Nail Polish for Boys?

Purple with glitter on the left; fire engine red on the right

Yesterday was a lovely lazy day for my family. It was a gorgeous day—sunny and breezy—and we lounged around on our deck and in the backyard for much of the day. As part of my lounging, I decided to give myself a mani-pedi, including a relaxing foot soak on the deck. And that’s when the trouble began.

Both of my sons, ages 3 and 5, have become really curious about nail polish as of late. Our new au pair painted her nails while they were around, and they both asked if she could paint their nails. She initially demurred, but I eventually gave my permission—at first for a single nail (they each just wanted their index fingernails painted) and then later for their full hands when they begged for more—knowing full well that my kind-of-conservative Southern husband would not react very positively to it. That day, the boys chose a light blue color—pretty boyish, and because she didn’t give them the full treatment including a base coat, the polish started to come off within hours, given how rough they play. And while my husband rolled his eyes at me when he saw their nails, he didn’t say anything about it to the kids.

Yesterday, they asked for more polish—and my collection had only reds, pinks, and purples in it. Our au pair was enjoying some much-deserved time-off, so I didn’t want to bother with asking for the blue color again—and really, does the color matter much when a boy has his nails painted? I remember all of the hullabaloo from J. Crew’s Jenna Lyons‘ ‘Toemageddon’ scandal of 2011, when she was shown painting her son’s toenails a neon pink and how ridiculous it all seemed to me at the time. Should painted nails on a boy mean anything other than that he likes the color? Should it say anything about his sexuality—especially in boys so young? Personally, I don’t think so. And yet—I‘m mindful that my sons, my older one at least who is entering kindergarten this fall, can be susceptible to others’ teasing (and I struggle with that versus encouraging him to do whatever makes him happy). I explained to him that some other kids might ask why he had his nails painted or comment that only girls paint their nails, but he replied calmly and sensibly that he would tell them he’d had it done because he wanted to, plain and simple.

And so my older son chose purple nail polish, complete with a glitter topcoat. My younger son requested bright red (the same red that I later chose for myself when I was finally done playing manicurist) and has also requested pink toenails, although we haven’t gotten that far. My husband wasn’t thrilled—but he also hasn’t grabbed the polish remover and taken it off himself. I think that we’ll remove it in time for the start of school next week, but for now, I’m happy to let them admire their brightly colored nails as they play “monster and robot” and chase each other around the yard with water guns.

What’s your take on nail polish for boys? Are you OK with it? Is your partner? What would you do if your son requested painted nails?

Comments

  1. My 3 boys ages, 4,3 and 19 months ask all the time.. I do not think its a big deal. I put little dots on thier nails and they sit still and wait for the dots to dry. My husband dosent mind. I think its completly normal and not a big deal at all. I wouldnt send my child to school with polish on, but, its just something fun for them to do. Just like painting on paper.. whats the big deal??? No worries.

  2. Tricia says:

    I took my 4 yr old with me to get a pedicure, and he got his nails painted green. I recently bought a bottle of green polish to redo his nails, and paint my 2 yr old sons nails. He caught a lot of criticism, and I was very irritated that people even thought anything of it, other than the fact that he likes green and sees me get my nails done. He doesn’t see anything wrong with it, so why should everyone else? I was mostly mad at others, specifically my close friends and family, for pointing that out and potentially ruining his fun. You don’t like it, don’t look.

  3. Kaela T says:

    I don’t want to say what you did was wrong as we each choose how to handle situations with our own children and deserve to do so without criticism from others. However, for my situation I think I would explain to him that nail polish is for girls. I know that my husband would flip his lid if we had a son and I/he/or nanny had painted his nails. I’m sure it would turn to a here a cool things boys get to do that girls dont conversation. Again, we each handle things in our own ways. :)

  4. Vivian says:

    So, what shade of lipstick would they like? Blue? After all it is a boy color isn’t it? Oh, but I’m thinking someone. Ight comment and say that blue doesn’t necessarily have to be a boy color. True! The fact of the matter is that boys are being demasculated in every which way now-a-days. It’s ok for everyone to have the same rights.but this is feminizing of men, demasculating them. Don’t women feel more appealing, sexy, pretty(whatever other feelings women get) when they put on that pretty skirt, wear that eyeshadow, eyeliner, heels, nail polish, get your eye brows done, fix your hair. So why are boys(little or grown) wearing or doing the same thing??? These are woman,y, feminin things to do! It should forevermore be that way. It is a big thing, a HUGE THING in fact, for little boys to wear nail polish. But I guess if everyone thought the same this world would be a boring place.

  5. I have 2 very girly girls. If I was ever so blessed to have a boy, and he wanted his nails painted because his sisters and mom was, I would simply say: boys don’t wear nail polish, girls do. I asked my husband a former Army Sergeant and here are his thoughts on this. “Our culture is emasculating men in an effort to force gender equality.” He continues to say, his two girly girls are going to need strong men to marry someday. Mothers of boys have a responsibility to teach their boys how to be men, how to treat women, and treat a family, how to serve their country and many other things. My husband commented that he hopes there is a strong father in the house to put and end to this entire discussion.

  6. i am all for it! my boys ask for it on their toes and they are 5 and 3. what’s the big deal – they are kids and they think its fun so why not? i despise people who judge others for their choices – especially if it is not harming anyone! why make rude comments as jane and vivian? worry about your own life. the people who judge and comment negatively are the people who are insecure in their own life and with themself. that is the sad part.

  7. Kari Richards says:

    @at jane, it’s because of closed minded people like you, using horrible words like [deleted], that it’s a big deal.. It’s a little polish, it will come off, if you don’t make a big deal out of it won’t be a big deal. A little nail polish isnt going to turn a child gay, he/she is already gay, the nail polish is just fun… And so what if a child is gay, nothing wrong with that!

  8. boys can paint their nails too. Who decided that only girls can paint their nails, who makes the rules?

  9. I’ve been letting my, now 5 y/o, son wear polish for years now. It’s not everyday and it’s not all the time. But when he requests it, I let him. He sees me and my daughter put it on. It’s fun and why deny him? I also let him try on and play in tutus. Told him that he has to wait until he’s older to decide to get earrings – a little more permanent than tutus and nail polish. He’s recently been requesting superhero stuff, so I’m starting to make him and my daughter capes to play with.

    What does it matter if my kids want to play dress-up and paint their nails? If we teach our kids that it’s okay to have their own opinions and preferences, they will grow to be more self-confident in their own choices. If everyone were to teach their kids this, think about how open-minded the world would be.

    That said, recently my son’s peers have been telling him that boys don’t wear polish. I’m contemplating how to help him deal with this. For now, I just tell him it IS okay for him to wear it if HE wants to. Part of me feels I should take him to get cool superhero nails at the salon….. maybe a mohawk to go with it? But only if he requests it….

  10. there is no such conspiracy that supports the theory, crazy as that sounds, to emasculate men to support gender equality. that is pure unadulterated homophobia and gender bias kicking in loud and clear is all. dude says that all these girls will need strong men to defend them when they get married. what a load of nonsense is that?
    seems to me that bucking what everyone else, well, just the perceived everyone thinks says way more about strength than being a sheeple that mouths dysentery that is part of the collective belief system. omg, I cannot imagine being married to such Neanderthal thinking, as if being a former army sergeant gives credence to the thought. it is not mutually inclusive here, but I do thank you for your service.

    in conclusion, paint away, it’s just color, it comes off whenever you want, it’s fun and interesting, and lord knows we need more of that and less judgment in the world of today.

  11. It seems rather trivial that anyone would make an issue about a boy wearing nail polish.

    Really people, let’s recognize that everyone has to find their place in this world and if having a little color on their nails, girl or boy, makes them feel good, then why not? It certainly is not going to hurt them or anyone else (though some of the preceding comments seem to indicate otherwise..).

    I tire of some people who seem to be trying to inflict their own (sometimes narrow) beliefs on others. Hey, live and let live!! The more color the better as far as I’m concerned, let the guys have some fun too.

  12. For those that are saying that painting boys fingernails is demasculating is wrong. It’s a form of self expression and on matter male or female if a person adult or child likes something they should be able to do it.

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