Nailing It: Through the Ages

Nailing It with Isaiah Negron manicures for men

It’s true. There has been a great surge in popularity of guys who get their nails groomed. However, this isn’t what most consider to be a “fad” or “trend.” Guys have been getting their nails done for thousands of years, dating all the way back to ancient Rome, Egypt and China. In addition to commonly embracing these practices, these civilizations used nail care for much more than just keeping up appearances.

The first recorded manicures date back over 3,000 years ago to the empires of Egypt and Babylonia, where nail color was used to signify one’s social class. Vivid colors or simply jet-black meant the wearer had wealth and power while softer and earthier tones were reserved for commoners and peasants. China also took on this idea with the wealthiest in society using silver and gold paint, made from wax, egg whites and gelatin to convey their high aristocratic status as recent as 600 years ago. The bolder the color, the more power it symbolized. The Ming Dynasty, the royal family that ruled China from 1368 to 1644, was especially fond of a dark and bloody red.

Right behind the Egyptians, in 296 BC the Roman Senator Ticinius Mena returned to Rome from Sicily and pioneered the first all-male barbershops, providing men with shaves, haircuts, massages and, voila, both manicures and pedicures complete with oils and scents to perfume their hands. It’s been documented that Roman men spent long hours in the barbershops getting groomed, shattering any previous conceptions that polishing your look for hours at a time is only a feminine practice.

In America, the barbershop culture also thrived and by the 18th century, they were a staple in towns and cities everywhere. From the old west to upstate New York, barbershops offered manicures and pedicures at the majority of establishments and were a common addition to a haircut and shave. They even had designated manicurists who would work on guys’ nails while the barber attended to their hair. Gun slingers cared what their firing fingers looked like too!

Through the 20th Century, the manicure developed a reputation to be “for girls only” with the rise of the French Manicure and the use of acrylic nails. Nevertheless, by 1950, the nail care field was one of the strongest of the cosmetic industry. And it has only continued to expand. With the resurgence of men getting back into their grooming and new techniques and tools being endlessly developed, it’s no wonder the number of nail establishments, not to mention the guys who use them, has skyrocketed over the years. So go on, take part in this age-old ritual. It was good enough for the rulers of the ancient world. So what’s your excuse?


Check back here every other Tuesday for more reviews and tips on how guys are Nailing It when it comes to their grooming.

Isaiah Negron

A native New Yorker, a writer, a doer, a reader, a dreamer, a Disney junkie, a literature buff, an avid gamer and all kinds of stuff...then you run out of space.

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