Nail Polish for Boys?

Purple with glitter on the left; fire engine red on the right

Yesterday was a lovely lazy day for my family. It was a gorgeous day—sunny and breezy—and we lounged around on our deck and in the backyard for much of the day. As part of my lounging, I decided to give myself a mani-pedi, including a relaxing foot soak on the deck. And that’s when the trouble began.

Both of my sons, ages 3 and 5, have become really curious about nail polish as of late. Our new au pair painted her nails while they were around, and they both asked if she could paint their nails. She initially demurred, but I eventually gave my permission—at first for a single nail (they each just wanted their index fingernails painted) and then later for their full hands when they begged for more—knowing full well that my kind-of-conservative Southern husband would not react very positively to it. That day, the boys chose a light blue color—pretty boyish, and because she didn’t give them the full treatment including a base coat, the polish started to come off within hours, given how rough they play. And while my husband rolled his eyes at me when he saw their nails, he didn’t say anything about it to the kids.

Yesterday, they asked for more polish—and my collection had only reds, pinks, and purples in it. Our au pair was enjoying some much-deserved time-off, so I didn’t want to bother with asking for the blue color again—and really, does the color matter much when a boy has his nails painted? I remember all of the hullabaloo from J. Crew’s Jenna Lyons‘ ‘Toemageddon’ scandal of 2011, when she was shown painting her son’s toenails a neon pink and how ridiculous it all seemed to me at the time. Should painted nails on a boy mean anything other than that he likes the color? Should it say anything about his sexuality—especially in boys so young? Personally, I don’t think so. And yet—I‘m mindful that my sons, my older one at least who is entering kindergarten this fall, can be susceptible to others’ teasing (and I struggle with that versus encouraging him to do whatever makes him happy). I explained to him that some other kids might ask why he had his nails painted or comment that only girls paint their nails, but he replied calmly and sensibly that he would tell them he’d had it done because he wanted to, plain and simple.

And so my older son chose purple nail polish, complete with a glitter topcoat. My younger son requested bright red (the same red that I later chose for myself when I was finally done playing manicurist) and has also requested pink toenails, although we haven’t gotten that far. My husband wasn’t thrilled—but he also hasn’t grabbed the polish remover and taken it off himself. I think that we’ll remove it in time for the start of school next week, but for now, I’m happy to let them admire their brightly colored nails as they play “monster and robot” and chase each other around the yard with water guns.

What’s your take on nail polish for boys? Are you OK with it? Is your partner? What would you do if your son requested painted nails?