Males Who Do Nails

With a growing number of men opting to pay bills and forge careers from behind a nail table, NAILS takes a look at some male techs to find out what they think of their chosen profession and how they’re ­making it in a female-dominated industry.

It sometimes pays to stand out. The diaspora of male nail technicians is larger than one would likely think, with personalities and experiences varying far wider than the scope any article can feasibly cover. But in every case, the simple fact of being a man immediately sets them apart from the norm in the nail industry. Men are a small subset of nail technicians, overall barely topping 3% of the entire industry. In the Vietnamese market, it’s higher — 27.2% of nail techs are men.

While a male nail tech remains an oddity in the salon, the opportunities for guys to create a career and livelihood in the salon are many. Motivated and clever male techs contribute every day to this industry in ways that might surprise you.

Vu Nguyen, Oceanside, Calif.  •  Years doing nails: 10  •  Specialty: nail art

<p>Vu Nguyen (right) stands with his brother Robert in front of Windsor Castle in Berkshire, England. They were both in town for the Nailympics.</p>
Nguyen started out as a tattoo artist with his talent transferring seamlessly to nails as shown in his detailed and ever-inspiring nail art. Together with his brother Robert, Vu racked up a number of competition wins during the ’05 and ’06 circuits and now is an OPI educator. The brothers have a nail art step-by-step book and Vu has done serveral covers for NAILS and Vietsalon.

“My mom got me into doing nails in 2002,” says Nguyen. With a natural talent in drawing, he was an accomplished tattoo artist when his mother asked him to attend beauty school with her. “She was saying that a lot of Vietnamese people do nails and that it looked pretty easy so I should try it out.”

Nguyen accompanied his mother to every class, bonding with the one other guy enrolled, and made it to graduation.

Quickly stunted by the conservative salon clientele in his first salon, Nguyen transferred to Platinum Nails in Oceanside, Calif., and came under the tutelage of Sang Chau. “He was the one who got me started trying to do quality nails and bringing out the artistic side,” says Nguyen.

Nguyen built a clientele quickly and easily and entered the ISSE Long Beach nail competition in 2005. After placing second, the industry took notice of his exceptional skill and commissioned him with magazine cover and promotional work. He moved to another salon and became an educator for OPI specializing in the Vietnamese market. He now takes ­clients on personal appointment basis only, and also works special party events where nail art booths are featured.   
<p>A sample of Nguyen&rsquo;s exquisite work</p>
<p>A sample of Nguyen&rsquo;s exquisite work</p>

<p>his October 2010 NAILS cover, where he did tattoo-inspired nail art.</p>

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