Every moment of every day, the people around you are quietly judging you. When you pay for your morning coffee. When you go to work. When you pick up a martini glass. They are judging your hands.
Chances are you just glanced down at your hands, either poised on your keyboard or cradling your smartphone. Are they soft and smooth, or rough and coarse? Do you have dry skin? Perhaps a hangnail or two? These are the details we subconsciously notice, that coalesce into our first impression of a person.
The body's business card
A beauty therapist at award-winning Melbourne day spa, Miss Fox, Daniela Ghinami is quite aware of the influence our hands can play in day-to-day interactions. "Your hands are your business card. We see them as much as your face, so being comfortable with them makes you more confident."
"Not to sound too judgmental, but grooming is everything. We look at how a person presents themselves – their haircut and nails – more than how they dress."
Spa Manager, Samah Fawor, agrees: "We spend a lot of time in each other's personal space, so you want to make sure that your first impression counts. The first step is, you want people to think: 'That's something I want to be'. That leads to the next step, which is to be impressed by you and feel comfortable next to you."
As the years roll on, so too does our concept of masculinity. Whereas once a man may have become the target of derision for admitting that, yes, he does indeed get the occasional facial, these days the sentiment has become respect for the individual who takes care of his largest organ – his skin.
This flexing of social mores has grown to encompass a variety of male grooming procedures that have previously been viewed as the domain of the vain and superficial only - such as the manicure. No, we're not talking about popping out at lunch to get two-inch acrylic nails painted with your AFL team's flag – simply cleaned, shaped and buffed nails.
No longer the domain of ranks of women, all lined up along small tables, each sitting opposite a fastidious 'nail technician' – a stereotype the world of cinema and television has been happy to perpetuate since the '20s – you'll now find many day spas tailor services specifically for men. Some will even offer you a beer or glass of fine whisky to enjoy while your hands enjoy a little TLC.
Demystifying the manicure
Much has been written on the importance of the first impression, especially from a corporate or dating perspective, but the minutiae of achieving that killer first impression has remained a slightly stigmatised secret … until now.
"Getting a manicure is not something you should feel you can't talk to your friends about," said Miss Ghinami. "It's like showering or shaving. It's not frivolous or vain; it's actually something you do to feel and look good."
Sure, you won't find as much material on the subject of manly manicures as you will manscaping – the art of maintaining the intimate geography around your John Thomas in showroom condition – but bring up the subject in polite company and you'll likely receive many encouraging opinions in response.
Miss Fawor is keen to point out other aspects of a manicure: "You're not putting on fancy colours or wearing nail polish - it's also about general maintenance. Having soft hands, not rough, when your touching your partner is a preference for most people. Guys get calluses and rough skin – I don't don't want it to feel like a scrub when you caress my face."
The steps to success
While you can procure a manicure just about anywhere, do yourself a favour and skip the 15-minute rush job at your local salon and book with a reputable day spa instead. The price may be higher, but so too will be the level of technical skill applied to your delicate digits.
The steps involved may vary between establishments, but here's what to expect from the average manicure:
• First, your hands are sanitised and a lotion applied to soften your cuticles – the upper edge of skin around each nail
• Next, cuticles are clipped to remove rough or dry edges
• This is followed by filing and shaping the nails with an emery board
• Your nails are then buffed, not polished, to a matt finish
• A few wipes with a hot towel then removes debris
• Moisturiser is then applied to your hands to finish off
A deluxe manicure may also include a hand massage or scrub, hot oil, hot stones, you name it. You should allow at least half an hour.
For a first timer, weekly manicures for two to three weeks will train your hands into shape. After that, you'll need one every fortnight for a month or two, then monthly from then on. Your job may also influence the frequency of your manicures, especially if your nails get worn or damaged.
So why not join the ranks of men enjoying the confidence and swagger that comes from owning two hands of immaculate nails? You never know, it could mean the difference between securing that lucrative new partnership or simply nailing that first impression on your next date.
That pun was definitely intended.
Do you get manicures? Tell us about your experience - and why you do it - in the comments section below.