This week on Nailpolis we have an especially exciting interview for you, we had the pleasure of interviewing Steve from Lacquer Man! We think it’s a shame how few and far between male nail artists are, and we hope Steve will inspire some of you guys out there to get your hands (or rather nails) dirty with nail art!
1. When did you first start wearing nail polish?
June 10th, 2011. I remember the date, because I lost a bet that day, and for losing I was required to paint my toe nails neon pink. And, not just paint them – I had to wear them openly in a public place… take photos there.. post the photos on my online profiles (social media and dating sites).. leave the color on for one full week.. always refer to them as “my pretty pink toes”… and never wear enclosed toe shoes that week, except at work (where steel-toe boots are a requirement). If I was caught violating this, I would have to forfeit $200. My friends, the winners of the bet, were certain that I would chicken out (as I was sure they would do, if I were to have won the bet) – basically, we were wagering “manliness”, and we were all agreed that neon pink painted toenails would be a significant loss of manliness for the loser, which (to our drunken guy-brains..) would increase the manliness of the winner. BUT – faced with the choice between honoring the bet, or running away from it, I realized that it would be more “manly” to honor the bet. This was actually an epiphany for me – TRUE “manhood” really has nothing to do with what someone wears, how fast their car is, how much alcohol they can drink, or how many guys they can beat in a fight… THAT is all just chest-pounding, knuckle-dragging macho B.S.. Instead, I realized that true manhood is all about one’s character – things like honesty, dependability, responsibility, boldness, confidence – and neon pink toes wouldn’t diminish that, but violating the promise I made (inherent in making the bet) would demonstrate a lack of character which WOULD undermine my credibility as a man.
Nail polish is actually just paint – if you read the ingredients list, there is no item on the list called “gender”, there is no gender in the bottle.
2. Did you ever feel awkward or hesitant because of what people would think when you first started wearing polish?
Oh, yes! Initially, I had no idea how people would react. I actually had a whole story scripted and rehearsed, ready to go in case anyone confronted me: “Maybe I have a daughter, OK? Maybe she just lost her mom – my wife – to breast cancer… and my little girl is taking it really hard. Maybe she used to love painting nails with her mom… and maybe I let her paint my damn toes pink in remembrance of her mom, and to raise awareness of this evil disease that has invaded our lives and took her mother away from us….. Or, ya know, MAYBE it’s none of your damn business!” The first few times I showed my pretty pink toes in public, I clutched that story like a security blanket – but I never actually used it! The most negative reaction I got was to overhear a guy mutter “Only inAmerica..” to his girlfriend as they stood behind me in a Wal-Mart checkout line. I realized that if I had turned and laid that story on him, he would probably lose that girlfriend right there – and since his disapproval didn’t actually hurt me, he didn’t actually deserve to lose the respect of his girlfriend over a made-up story. I realized that his opinion had no power over me, unless I CHOOSE to let it bother me the way he let my toes bother him.
What’s funny is that since then, this is the question I am asked the most. People will approach me, and ask about my nails – and they usually say “I think that’s awesome… but aren’t you afraid of what others might think of you?” I always tell them “Not really, because I’ve found that most people think the same as what you just said – and that’s nothing to be afraid of. If anyone has a problem with my nails…. that’s really THEIR problem!”
I realized that true manhood is all about one’s character – things like honesty, dependability, responsibility, boldness, confidence – and neon pink toes wouldn’t diminish that.
3. Do you think you’ll ever stop wearing nail polish?
I honestly can’t imagine myself ever giving it up. When I started wearing it, that came with a realization that up to that point I had been blindly following assumptions which had no basis in anything real, and which were based in sexist prejudices in society (as in: ‘men can’t wear this… because it’s girly… and girly is bad’). I don’t wear it all the time – I’m actually prohibited from wearing color on my hands at work – but for me to consciously STOP wearing it, permanently, I would have to deliberately endorse (not just “blindly follow”) the sexist prejudice against men wearing nail color.
I stay away from intricate striping designs, beads or stones, and stamped patterns – those look a little too delicate on my large hands.
4. Do you have any advice for anyone who wants to wear polish but hasn’t worked up the nerve to do so publicly?
I would say to them, that it’s a bigger “thing” in their own mind than anywhere else. People really have more important things to worry about in their own lives than whether you are wearing nail color. Very few people are actively, personally opposed to it – most everyone thinks that everyone ELSE is opposed to it. Much like the way everybody once thought the Earth was flat, for no reason except that they thought everyone else “knew” the Earth was flat… but the Earth was never actually flat. Nail polish is actually just paint – if you read the ingredients list, there is no item on the list called “gender”, there is no gender in the bottle. Nail color is a lot like tattoo ink – it’s really OK for anyone. If you like it, and you want to wear it, then you really don’t need anyone else’s approval – just do it!
5. What colors of polish do you like to wear?
Mostly, I wear blues and greens, but I also have some reds that I really like, quite a few purples, some oranges and yellows. Sometimes, I even like to wear pink, just for old times’ sake. Initially, I mostly wore metallics, but eventually I fell in love with crèmes. I also love holographic and color-shifting polishes, but I stay away from glitters. As for nail art – I’ve done a few things, like water marble, camouflage, cow spots, snakeskin effects, flames… but my absolute favorite effect is ombre. I tried the sponge method, and eventually I learned to do that with decent results, but I do most of my ombres with an airbrush. I stay away from intricate striping designs, beads or stones, and stamped patterns – those look a little too delicate on my large hands.
I’ve made a lot of friends from among those who like my nails… and those who dislike them, generally don’t matter.
6. What kind of reactions do you get to your nail art?
People generally react positively. I would say that I receive about 50 compliments for every objection I hear. Of course, I know that there are people who object silently – they don’t confront me, I don’t “hear” their objections – and people have a right to their own opinions and preferences, just as I have the same right to mine. I’ve made a lot of friends from among those who like my nails… and those who dislike them, generally don’t matter. I do get a second type of objection – not that I’m wearing nail color as a man, but that a man’s nails look better than hers – but I take that one as a compliment, and I offer to do hers like mine are.
7. How would you describe your style?
In a word… basic. Before I started painting my nails, I was literally invisible in a crowd, just another buffalo blending into the herd. Jeans or khakis, nondescript shirt, plain sneakers – really nothing that stood out. Since I’ve been wearing nail color, people notice me – sometimes it feels like I only became “somebody” after I started painting my nails.
I have a surplus limo bus which I intend to convert into a mobile nail salon – I’ll get a cosmetology certification, hire three or four nail techs, and we’ll go to festivals, fairs and other public events and help beautify the world, one nail at a time…
8. How do you take care of your nails?
I work in heavy construction – I’m a crane operator and a welder – so my main nail care secret is chore gloves. I wear gloves for practically everything I do at work, they keep my nails clean and free of scratches and chips. I also wear clear topcoat at all times to prevent stains. Beyond that, frequent hand-washing, moisturizer when my hands feel dry, cuticle oil when I apply or remove color, and basic filing to maintain tip shape and length.
9. Have you ever tried doing someone else’s nails?
Yes. I’ve painted a few of my girlfriends’ nails.
10. What are some other things you’re passionate about?
I love scuba diving, paintball, boating, fixing cars, gardening (I’m growing several of the world’s hottest pepper varieties). I’m passionate about parenting – but my son is now 19, and I’m adjusting to a parental role that’s less about directing and more about guidance and advice. Among my goals for the future, I have a surplus limo bus which I intend to convert into a mobile nail salon – I’ll get a cosmetology certification, hire three or four nail techs, and we’ll go to festivals, fairs and other public events and help beautify the world, one nail at a time…
Be sure to check out Steve’s blog Lacquer Man, and his Nailpolis gallery to keep up with his nail art!