Make-up artist Pierre La Roche paints David Bowie’s nails in 1973 | Daily Express / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

WHEN A$AP ROCKY ARRIVED AT LOEWE’S spring/summer 2020 show sporting some eye-popping nail art, he probably didn’t know that he was about to reignite a movement (or maybe he did, who knows).

Arriving at the presentation in Paris, the focus was not on the rapper’s sauce black suit or unbuttoned white shirt. It wasn’t even on his pearl necklace (what would a modern soft-boy look be without one?) or silver choker. Instead, all eyes were on his nails, which were painted with two tiny, blue irises and held over his real eyes for the cameras.

In the three years since, manis for men have enjoyed a monumental rise. Seen decorating the fingertips of Harry Styles, Machine Gun Kelly, Drake and every man in Fitzroy; the man-icure has shifted from a boundary-pushing, (painted) middle finger to traditional masculine dress, to a relatively destigmatised part of a man’s grooming routine.

There are certainly some nay-sayers — we’re looking at you, commentators on The Shade Room’s Instagram post of Drake’s pink nails who suggested he was entering his “soft girl era.” But numbers show the trend is on the rise. Men’s personal care is already a multibillion-dollar industry, and is estimated to grow to be worth around about 172 billion dollars ($115 billion US) by 2028.

In a society — and capitalist structure — that tends to thrive off the maintenance of gender norms, the notion seems somewhat of an oxymoron. But the numbers speak for themselves — attitudes around rigid gendered beauty norms are changing fast.

While the aforementioned men are known to regularly don a lick of colour on their nails, they’re not the first famous men to do so. From David Bowie, who once matched his varnish with Mick Jagger for a party in 1973, to ’90s Bulls defender Denis Rodman — you know, the one who famously “married” himself — and beyond. Ahead, take a look at the evolution of the celebrity mani-cure.

Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

Lou Reed


In New York, c. 1973.

Jack Kay / Daily Express / Getty Images

David Bowie


Performing at a live recording of ‘The 1980 Floor Show’ for the NBC Midnight Special in 1973.

Chris Walter / Wireimage

Freddie Mercury


The Queen frontman, seen here in 1974, famously only painted his nails on one hand.


Steven Tyler


The Aerosmith front-man on stage in Detroit in 1987.

Ron Galella / Getty Images

Denis Rodman

At the 1996 MTV Video Music Awards.


Jason Merritt / Getty Images

Brad Pitt

At the Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival Film Festival in 2015.


Swan Gallet / WWD / Penske Media

A$AP Rocky

At the Loewe SS20 show in 2019.





Getty Images

Bad Bunny

At the 2019 Billboard Latin Music Awards.




Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty Images

Lil Nas X

At the 2019 VMAs.




Neil Mockford

Harry Styles

Leaving a radio show recording in 2020.





Instagram / @feliciathegoat

Tyler, the Creator

Shared on Instagram in 2021.





Samir Hussein / WireImage

Jared Leto

At the House of Gucci London premiere in 2021.





Jamie McCarthy / Getty Images

Joe Jonas

At the Met Gala in 2022.





Amy Sussman / Getty Images

Billy Porter

Attending the 2023 Golden Globes.