Real men DO wear nail polish: So should you send your other half for a pedicure
21:29 GMT, 15 April 2012
My feet — which normally only greet the insides of running shoes or stiff office brogues — are today being introduced to designer scrubs, pumice stones and ‘male polish’.
Previously as unloved as the mismatched socks I put on them, my gnarly feet have found a refuge in the gentle hands of a tender therapist. And, my goodness, is she working her magic. I haven’t seen this much power-sanding since I resurfaced the kitchen table and the resulting tickling has me squealing like a piglet. But, surprisingly, I’m loving every moment.
Today, I’m joining the growing army of men investing in pedicures. Thirty per cent more men than last year are seeking help to banish their bunions — and not just effete metrosexuals. The Aveda Institute reports an increase in the numbers of businessmen, bankers and builders slipping off their brogues for a foot overhaul.
No pain, no gain: Andy doesn't enjoy having the dead skin shaved off his feet during his pedicure
‘Men don’t want women to recoil in horror when they see their toes,’ says Aveda chiropodist Jess Sproson. ‘They are finally realising their feet deserve more than just standing on. Men have the same problems as women — dry skin, calluses, ingrown toenails — it’s just they tend to ignore them.’
Men having foot treatments is not new. Babylonian rulers would receive pedicures, while Roman generals were known to have blood-red varnish put on their hands and feet before they rode into battle to show off their wealth. If a bit of polish helped soldiers, I can only hope it might at least improve my performance in a pub quiz.
My feet and I have stood together through marathons and weekly five-a-side football matches, and once avoided serious injury after I accidentally kicked a coffee table in the dark. This, however, has not made them pretty. My feet are a roadmap of ills — hard skin, running blisters and a yellow tinge.
'There is something incredibly intimate and empowering having someone rub your feet'
In short, they are ugly and I am self-conscious. So much so that I only ever reveal them on holiday, because I won’t understand mockery in a foreign tongue.
Yet I still do nothing about my feet. My beauty regime — if you can call a slap of moisturiser and a shave a ‘regime’ — is outward facing. If a woman can see it, I improve it. My feet do not come into this category. I had long assumed by the time a woman sees a man barefoot she has already decided she fancies him. A bumpy toe wasn’t going to be a deal breaker.
I am told as soon as I arrive at my local beauty salon in South London that my ‘feet need feeding’. On the menu is a luxurious vanilla-essence treatment, followed by a foot file and an organic walnut scrub, then a lower leg and foot massage. Oh, and a polish of my choice.
Foot work: Our writer eventually enjoys the experience after getting a 'stress-fixing' scrub and foot massage
‘Many men choose a clear polish to set the look off,’ Jess tells me. Wearing polish on my toenails — even if it is clear — seems absurd.
It’s odd — though pleasant — to have a glamourous woman soaping my legs. I did worry how my feet would compare to those of other blokes, but the stories chiropodist Jess recalls put me at ease.
Most people have 250,000 sweat glands in their feet
‘Some men have developed feet like hooves, where the skin is close to tree bark,’ she confides. ‘But by the end of the treatment they’re practically bouncing — and usually booking a return visit.’
I am soon under the spell. After my soaping I am still a little uncomfortable with someone touching my feet — even my girlfriend of three years won’t touch them, describing them as ‘leather wedges’.
But the ‘stress-fixing’ scrub wins me over and I am soon loving every caress and rub. Any self-consciousness is gone. I am then told to lie back and inhale an aromatic vanilla oil.
A step too far: But Andy didn't like having his toe nails painted
My reverie is broken when my therapist starts shaving huge curls of dead skin off the soles of my feet. She then retrieves what looks like a medieval instrument of torture and puts the sharp end to my toes.
Surely this isn’t necessary — how much harm can a bit of dead skin cause
A lot, apparently: ‘As men rarely wear open-toed shoes their feet are encased almost constantly. All that moist, dead skin causes fungal infections, growths and feet so damp that the skin starts to pucker.’
Works for him: Actor Johnny Depp wearing blue nail varnish
Despite my wincing, I don’t suffer any real pain and once my toenails are buffed, I am offered a ‘male varnish’.
Lots of celebrities have been spotted wearing nail varnish — Johnny Depp (black), Seal (yellow) and even geeky British actor Simon Pegg (pink), though I’m not convinced it works for feet.
After some coaxing, I am enduring a ‘deep masculine maroon’ shade, which I am sure clashes horribly with my hairy toes. In fact, by the time the first foot is done I am begging my therapist to remove it before it dries.
My machismo is partly restored by a wonderful leg and foot massage — and, yes, I know how foolish that sounds. But there is something incredibly intimate and empowering having someone rub your feet. I close my eyes, zone out and have to be gently shaken awake after a blissful five minutes.
Back home — sans polish — I am impressed with the results. I can’t stop admiring my new trim trotters. They are silky smooth, smell delicious and each step feels like it is embossed with a feel-good sheen. That said, my girlfriend still won’t touch them. Not now she knows I’ve had nail polish on them.
Andy had the signature pedicure at Gina Conway Aveda Salon in Wimbledon, 60 for 45 minutes, ginaconway.co.uk