Color me confused: Lil Yachty’s nail paints are doing a lot of mental gymnastics
After months of hype, Lil Yachty is finally about to release his much-anticipated line of nail polishes – sorry, nail paints. Nail polishes are for girls, but nail paints? That’s for boys.
Anyway, as I was saying, the Georgia-born rapper – whose latest mixtape, Michigan Boy Boat, came out in April – will debut said line of nail paints this coming Friday. The collection, dubbed Crete, features a few different shades including gray, black and white, according to Teen Vogue.
So it’s not nail polish, it’s nail paint – you know, like the kind you find at the hardware store, AKA Men’s Business headquarters. And unlike most, if not virtually all, commercially available nail polishes, Yachty’s nail paints come packaged in matte black tubes that you apply by using a clicker on one end and drawing on your nails like you’re using a marker.
“Every time I get my nails polished – or, painted,” the 23-year-old musician told TMZ in an interview earlier this week, quickly correcting himself after using the wrong P-word, “I just felt like it was such a girl thing. Like, the bottle and the [he makes a brushing gesture]. I wanted to make nail paints that felt more masculine,” adding that his new line is all about “breaking down the barriers”.
That’s all well and good – I’m all for anyone and everyone painting their nails if they so desire. Nail polish is great! I am at this very moment sporting an iridescent lavender shade of Sinful Colors called You Just Wait with a Sally Hansen primer and top coat as I type. I’m deep in the pocket of big nail polish, and I love it!
Still, I kind of can’t get over how goofy it is to take something traditionally coded as feminine and try and butch it up with a new name and aesthetic. It reminds me of War Paint and other similar lines of cosmetics that are explicitly branded, packaged and marketed as being “for men” despite being the literal same concealer, bronzer, brow gel and foundation that I, a g*rl, might buy for myself at Sephora.
I also can’t help but roll my eyes at the simultaneous attempt to not only repackage nail polish as masculine but also as unisex or gender-inclusive. When Yachty promoted the upcoming nail paint line on Instagram earlier this month, he noted that his products are for “all genders”, as if that were something new about it. But hasn’t that always been the case? Haven’t people of all genders always been able to cute-up their cuticles, regardless of how they identify?
I understand that boys and men can face violence, harassment and other consequences for wearing nail polish. There was that 17-year-old boy in west Texas was given in-school suspension for painting his nails last year, a blatant act of discrimination that Lil Yachty condemned when a paparazzo asked him about it in December.
But that kind of ignorance hasn’t stopped men and boys from wearing nail polish in the first place. As GQ associate editor Samuel Wine wrote about the burgeoning trend last summer, “you couldn’t shake a skateboard below Delancey Street [in New York City] without hitting a twentysomething dude with chipped pastel nails”.
Again, I think this is ultimately a good thing. Polish makes nails look prettier, and everyone deserves pretty nails! I just think all the heavily gendered mental gymnastics underpinning his branding and marketing is very silly.