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Why Male Celebrities Are Launching Nail Lines

Machine Gun Kelly is the latest to get into the fast-growing nail polish category.
Machine Gun Kelly's nail polish brand,  UN/DN LQUR, will go on sale on Dec. 2. Courtesy
Machine Gun Kelly's nail polish brand, UN/DN LAQR, will go on sale on Dec. 2. Courtesy

Machine Gun Kelly, born Colson Baker, is about to become a beauty entrepreneur. The 31-year-old musician, actor and boyfriend of Megan Fox, will debut UN/DN LAQR, a brand of nail colour. Polish kits with names like “Wet Dream” and “Put Me On Top” go on sale on Dec. 2 at undnlaqr.com.

Baker is the second male musician to launch a line of nail colour in two weeks. On Nov. 15, Harry Styles revealed his beauty brand, Pleasing, which includes four polishes and two serums, alongside a gender-bending photoshoot in Dazed.

Baker and Styles are the most high-profile male celebrities to come out with nail lines, but they’re not the first. The rapper Lil Yachty released nail polish brand Crete last fall (though he recently announced he was leaving the brand), while Backstreet Boy AJ McLean came out with polish brand Ava Dean Beauty in December 2020. All four brands are self-described as “gender-neutral.”

At first brush, male stars may seem unlikely frontmen for nail brands. But Baker and Styles, along with rapper Lil Nas X and Hollywood lothario Pete Davidson are all rarely photographed without nail polish and part of a group that’s spurring changes in attitudes about gender beauty norms, a shift Gen-Z is perpetuating. It’s becoming increasingly acceptable, if not outright encouraged, for male celebrities to found beauty brands like their female counterparts. Thanks to stars like Baker and Styles, the colour cosmetics and nail categories have become an entry point for “gender-neutral” beauty. And there’s a particular revenue opportunity in the nail category, which has seen rapid growth in recent months.

Trend forecaster WGSN predicts a “male makeup boom” will gain lasting traction by 2024. A report says: “stripped of gender constraints and outdated views of masculinity, colour cosmetics will be embraced as a ‘grooming hack.’”

For Baker, UN/DN LAQR is an opportunity to get into a growing business and to spread his values of self-expression — and capitalise on his growing star power thanks to his very public relationship with Fox.

Beauty as Self-Expression

Baker said now was the time to launch his brand “because individualism is dying and self-expression is how we keep that alive,” according to an email from his publicist after a cancelled Zoom interview. The brand’s name, UN/DN, a play on the word undone, is an attempt to undo the stereotype that most beauty brands are created by and appeal to women.

The line will launch as exclusively a direct-to-consumer e-commerce business, wrote Baker, who co-founded the brand with incubator Unlisted/Brand Lab.

At launch, UN/DN LAQR will introduce 10 shades, from neutrals to “splatter paint”-inspired colours. There are eight different polish trios that cost $52 per set, as well as three $86 kits with six polishes and brushes for more elaborate nail art. Single polishes cost $18 each.

It’s a good moment to get into the nail business: Similar to skin care, the pandemic contributed to the nail category’s growth. With salons closed, at-home manicures became a creative outlet. According to data from the NPD Group, there was a 16 percent jump in nail care products sold in the US prestige market from January through October of this year compared to the same period in 2019. Nail colour sales increased nine percent during the same time. Online, the nail colour category online grew by 12 percent from September 2020 to September 2021, outpacing face and lip products, reported 1010data. The #NailArt hashtag on TikTok has racked up over 17 billion views.

Also driving the nail category’s boom are attitudes like Baker’s, which prioritise self-expression and are commonplace among younger generations. Though Baker is a millennial, he sees UN/DN LAQR becoming a “general explosion of self-expression,” a sentiment in line with Gen-Z’s desire to differentiate (nor define themselves by traditional gender expectations).

“Gen Z is obsessed with individuality,” said Hana Ben-Shabat, founder of research firm Gen-Z Planet. “[Nails] are a canvas onto which they paint their creations.”

Like pink hair or a bold lip, nails are an outlet. But Gen Z’s approach to the category isn’t just bolder, added Ben-Shabat; it also plays to a competitive spirit.

“It’s about who is going to come up with something more creative and cooler,” she said. “This is something we haven’t seen with previous generations.”

Mainstream Fame

UN/DN LAQR’s launch is also an opportunity for Baker to cash in on his recent rise to mainstream celebrity.

Amanda Hirsch, creator of Not Skinny But Not Fat, a pop culture podcast and Instagram, describes Baker and Fox as well as Kourtney Kardashian and Travis Barker as a new type of “power couple” that can translate their widespread popularity into business deals.

With a wider fan base, Baker could tap into a market that countless celebrities — from Rihanna to Jennifer Aniston to Jessica Alba — have singled out as a lucrative opportunity.

Before Baker and Fox’s relationship became an internet sensation, “a lot of my followers were not listening to his music,” said Hirsch. Shortly after, however, “we started seeing him and Megan all over the place.”

She called Baker’s PDA-fuelled relationship with Fox a turning point for the musician. Hirsch was turned on by photos and videos of the two at his concerts — and so were her followers.

“What two famous people together can do, going from ‘I’m kinda famous and you’re kinda famous’ to being everywhere and just exploding,” said Hirsch. “It’s the power of a celebrity couple.”

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