The days of Facebook being official with your partner are officially over. Initial nail art is the new way to let everyone know that your relationship is the real deal. Yes, you read that correctly. It’s about incorporating your sweetheart’s initials into your manicure.
We have a handful of celebs * ahem * taste savvy to thank for the trend, which is currently taking beauty salons by storm. Kourtney Kardashian was one of the first soldiers to fall into the mushy movement, hitting the red carpet at this year’s Met Gala with a black gothic mani with the letter “T” (a nod to her husband, Travis Barker). No stranger to nail polish, Travis returned the favor with a “K” engraved on his thumb in a matching style.
A beloved Kim Kardashian followed suit a few weeks later, showing a diamond-encrusted “P” on her ring finger for then-boyfriend Pete Davidson, while Jennifer Lopez took it one step further and debuted some nail art in crest style, combining a “J” and a “B” in gold foil to celebrate the new engagement with actor Ben Affleck.
Celebrities may have rushed into the beauty salon with these examples as manicure inspiration, but the trend hadn’t caught on until now. Cuff season definitely has something to do with this: on Pinterest, for example, searches for “boyfriend starter nails” increased 150% this month. So who are the real people behind the initial nail art trend? More importantly, why is it so controversial?
Initial nails have gained more popularity on TikTok, where the hashtag #initialnails has a whopping 12.7 billion views and beyond. There you’ll see an abundance of flirty content creators trying to get you to the cheesy side. “This is your sign for having your boyfriend’s initials on your nails,” a TikToker captioned a 3.4 million-view video of Nicki Minaj’s rap: “Could you say I was wife material.” Cute or cringe? You decide. In addition to the initials, there are explanations on color theory with nails in mind. These viral videos suggest that “caught” people should wear blue nails to let everyone know they are not single. In the meantime, those looking for a new partner should wear red nail polish to signal their availability.
Most of the TikTokers R29 contacted said that wearing initials on your nails is simply a “cute gesture” or a “temporary” and “sensible” alternative to a partner’s tattoo, especially considering that countless inks are being erased. with the laser every year. Some admitted using the lovey-dovey design as a way to “softly pitch” their relationship on social media, while another took a photo of her nails to send to her long-distance boyfriend as a “sweet surprise” – a hint that he is on her mind.
It’s no coincidence that starter nails are seeing a spike in interest as the weather gets colder. Therapist Sally Baker thinks the trend will continue to grow as more and more people inevitably unite for the winter. “Autumn is traditionally the start of ‘handcuff season’, when people want to declare their status as a happy couple,” she says. (“Cuffing” comes from “cuffing” and essentially describes the desire to cuff yourself to another individual and form a relationship with them.)
Does this make sense. After all, it’s nice to share body heat when it’s cold outside (and heating bills are bound to go up). But Sally thinks there’s another reason the trend is taking off, and she talks about our frailty. “The initial nail tendency fuels the desire to want to add weight to new relationships,” she explains. “These can be fragile and embryonic.”
The trend for early nail art may seem harmless to most, but therapists agree that it may actually be a red flag, an indicator of coercive control.
Despite a handful of derogatory comments – “I might cringe but at least I don’t paint my boyfriend’s first initial on his ring finger” – the pros agree that, overall, the trend is in good taste. “I’ve had my first nails done for a while now and I see them popping up often on Valentine’s Day, especially in Old English lettering,” says nail artist and Booksy ambassador Alice McNails.
Alice adds: “I think this trend is really sweet and wearable and you can experiment with different fonts, colors and textures. You can do it in a minimalist way or add an initial on the ring finger for bridal nails. Natural nail manicure Laura Massey believes the trend is so viral right now due to its recognizability. Anyone in a happy relationship, regardless of age, gender, or sexuality, may feel tempted to get on board. “People love a personalized manicure.”
Tasteful or not, the desire to label yourself with your sweetheart’s name actually arises from evolutionary impulses. “Visually stating someone isn’t new, he’s just evolved over time,” says psychotherapist Dr. Daryl Appleton. “We’ve seen it throughout history in wedding rings, for example, or wearing someone’s letter jacket and getting coordinated tattoos. Psychologically, your partner’s initials can be a symbol of commitment to help ward off any unwanted advances or to show pride in a relationship.
Of course, as human beings, we like to demonstrate our achievements. Some breakups take place very messily on social media, but posting your initial nails on your story? This is solid proof that you are going strong. Does anyone really care, though? Perhaps, considering we’ve experienced two tumultuous years of on-off isolation. Wearing your heart on your sleeve (or, in this case, your initials on your nails) shows that you are back in the game or that your relationship has survived against all odds.
Considering that the hands are one of the most visible parts of the body, Dr. Appleton’s theory, which suggests that starting nails are some sort of pretense, is interesting. Sure enough, the comment sections under countless TikTok videos are filled with not-so-subtle exchanges between couples. “You better do it 😑,” writes a TikToker, tagging their partner under a first nail art video. Is it true love if you don’t wear it on your nails? A few years ago, starter nails may not have been such a hit. But the trend started after the pandemic, an incredibly lonely time for many. These days, public displays of affection are encouraged, even trendy.
The Kravis are quite PG when you look at Megan Fox and Machine Gun Kelly, who no doubt led the movement towards unbridled public intimacy (think: speaking with the tongue on the red carpet of the Billboard Awards and drinking each other’s blood). Initial nails are an extension of this craze, according to Chaun Legend, celebrity nail artist and artist in residence for Lottie London. “The PDA has never been this popular,” she says. “Celebrities who might normally have been playing shy are screaming from the rooftops of their new partners and what better way to say you’re out of business than to include it in your hands?” Is it disgustingly sweet? “Yes, but there’s no denying he’s possessive in the best of ways.”
Can this really be a good thing? A quick whipping of my Instagram followers suggested that, as well as being “possessive,” some find carving your partner’s initials on their nails “objective” and almost like being “marked”. The trend may seem harmless to most, but Sally agrees that she may actually be a “red flag” and she claims she can imagine friends, family or colleagues questioning someone’s motivation to do so. She adds that as the trend gains momentum, it could become an indicator of coercive control or it could be done in response to pressure from a partner to show that you are her sole property.
Remember, not everyone is a fan of publicly showing their love. The aforementioned celebrity couples have been the subject of reflection and debate for months, the appropriateness of their behavior dividing the general public. And for the British in particular, points out Hattie MacAndrews, a coach of trust and mindset, the PDA is a particularly sensitive subject. “The British aren’t known to be gushing and an outward sign of affection like starting fingernails can make people feel uncomfortable,” she explains.
“Wearing your sweetheart’s initials on your nails is a real statement,” continues Hattie, adding that your motivation will determine whether you like the trend (in which case, nail stickers are probably the easiest option) or whether you like the trend. gives the ‘ick’. Certainly not everyone on TikTok is taken by the gesture. “Looks like someone drew it with a marker,” said one guy in response to his girlfriend’s personalized initial manicure. “It looks like shit.”
From glass nails to aura nails, trends come and go. But whether you love it or hate it, early nail art isn’t going anywhere yet. Taylor Swift is right when she sings: “I want to wear her initial her on a chain around my neck / Not because she owns me, but because she really knows me.” She applies this concept to her initial manicure and you may have some good advice.
Do you like what you see? How about some other R29 goodness, right here?
TikTok loves Russian Mani, but there is a problem
What is a “glass” manicure and do I want one?
The Italian Mani makes stubby nails look elegant