If you’ve ever noticed men who only have a single fingernail painted, you may have thought to yourself that it’s kind of ridiculous and something trendy that doesn’t have much meaning. But actually, this new practice is something that has a lot of significance to it.
And it all started with Elliot Costello.
Elliot was traveling abroad with Hagar International, lending a hand in the betterment of underprivileged communities. He befriended a little Cambodian girl named Thea, who he spent much of his time with. They would talk about Thea’s life and all of the things that she struggled with every day while doing things that Thea liked to do, like painting her nails.
One day, while painting Elliot’s nails, Thea told Elliot that she had been sexually abused in her past. Elliot, recognizing the significance of what Thea had told him, responded by vowing to keep his nail painted forever in remembrance of what Thea had gone through.
Elliot’s experience with Thea would culminate in the manifestation of the Polished Man Project, an idea that men should paint one fingernail for at least a week. The single nail represents the one out of every five children that will be sexually abused.
“Being a Polished Man means challenging violent behavior and language, both locally and globally,” reads the Polished Man website.
The movement encourages men to partake in this symbolic practice in hopes that more men will speak out and promote change. Almost 96 percent of all sexual violence committed in the world is done so by males. The painted fingernail isn’t to remind people of the tremendous suffering of children, but acts more so as a point of conversation; a method to get people talking about how to advocate change.
So, the next time you see a man with just a single fingernail painted, you’ll know that it’s not some random new trend or artsy fad; it’s a symbol that represents the support and remembrance of those who have been exploited, taken advantage of, and otherwise robbed of an innocent childhood.