If It Quacks Like a Duck …

I remember when nails that flared were a sign of poor sculpting skills. I used to have a client who went to another tech for her nails and came to me for her nail art. She adored her nail tech, but she often admitted that she preferred the way I did nails better because mine didn't flare out. But she stayed with her nail tech out of obligation due to their personal relationship. When flared nails became popular and people started asking me to do it on purpose I about “snapped my wig” (as one of our stylists says)! That would be like “asking God to take a nap” (one from Mom).


Flared nails looked nasty to me. They showed poor sculpting technique, a failure to really "get" how to do a nice, sleek, tapered nail that elongated the nail bed. I had spent years learning to do nails that didn't flare. None of the nails in the magazines flared, the nails in the ads didn't flare, the nails that won competitions didn't flare, and every educator I had ever taken a class from specifically showed us how to make nails that did not flare. You can begin to understand how I may have come to the conclusion that nails aren't supposed to flare.


I repeatedly got new clients who had defected from other techs around the area because they didn't like the flared out look. I heard a million stories that all started out with, "I really like her, but she does her nails all wide at the end."


Then, one day, it happened. I had a new client come in who had recently visited a relative in Southern California. She had her nails done while she was down there and proudly proclaimed as she displayed them for me that they were "all acrylic." Meaning that they had been sculpted on forms, not overlaid on tips as had become (and remains) the norm in the industry. She pointed out that you can tell they were "all acrylic" because of the way they flared out at the tips, instead of tapering.


And that's how I came to my conclusions about why the flared look developed its popularity. Over the years, I have heard this declaration from several clients who have had their nails done elsewhere — the belief that a flared nail proves that the nail is "all acrylic" and no tips were used.


For a long time I just flat out refused to do them. I explained that I had spent years working on learning to sculpt well, to create a sleek, beautiful nail that didn't look like a duck's foot. Then I had an epiphany: Nails are a fashion accessory. They are subject to trends and fads. And I really like teenaged clients. You know, the clients who are most likely to experiment with their nails. The girls who love glitter in their nails. Who love extravagant nail art. Who like flared out nails that look like ducks' feet. And if I want to continue to appeal to that demographic, I'd better get hip — or, err, "sick" — because I want to not just stay competitive in my field, I want to stay on the cutting edge. I don't want to be one of those techs I hear whining about how they never get to play with their glitters or colored acrylics because I've been refusing to offer the newest trends and styles for so long that I've ended up with a clientele that isn't interested in new trends.


We do this to ourselves. We get comfortable with what we know and then we find ourselves stuck in a rut. We are disappointed that our clients aren't interested in stepping outside of the box that we have put them in, only to be devastated when a long-term, loyal pink-and-white client leaves us for another tech because that client had never seen rock star nails — even though we've had a drawer full of glitter for the last 10 years.


We are ambassadors to the nail industry. If we forget, or neglect, to fulfill that role then we have little room for complaint when we discover the hard way that our clients really were interested in something new.


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