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Why Do Men Wear Black Nail Polish

by Lyndon Langley
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Why Do Men Wear Black Nail Polish

Why Do Men Wear Black Nail Polish

It doesn’t matter if you’re at home or on the job — men everywhere are wearing black nail polish. But why? It seems like such an odd fashion choice for a man to wear black polish. And yet, it is becoming increasingly popular among both sexes. So what do all those women see when they look down at your nails? Is there any benefit to sporting this particular shade of enamel over other colors like pink or red?
Color psychologist Dr. Gita Mehta says that black shows up often as the “uniform” color because it has strong associations with power. In general, people believe that dark colors convey strength, so using them in makeup is common for politicians and military officers. However, some critics claim that the color can be intimidating, especially if you use it to cover up blemishes and imperfections with little success.
In addition, many people feel that black nail polish makes hands appear larger than usual. This could explain why men choose to sport the color even though it may not always make their fingers look bigger. Although it might seem strange, some say that the reason men don’t usually wear black shoes and pants is because doing so would make their legs look shorter by comparison [sources: Brown].
Still others argue that black nail polish looks better on men than on women because it helps balance out features like wide noses and chins, making a masculine face more pleasing overall. The theory goes that women tend to exaggerate their facial features while men play up their height and build. By applying black nail polish, men can create harmony between these opposing elements.
Whatever one’s stance on the subject, it’s clear that the color black carries significant meaning within various cultures around the world. Let’s take a closer look at how black nail polish became associated with masculinity and assertiveness.
Black Nails Mean Business

According to legend, French king Louis XIV wore black clothes every day from morning until night, since he believed that appearing in black made him invincible, able to withstand any attack. He was known for his strict adherence to protocol and punctuality, qualities that were important to his kingdom, but perhaps equally so to himself.
Today, we still consider kings to be powerful figures who wield great influence and control. As a result, associating ourselves with the color black means that we want to project an image of strength and reliability. For example, a woman dressed in black clothing could send subtle signals about her personality. She might appear more serious, mature and professional, although it’s possible that she’d also come across as colder, less emotional and hard-hearted.
On the other hand, a male dressed in black could send similar messages about his level of confidence and self-assurance. Many workplaces incorporate office attire into company culture, and employees are expected to dress professionally and follow certain rules. Of course, the majority of people don’t enjoy feeling controlled by others, but black nail polish can help enforce standards and expectations. Just by being dressed head to toe in black, a person can signal that he or she won’t deviate from workplace etiquette.
Many men also use black nail polish to give off an air of mystery. Some go for dramatic effects by painting their fingernails completely black, including tiny dots along each finger tip. Others opt for lighter shades of black to achieve a more subtle effect. Either way, the goal is to convey that the wearer isn’t interested in giving away too much information about himself.
Although most people don’t pay attention to their fingernails, some women find that wearing black nail polish makes their hands look slightly longer. According to some sources, this occurs because darker tones absorb light differently than lighter ones, causing the skin underneath to become slightly paler. If this happens to you, choose a solid black shade instead of something with lots of glittery sparkle.
If you’ve been wondering whether your favorite actor wears black nail polish, the answer is yes. When Brad Pitt appeared on David Letterman’s talk show in 2008, he said that he likes to paint his fingernails black before going on stage. While he wasn’t wearing black nail polish specifically during the taping of the episode, it seemed that he had done so beforehand.
Author’s Note
I’m fascinated by anything related to fashion and style, so I was thrilled to learn that the color black holds special significance for both genders. From politics to psychology, the color black comes packed with symbolism that influences our perceptions of things like authority and attractiveness.
The idea that black nail polish can make one’s fingers appear larger intrigued me, and I found numerous articles online that supported the claim. I was surprised to discover that the phenomenon only happened if someone had larger features like a large nose or chin. Otherwise, black nail polish helped blend opposites together by making a smaller body look taller. My husband swears that he used to get compliments about his feet looking larger after he started wearing black shoes and socks, but I think my oversized ears distracted people from noticing the rest of him.
With all this information swirling around in my brain, I couldn’t wait to try out the practice myself. I painted my fingernails black and took extra care to apply it evenly, but unfortunately, no one complimented me on my new style. On the positive side, I did notice that people looked at me more closely when I wore black, which is probably what I wanted in the first place!
Sources
Brown, Elizabeth A., PhD. “Why Don’t Men Wear Black Shoes?” Scientific American Mind, Vol. 3, No. 1 (March/April 2001), p. 42.
Hollander, Nancy. “More Reasons Why Women Like Long Fingers.” About.com Guide to Fashion & Beauty. http://beauty.about.com/od/fashionandstyle/a/Fingertips.htm (accessed June 24, 2009).
Mehta, Gita. Color Psychology: How To Use Colors Effectively. NY: McGraw Hill Book Company, 2002. Print.
Reader’s Digest. October 2006. “What’s Your Significance?” Special Issue: Secret Signs Revealed. pp. 40-41.
Shaw, Deborah. “Nail Envy: What You Should Know Before Applying Nail Polish.” WebMD. May 8, 2003. http://www.webmd.com/nail-health/news/20030520_polish-envy (accessed June 24, 2009).

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