Though Imarni is a veritable Vermeer of the fingernail, decking out your own nails doesn’t necessarily call for a visit to a professional, or even a whole lot of financial investment upfront. Many of the nail polish options professional manicurists swear by can be found with a couple of clicks or a quick jaunt to the local drugstore. Essie—Harry Styles' polish of choice—sells a bunch of options for less than ten bucks, but even capital-D designer polish won't put you in the poorhouse. All that’s involved in becoming the type of guy who consistently rocks a manicure is picking a color, tracking down a few key tools, and a little old-fashioned know-how.
That last part is important: polish won't hit the same if it's smudged all over your cuticles. But don't despair if you didn't learn the intricacies of the craft at the slumber parties of your youth. GQ spoke to a few of the people behind some of the most mesmerizing digits around—including the artist behind Styles's Vogue nails—to get the lowdown on what to keep in mind when it comes to making sure your manicure is on point.
First, pick out some polish.
The most important factor is the color, obviously, but there's a little bit more to it than that.
The Best Drugstore Nail Polish
For over three decades now, Essie's been hawking affordable nail polish beloved by salon pros and amateur manicurists alike. All of the brand's signature range of vivid hues offer a glossy finish and make for the ideal entry-level product into the fun, sometimes freaky, world of nail art.
The Best Designer Nail Polish
Ordinarily we'd say there's no such thing as dedicated nail polish for men—pushing back against that sort of thinking is half the fun of painting your nails! But Chanel's new Boy de Chanel polish is a fast-drying grail for men with manicures everywhere, and this jet-black hue is perfect for anyone looking to re-live their teenage emo phase.
The Best 10-Free Nail Polish
A polish that's 10-free is specially-made absent all the ten common toxic chemicals found in most polish options. Death Valley offers an huge assortment of nontoxic (and proudly vegan!) colors, but we're partial to this striking shade of fire-engine red.
The Best Nail Polish for Burgeoning Manicure Snobs
J.Hannah's line of carefully designed, made-in-L.A. jewelry has earned it a devoted following, but for our money it's the brand's nail polish that's the real standout. This one was inspired by the inky blue shades of Matisse.
Then prep your canvas.
You've got to prime before you paint, right? For Jenny Longworth, the nail artist responsible for Styles’ manicure on his internet-shattering Vogue cover, a full routine involves around half a dozen steps. (“There’s nothing nice about a raggy cuticle,” she says cheerily.)
She starts by sanitizing the nails and ends with applying a base coat, color, and top coat of polish. In between, she also trims, buffs, smoothes, and “squeaks”, degreasing the plate of the nail with a baby wipe or a cotton swab dipped in nail polish remover. For those following along at home, that sort of thorough pre-manicure regimen is always a solid starting point. But even a few minutes of cuticle upkeep and a base coat will make a huge difference before you reach for the polish.