Feminist scholarship on emotion and the ‘global intimate’ offers innovative ways to rethink nationalism as embodied, affective and lived in the everyday. This approach also brings into focus the significance of the transnational: flows of commodities, bodies and ideas that cross state boundaries and are taken up, reworked, celebrated and worried over as part of nation‐making. I approach nationalism here in this way, centring the beauty salon industry in the newly independent Republic of South Sudan. Beauty salons are owned, staffed and supplied by inherently transnational subjects: migrant workers and entrepreneurs as well as members of the returning diaspora. They are also stocked with transnational material objects: hair weaves, cosmetics and beauty technologies from across Africa, the Middle East, Europe and the USA. The fashioning of the nation through these salons is thus cosmopolitan in style: orientated outward, embracing the modern and privileging a sense of worldliness and affinity with distant people and places. However, this styling of nationalism is ambivalent and contested. Clients clamour for new fashions, the latest technologies in hair and beauty, and the know‐how brought by migrant ‘saloonists’, as they are referred to in the region. Yet this desire interweaves with a growing panic around the foreign: foreign styles, migrants, capital and commodities. Through this case study I argue that nation‐making in South Sudan is fundamentally transnational – constructed not in isolation from, but explicitly through, cosmopolitanism and the modern exterior. In connection I argue that nationalism is emotional – marked at once by contradictory feelings of fear and desire that require, and indeed depend on, a foreign other. In this way I demonstrate how quotidian spaces and subjects, transnational flows of bodies, commodities and styles, and analyses of emotion can all be richly explored to better understand and theorise the operations of nationalism.