When Tom Bachik says he does nails for a living, the typical response is, "Oh, you're in construction." To which the fresh-faced skateboarder usually replies, "Sort of." He does construction, all right, but his tool kit is filled with colored polish and emery boards, not drills and handsaws. Bachik, 32, is one of L.A.'s small fraternity of male manicurists, and these days he's on the tips of many famous fingers.
If Bachik is a rarity in a traditionally female field, his laid-back attitude and sporty garb make him a downright novelty. An extreme sports junkie with artistic ability, Bachik airbrushed jet skis, helmets and motorcycles in his early 20s but, with a baby on the way, found the money inconsistent. When a cousin studying hairstyling suggested cosmetology school, Bachik laughed it off--until he heard that successful manicurists can make six figures a year. There was also the thought of "sitting in an air-conditioned room [with] women paying me to rub their extremities," says Bachik, now a paterfamilias who lives with his wife and three children in Murrieta, near Riverside. "I was enrolled the next week."
He had the knack for detailed nail work, but he wasn't doing nails for magazine shoots right away. He first made his name at the annual conventions on the hair-and-nail-show circuit, where manufacturers showcase products and contests are held for hair and nail designs--an aspect that sparked Bachik's competitive side. He became a star at these galaxies of gorgeousness, grabbing attention in flamboyant threads (what he describes as "raver style baggy pants and multicolored hair") and flashing arty nail designs.