Robert Crowley, a student at the University of Massachusetts, is an average-looking guy at about 5-foot-9 with curly, dirty blonde hair and a backwards baseball cap. His nails are painted thinly with black polish, with one dark purple nail on the third finger of each hand.
“I paint my nails because I feel like it,” he shrugs, glancing briefly at his hands and then putting them in the pockets of his jeans. He has some rubber and braided bracelets around one wrist and wears a baggy dark sweatshirt.
“I generally just like, don’t support any gender stereotypes or any criteria that anyone feels like they need to fall under,” he adds, somewhat offhand. “To anyone who feels like they need to act a certain way because they’re a certain gender, I feel like the two should be separate, as to like how you express yourself.”
Crowley pauses, looking down at his boots and shrugging again. “But like, I’m not painting my nails as a statement or as an affront to gender stereotypes.”
For men, wearing nail polish is not considered the norm. For those who may see it as just a fun activity, they are faced with the assumption that painted nails must be a statement of some kind. Crowley, although eager to express his opposition to gender stereotypes, isn’t painting his nails specifically to express that. Some men just want to do it for fun, without an attached meaning. The assumption of an inherent statement in some ways may reinforce the stereotype more, because it assumes that men would never do it just for fun the way girls do. At right, a photo from The Painted Nail Facebook page.
“I’m just doing it because that’s the way I feel about [gender stereotypes], and like, I don’t really think about it. I don’t even consider it,” Crowley says. “I guess it’s not really a masculine thing, but like, I’m already masculine enough.”
Glancing down at his body and clothing, he adds with a shrug and a quick smile, “It’s a great conversation starter.”