Red nail theory goes viral on TikTok

The “red nail theory” is ubiquitous on TikTok makeup right now, postulating two things: Men are especially attracted to women wearing red nail polish, and this attraction exists because men remember seeing their mothers. and their teachers wearing red nail polish when they were kids.

Like the conversation about whether men give bigger tips to waitresses and strippers who wear their hair in pigtailsthis TikTok trend combines armchair psychoanalysis with women sharing their own experiences.

The red nail theory started going viral on TikTok in late September and early October, although the idea has been around for a while, popularized by TikToker @girlbosstown.

In a TikTok posted in January, she remarked that she always gets a lot of attention from men when she has red nails, saying, “I always thought red nails were like a nail color. from grandma, why the hell does he like red nails? And then it hit me. In the 90s, when we were growing up, women had red nails a lot, especially like our moms. I strangely think that men are attracted to red fingernails because it reminds them of their mothers when they were growing up and taking care of them.

@girlbosstown Reply to @meganandliz @tinx @serenakerrigan ♬ original sound – GirlBossTown

This TikTok now has 1.2 million views, but it has since been eclipsed by a surge of recent TikToks as more women started testing the theory this fall. The #rednailtheory tag is full of people posting compliments and being asked on more dates after getting a simple red manicure — and sharing the theory that it’s because men have mommy issues.

@navyapassi In response to @Unknown_123 the red nail theory explained 💅🏻 @GirlBossTown #rednailtheory #rednails ♬ original sound – Navya Passi
@melissevmartineau it’s not a joke anymore #rednailpolish #rednailtheory #rednailtheoryisreal ♬ original sound – melisse martineau

Meanwhile, others are taking a more experimental stance, testing the theory to see if it actually works and has a similar effect on women who don’t see themselves as conventionally attractive. Whatever the reason, just the #rednailtheory hashtag is piling up 90 million views.


Science ❣️

♬ original sound – Emma Avital

However, the theory inevitably has some detractors. Like many ideas that go viral on TikTok, the original source is far from scientific. It’s basically someone speculating on a random opinion, and then a bunch of other people decided that his theory sounded plausible.

This prompted more critical responses like this post from a TikToker who is working on a doctorate in psychology. “People quote that it makes sense because of Sigmund Freud,” she says derisively. “First, Freud sucks, so straight to jail. Second, attraction is complex, and you’re not just attracted to people who remind you of your parents.

“Third, there is evidence that we view red as a love color, and we tend to view people who wear red as more attractive than people who don’t wear red. Fourth, if you think wearing a certain color makes you more approachable and confident, you will act differently and it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. pls don’t listen to anyone quoting freud lmao #rednailtheory #rednails #SigmundFreud #psychologyfacts #psychology #body image #fyp ♬ original sound – Aubrey Hoffer, MA

In other words, even if the red nail theory “works” in the sense that red manicures get more attention from men, it doesn’t necessarily have a scary Oedipal explanation. The good news is that while the red fingernail theory is based on shaky ground, it’s harmless enough by the pits of TikTok’s goofy psychoanalysis. In the end, all you do is paint your nails.

The Daily Dot has reached out to @girlbosstown for comment via email.


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*First published: November 17, 2022, 8:47 a.m. CST

Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

Gavia Baker-Whitelaw is a staff writer at the Daily Dot, covering geek culture and fandom. Specializing in science fiction films and superheroes, she also appears as a film and television critic on BBC radio. Elsewhere, she co-hosts the pop culture podcast Overinvested. Follow her on Twitter: @Hello_Tailor

Sharon D. Cole