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The Power of Nails (Second Only to the Wig)

It's fun for me watching someone discover the gloriousness of being a woman!

By Maddy Smith

There is no doubt, none at all that the most powerful thing we do as dressers is to fit our wig and then revel in the image. Perfect makeup, sharp clothes, ideal body shape – they are all great but the moment that wig is placed the world has changed, even if it is only for a short period of time.

But there is a close second. Nails!

I’ll add my thoughts about wigs at another time, I already see there is a great piece on the blog, but nails, well they are my infatuation.

I don’t need to do much analysis to figure out why. Growing up the image of long red nails, perfectly sculptured, were the epitome of womanhood. The idea of the attached fingers, resplendent with said long red nails, running over my body, was, well, I don’t even have to go there do I.

And nothing has changed. Ok one thing has, I have a fiancé who loves to run her fingers, complete with awesome long pink nails (well often pink, sometimes frenched, sometimes another colour completely, but I’ll come back to that) all over my body. How perfect …

It was inevitable that once Maddie was discovered for me that the thought of experiencing long painted nails for myself would quickly head to the top of the list.

At the first opportunity I raided the nail polish container and tried my hand, pun completely intended. I quickly learnt that painting this s%#@t isn’t as easy as it looks in the ads! That said, the sight of bright red nails on MY hands was still really exciting. Not in a sexual way funnily enough, purely as another step in creating the image I had for Maddie.

Unfortunately, all those great feelings were soon replaced by the reality that I had to take it off.

That was just the start though, and I loved it. I wanted to leave it on (and did for days during the lockdown. I did forget one day though, when a neighbour, socially distanced, dropped off some baking in return for ours. Did she see? Maybe? Probably?)

Over the following months nails consumed me. OK no they didn’t but I was having a lot of fun and trying all sorts of things. I grew my nails out often, with mixed success. Great if I was in the office, problematic if I was on the tools. Shaping with a nail file while watching TV at night was fun though.

And then I tried stick-on nails. Wow. There was that look I craved so much and now it was on me. I bought blanks, I got stands, I shaped, I tried different attachments, and researched quick removers in case someone came to the door (forget it, there’s no fast way, only medium slow options). I put together sets of nails in my favourite colours, ready to go. And then I discovered matching nail and lipstick colours. It is an involved and expensive hobby this one of ours …

But I was having fun! And getting good at painting accurately. There was just one problem; I still hated removing the colour, or nails, when the time came. I’d love to have it on permanently.

Which took me to my mission. It was this – find a nail polish that I could wear permanently. It had to look like polish but at the same time not look like polish. In other words, it had to pass the guy test. Guys don’t see things. Women miss nothing. I knew most women would clock my nails straight away. (And, as I found, gay guys! They are observant …)

After much trial and error (and fun) the first success was with a New Zealand brand called Thin Lizzy. They make a product called Pink Armour. By coincidence I had an issue with a few toenails splitting. Pink Armour is designed to strengthen nails, so I was able to kill two birds. And it works! Nail problem solved. Pink Armour looks natural-ish in normal light but get it on the right angle and it shows up like laser beams. Meaning I had to use it judiciously, although mostly I didn’t care.

I tried combinations of clears over the Pink Armour, or under, and settled on one by Jessica Nails that seemed to work well. For some time that was my combination. If I was feeling brave I left it on to go out, although I seemed to have my hands in my pockets a lot…

Which brings me to the ‘incident’. I was pushing things a bit. I found an old Avon polish in N’s collection. It’s a lovely pinky/crimson sparkly colour that almost looks natural (who am I kidding …) I wore it once during a band gig. I used the excuse that I was testing to see how it sparkled in the stage lights to give more action to my performance. Can you believe I got away with that?

So, I tried it again. I had a work meeting with a woman who has gone from customer to my BFF, (with the complete and utter support of my fiancé). Here’s where I have to start analysing again; I knew I was pushing it at that meeting. Did I actually want her to ask me about the nails? Or was I just testing my boundaries. Subconsciously I think it was the former. She said we needed to have a ‘conversation’. Her support was never in doubt. We just needed to talk about it. Hell, she even gave me some nail polished to try! And loaned me her wigs!

Since that time she has become the only other person who gets to see Maddie pics. We talk makeup, I organized a lesson for her with our artist, she will be the next to see me dressed (should have been last year, blame lockdown) and, significantly, she will be part of the first real excursion for Maddie. In fact, she came up with the destination. I’m lucky to have 2 supportive women in my life. I do feel guilty sometimes when many are struggling to find even one.

While all of that was wonderful, I was still searching for an everyday polish. If you want to know, I’ve found one that works. Its by OPI and the colour is Rosy Future. On some angles you wouldn’t know there’s polish. In most lighting the nails just look healthy and manicured. But it does have a reflective finish so the risk is that it will stick out if you get the light wrong. Or right, depending on your perspective. But like I said, I was searching for something guys miss (and they do) and woman will likely see (yep I’ve had that happen at another client meeting … But women don’t care; they are on your side!

Red, in all its beautiful hues, is it though. When I was experimenting with colours my makeup artist asked why I wasn’t using red lipstick. And she, was of course, right. Red just works. So, if I’m having a Maddie session it will almost always be using red.

I did find an awesome bright, electric pink lipstick a while ago. It just looked like it should be perfect for N. And it is. It is her colour. Now she matches her nails to it, and recently found her perfect dress that also incorporates the same gorgeous pink. She got really excited about that. Ten minutes later I discovered a set of heels in exactly the same pink. They fitted perfectly and as an extra bonus, were incredibly comfortable, She was a very happy girl! As am I, she looks awesome!

So don’t exclude any non-mainstream colours without trying them first. There is still more than just red to choose from.

Finally, if any of you find, or know of, a polish that fits the everyday look I’m searching for, please let me know! I will be very grateful!

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20 Responses

  1. Another great post, Maddie!

    I discovered the delights of stick on nails when I went for a makeover 18 months ago and they are an absolute delight, not least because of the state of my own nails – long time nail biter except for four on my right hand which, somehow I manage not to bite and keep long for guitar playing – in fact, after my first confession, my wife questioned whether my four long nails were something to do with the CDing despite both them and the guitar playing predating our marriage by over a decade!

    Anyway, I digress. The problem with makeup is that we can only see it when we look in the mirror. With nails, we just need to look down and there they are! They’re a complete faff of course – I use those sticky pads you can get from Amazon which are a bit hit and miss and once one hand is done, using the unfamiliar talons to peel off the backing to do the other hand is almost impossible. But with the operative word here being ‘almost’, perseverance usually pays off in the end and, combined with a couple of rings, there’s a delicious and constant reminder of who & what we really are.

    And I have to confess that I do look a little enviously at the clients in the nail bar next door to my business premises these days although having something a little more long lasting would play havoc with the guitar!

    1. We have the makings of a band here Amanda! Getting together for practice could be a problem though …
      Pleased I’m not the only one having problems with those pads! I have to prepare all 10 in advance and remove the second backing before I start placing the nails or it is impossible. Even then it’s a challenge. Gluing them on is better but one step harder to remove. I found a product called Ready For Takeoff which is a waterbased base coat. It can be used to mask the nails for painting or to coat the real nails before sticking down the false ones. Short term though and only for those with large bladders because any water will see the nails fall off!

  2. Maddie,
    I totally agree with you about nail polish. I love seeing my hands with red nails.

    I recently spent two days dressed. But the very first thing I did was get a manicure and have a bright red colour painted on my fingernails. The manicure was performed while I was in male mode. I then proceeded with makeup, clothes, wig and shoes.

    I felt so ladylike mixing with a friend and then total strangers while casually letting “my fingers do the walking”. A soon to be released Kandi’s Land post will have a picture of my hands.

    Thanks for the great post.

    Jocelyn

    1. I’m really looking forward to doing that Jocelyn. My darling tells me we are doing that together before the wedding next year! I’ve sat in with her while hers were done. There’s just something about it isn’t there …
      I have some transfers to play with next. I’m looking forward to seeing how they work out!

  3. Maddie,

    I regularly wear OPI Baby Take a Vow. Even my DADT wife doesn’t mind it. But, I can’t wear it for too long, because I have brittle nails that are made worse by any kind of polish (or strengthener or other product or vitamins — I have tried them all). But, perfect for daily wear. I usually push the envelope with two coats, which looks more like you are wearing a color and not simply asking for a male manicure with clear polish, which is becoming more common.

    I should add that I have done a French manicure and really loved that look — definitely feminine, although not as much in vogue these days.

    Lisa

  4. Maddie,
    There are mixed opinions about nail polish on large ( male ) hands some think it disguises them and some think it makes them look even bigger . I have quite large hands and personally feel the colour attracts the eye away from thier size and makes them look more feminine . I’ve been wearing nail polish for 5 years now and certainly wouldn’t be seen without it . Lets not forget I do the daily battle with ( male ) hair so I shave hands and arms everyday along , some might think that’s a chore but for me it’s part of my routine .
    To relate to your stories of being caught out , I must admit during my in-between years I sometimes forgot about my nails being painted . The usual comment mostly from women was , ” I love your nails ” , this happened during a coffee break at my painting class and when I decided to go for a morning swim after a stay over from a trans meeting . On that occasion I was in the male changing area alone when a guy walked in and saw my hairless body with electric blue nails , he didn’t say anything but gave me a quick smile .

    1. Isn’t it funny how women do like to see that! Like “welcome to the club'”. It’s a good feeling.
      Yeah big hands too. No question polish helps rather than hinders that, and false nails help with perspective. Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself …

  5. Maddie,
    Nail color has always been a love of mine. More below.
    My fingernails are on the long side with acrylic coat (damaged nail beds). They currently have Pink Abalone gel on 3 fingers and a thin gold flakes on the other 2 per hand. My toes are a new grayish OPI polish with hand drawn art. At one coat the pink abalone is hard to see but at the right angles you can see that blue/pink sprakle. I have two coats and you can see more color.
    I’ve had pedicure with color for over 12 years and color fingernails for 6 – 8.
    I currently have a mani/pedi about once a month. Great way to spend 3 hours being pamper. Fully recommend it.
    I have had everything: cat’s eye (magnetic nail polish), metal foils, fades/ombre, french tips, art garlore, you name it. But very rarely red or pink. Rose gold is a gold foil rub over a red base. My former nail artist would try the newest things on my nails and then use their picture on her page of what she could do.
    You have 20 small canvases for changable art, enjoy them.
    Cali

    1. I forgot, I promised a friend I would do this (and because we trade nail pictures):

      “Crissy wants to say hello to Kandi.”

      Cali

    2. I would so love to do that Cali, but unfortunately Maddie only gets released occasionally and only the select group know of her existence. So I’ll just keep pushing the boundaries and enjoying the journey / experimenting / anticipation!
      I am looking forward to testing out the transfers I sourced to see how they work though. Mind you N had some art on hers recently for a family function and I was very jealous of that! Maybe one day …

      1. Maddie,
        One of my favorite designs is called “Zebra on Christmas Acid” – black polish with white, red, and green zebra stripes, “it’s to die for.”
        You only live once. Let yourself live. Easy to say, hard to do. The first step is always the hardest.
        Sometimes when asked “why” my nails are painted I’ll respond with “to mess with your mind.” Then add “is it working?”
        Cali
        BTW, you know to can paint a nice white as base, When the polish has dried, draw on them with perment markers. And when that is dried, clear coat them.

        1. Brilliant Cali! That’s my new response!
          I’ll have a play with the transfers and see how they look. I wouldn’t draw as accurately with both hands!

  6. Maddie,

    I have never used stick-ons.

    I have painted my nails once and I was happy with it.

    And I have had two basic manicures. One in male mode and one in female mode. When the nail technician asks what colour, I feel fantastic.

    My only issue with a manicure is it takes 35 to 50 minutes. And the cost is about $20CDN.

    As Amanda says, you don’t need a mirror to see this female side of you. I love looking at my hands and seeing the bright red nails; so feminine.

    And with polish remover (acetone) it takes a couple of minutes to completely remove the colour.

    Go for it girl.

    Jocelyn

    1. Jocelyn,
      The problem is many of the removers are acetone free , I find it really hard to remove the colour especially if it’s had a good quality top coat .
      Some of the worse colours to rmove appear to be the blues . While I loved the effect I will never apply a shimmer top coat again , it took literally hours to really set hard , all evening I could still feel a stickiness .

  7. Gotta say Jocelyn, some colours stain something wicked! On some I’ve spent a lot more time than a few minutes before I could comfortably change modes! And others just seconds.
    Last session I properly glued the stick-ons and they came off easily enough. It didn’t take much longer than the sharpened stick on pads method.

  8. Dear Maddie,

    Thank for this nice article on nails.

    In 2022, I took two weekend trips en femme and very much enjoyed having my toenails and fingernails painted in the same color. During the first trip, I used press-on nails and had several issues with some of them coming off, i.e. right when I as about to leave my hotel room to go somewhere or during dinner. I tend to carry some spare or some glue in my handbag, to fix that problem. For the second trip I used glue to fix the tips and they stayed on perfectly for the four days I as out and about.

    Best wishes,

    Franzi

    1. Hi Franziska. I think, no doubt, that glue is the way to go if going out. The strips do let go but more, they hold the nails up a fraction no matter how you try otherwise. At least with glue they can be placed under pressure and look better when it dries. If I’m home and dressing for photos the strips are good enough and mean I can remove everything in 5-10 minutes.
      I look forward to having them done professionally sometime so I can, as Cali says, mess with people’s minds!
      I also look forward to reading some more on your blog when I get a spare moment.

  9. Life’s too short for boring guy nails! So I keep mine long, rounded, and painted —- this week they’re periwinkle blue with glitter on my thumbs and ring fingers. No pushback, just compliments, and plotting our next manis with my office manager is total fun!
    So, if you wish you could, do it! No one cares!

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