” the website stated in a blog post. “Sex exists between your legs – it’s your biology, your chromosomes, your anatomy. Gender exists between your ears – it’s how you feel about yourself.”
Entertainment industry management major Randy Riley said he identifies as a man, but sees no reason not to paint his nails.
“I made some friends through music who painted their nails, and I thought it was pretty cool,” Riley said. “It was just a thing people were doing when we’d go over to a friend’s house to chill. We’d jam, play video games and paint our nails.”
Riley said he has received both compliments and insults because of this fashion choice.
“One thing [insults] tell me is that if you’re concerned enough about paint on my nails to make judgments or insult me, our priorities and views on how we treat others are probably very different,” Riley said. “I think people should be open to express themselves in any way they see fit. I have girl friends who don’t shave their legs or armpits and guy friends who wear blush and paint their nails, and I’m pretty stoked on that.”
Fashion may not be the only factor in some men’s decisions to paint their nails, however. According to Riley, “making people [of all genders] feel accepted for who they are definitely isn’t irrelevant.”
“It’s true that mainly girls paint their nails, but painting your nails is pretty fun, and fun really isn’t gender-specific,” Riley said.