Only nested classes can be static. By doing so you can use the nested class without having an instance of the outer class.

class OuterClass {
    public static class StaticNestedClass {
    }

    public class InnerClass {
    }

    public InnerClass getAnInnerClass() {
        return new InnerClass();
    }

    //This method doesn't work
    public static InnerClass getAnInnerClassStatically() {
        return new InnerClass();
    }
}

class OtherClass {
    //Use of a static nested class:
    private OuterClass.StaticNestedClass staticNestedClass = new OuterClass.StaticNestedClass();

    //Doesn't work
    private OuterClass.InnerClass innerClass = new OuterClass.InnerClass();

    //Use of an inner class:
    private OuterClass outerclass= new OuterClass();
    private OuterClass.InnerClass innerClass2 = outerclass.getAnInnerClass();
    private OuterClass.InnerClass innerClass3 = outerclass.new InnerClass();
}

Sources :

  • Oracle tutorial on nested classes

On the same topic :

  • Java: Static vs non static inner class
  • Java inner class and static nested class