Unsurprisingly, it was A$AP Rocky who first turned Lil Yachty on to some of the finer things in life — including painting his nails.

“When I came into the music industry, one of the first established artists I met was A$AP Rocky and he was really big on hygiene — not that I wasn't, but I was a kid,” Yachty tells us over Zoom. “I was 17-years-old, I knew to take a shower and wash your face with water, but he was big on skincare and getting your nails done, smelling good and all these types of things. I was young and seeing that instilled in me a new way of being.”

If you’re a fan of Lil Yachty, you’ll know that he embraced this new way of being wholeheartedly, and recently, the rapper has almost become as known for his manicures as he is for his signature braids.

But Rocky and Yachty aren’t the only ones painting their nails. Google “male manicures 2021” and a host of stories will pop up citing the duo, alongside celebrities like Harry Styles, Bad Bunny, Lil Nas X, Pete Davidson, and Ansel Elgort as the forebears of a new male grooming essential. Unfortunately, the media’s excitement over a select few indulging in manicures hasn’t exactly translated to widespread acceptance of the practice, with many men still facing stigma for expressing themselves in this way.

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Yachty himself regularly gets comments hating on his nails, but it's the backlash that actually inspired him to create his custom nail polish line, Crete. While he's not bothered by the comments — "I think it's funny when everyone is riled up over something that has nothing to do with them," he says — Yachty wants to help break down barriers to nail care, and help men feel more comfortable in that space.

“I decided to make nail polish because I wanted to make something that felt more gender neutral. There might be a lot of kids who are interested in doing their nails but they feel it's too girly,” he explains. “So I wanted to make a paint line that felt more masculine, to help reel people in."

Launched last week, Crete’s first release includes three neutral polishes — black, white and a slate grey — alongside both a glossy and matte top coat and a variety of nail stickers for DIY nail art.

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Crete is designed to stand out in the nail polish market. Where other brands display the polish’s color through clear glass containers, often with a curved shape, Crete’s design is utilitarian. The packaging is black with only the logo color indicating what shade it is, and the long thin design comes to a pen-like top designed to make doing your own manicure that much easier.

“The purpose was to make it more inviting for men,” Yachty explains. But if the design wasn’t enough to appeal to the more masculine among us, Crete’s PR boxes are almost laughably macho, arriving with work gloves, a hard hat, and a hammer needed to physically break into the nail polish’s packaging. The limited-edition for sale “Collection Set” continues this theme, arriving with a concrete docking station for the polish trio and a Swiss Army knife-inspired nail file kit. If Crete can’t convince men to paint their nails, we're not sure who could.

The case of Trevor Wilkinson, a 17-year-old in Texas who was suspended from school for wearing nail polish, didn’t spur Yachty to create Crete (though he did announce the brand in a TMZ video when asked about the teenager), but it is emblematic of why Yachty wanted to launch a line to normalize expressing yourself in different ways.

“I'll never forget when I was a kid, and even coming into music at 18, people used to make fun of me because of my appearance,” Yachty says. “I was always an outcast. it's taken years of me dealing with hate to get to the point where I can just brush it off.”

Shortly after Yachty heard about Wilkinson, he reached out to him to offer his support. “I wanted to reassure him, like ‘Fuck them. Do what you want to do’” he says. That attitude succinctly sums up both Yachty’s life ethos and Crete’s tagline, “for you, not them,” which reminds his fans that what they want to do with their image is no one's business but their own. As he explains it, “you only live on this earth for so many days and then you die, why in the fuck would you spend your time trying to please someone else?”

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Yachty says that despite the criticism for his style choices that hounded him through his school years — and that still haven’t let up despite his fame — he’s always been confident in doing his own thing, something he attributes to his father, photographer Shannon McCollum.

“My dad has really always been his own man,” he says. “I used to be embarrassed when I was younger, but when I look back on it, my dad was so cool and he did whatever he wanted to do. Without me knowing, it kind of instilled in me by the time I was an adult.”

Hopefully some of Papa Yachty and Lil Boat’s confidence rubs off on us too. Either way, we get some cool nail polish in the process.

The Crete NEGATIVES 001 collection is available now.

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