If it's good enough for Quentin Tarantino ...

... then maybe nail varnish for men is not as naff as it sounds, says Dominic Lutyens

You'd think any boy brave enough to wear make-up wouldn't bat an eyeliner-slicked eyelid about dabbing on some girls' slap. That he'd love to scour the cosmetics counters for that perfect shade of lippie or nail varnish. After all, Quentin Tarantino, Antonio Banderas and strapping Red Hot Chili Pepper David Navarro all affect women's nail polish. As does Eddie Izzard, a man who firmly believes that if women are never accused of transvestitism, why should men be?

Yet Hard Candy, the cutting-edge cosmetics brand whose garish shades would have been the envy of Liza Minnelli in Cabaret, thinks otherwise. It has just created a range of nail polish aimed fairly and squarely at men. (Or perhaps not. For it hasn't escaped our attention that the men's nail varnish is, in fact, the goth colours from the women's range repackaged under a different name - Testosterone is Sex Pistols in a parallel cosmetics universe.) "We noticed a lot of men wearing Hard Candy and thought it made sense to produce a line for men," says the founder of Hard Candy, Dinah Mohajer.

Called Candy Man, it comes in seven dark metallic shades with witty, machismo-deflating names. As well as Testosterone (gunmetal grey), there's Gigolo (silver-specked black), Superman (midnight blue) and even Dog (deep purple). "Men like darker colours that have a masculine edge," explains Mohajer. "They don't compromise their masculinity." Perhaps. But dark tones stand out more, so look more flamboyant. And the sparkly colours recall the full- blown androgyny of Seventies glam rock. But let's not get too carried away. You can't help feeling that those glittery hues are also meant to be reassuringly reminiscent of metallic car finishes.

In any case, buying Candy Man won't be an emasculating experience. It will be available in department stores, but it won't be sold at the dreaded cosmetics counter. Miners' Nails for Males, another men's range which launched recently, is also displayed on its own freestanding units.

Hard Candy has been very cagey about Candy Man's launch date. lt feels a surprise launch will have more impact than any advance press. But does anyone care? Yes, we are fascinated by men in make-up - The Face recently ran a feature about it - but there's nothing that subversive about guys sporting nail polish.

Besides Tarantino and co, a whole host of Nineties glam-rockers are nail- polish buffs, from One Inch Punch's Justin Warfield to Placebo's Brian Molko, who paints his nails the darkest, richest shade of bluebottle. And have you noticed the number of lads behind the counter at Tower Records paint their thumbnail a darker shade of jet?

Why the craze? Perhaps some men find dark nail polish gives them the kind of leftfield cred cultivated by the likes of Molko. Perhaps nails that are painted in an unnatural, murky shade look irresistibly louche. Not to mention gothic, a style that has never quite died a death. (Look at Alexander McQueen's goth-flavoured own-label collections.)

If to some, men's nail varnish is appealing, to others, it's appalling. "People you see wearing it look like they have trapped their fingers in a door," says Bill Dunn, style editor of GQ. Adrian Clark, fashion director of Attitude, is similarly unimpressed. "There's a big gap in the market for male cosmetics that subtly enhance a man's looks without making him look like a drag queen," he says. "Until they come along, wearing nail varnish is tantamount to running before you can walk."

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