The New York Times Asks Panelists "Why Did Wild Nail Polish Go Mainstream?"

The New York Times has a great piece today on wild nail polish colors. I couldn’t be more excited on this Friday before the holiday weekend. Beside the fact that I have a three-day weekend, it’s just so great to see a story in such a prestigious paper that talks about our industry styles (and not our industry downfalls). Not only that, but they actually included members of the nail industry in the conversation. In the newspaper’s “Room for Debate” column, they asked a panel the question, “Why did wild nail polish go mainstream?” And the answers — from nail techs, bloggers, and authors — are varied, but distinctly positive.
A quick summary of what these seven experts had to say: (I still suggest you go check out the whole story here.)
All Lacquered Up blogger Michelle Mismas says nail polish is the “new lipstick”. “Nails have become an inexpensive way to inject a season’s hottest color trends into your wardrobe.” She adds, “In recent years, nail polish has replaced lipstick as an indicator of the economy. What Leonard Lauder coined the Lipstick Index, meaning the rise in cosmetic sales inversely correlated to economic health, is no more. Nail polish sales are growing in leaps and bounds, surpassing lipstick, due to its affordability. “
A fashion and culture blogger from Jezebel, Jenna Sauers says, “The nail industry had to make women feel a need to change their nail color frequently, and to pay attention to nail art.” She adds that professional polish companies like OPI and Essie create new colors each season to stay in step with fashion and beauty trends.
Angus Trimble, senior curator of paintings and sculpture at the Yale Center for British Art and the author of “The Finger: A Handbook” (Note to self: Go get this book!), says wild colors aren’t actually all that new to fingernails. “Rich red and hot pinks never dominated nail colors, except in American cinema up through the 1950s and 1960s. In fact, several of Picasso’s portraits of Dora Maar explicitly refer to the first Parisian fad for bright green, as well as the shaping of long nails into slightly sinister, surprisingly sharp points.”
Author of “Bad Girls Go Everywhere,” a biography of former Cosmopolitan magazine editor Helen Gurley Brown, and a professor of gender and women’s studies at Bowdoin College, Jennifer Scanlon thinks these bolder color choices stem from a combination of privilege and deprivation. Privilege because “women are more comfortable with themselves in professional settings today.” And deprivation because “with colorful nail polish, women can accessorize and feel fashionably attuned without abandoning their budgets.”
Celebrity manicurist and founder of nail polish line M2M, Myrdith Leon-McCormack attributes wild colors to celebrities like Madonna, Lil’ Kim, and Cyndi Lauper. “Clothes are a form of self-expression. So are cosmetics and nail colors. At the end of the day, it really boils down to: Girls just want to have some fun!”
Susan Nam, a celebrity manicurist and owner of Polished Beauty Bar says, “Before the recession, women were able to express themselves in different ways — through designer handbags, expensive shoes or amazing jewelry. Women needed a new way of expressing themselves without breaking the bank. A manicure is cheap by comparison.” She adds, “Nail color is a leveler to some degree; there’s no status attached to any color or brand. It makes everyone equally chic and polished.”
Gwen Kay, author of “Dying to Be Beautiful: The Fight for Safe Cosmetics” thinks the color craze can be attributed to new polish formulas that don’t contain DBP, toluene, and formaldehyde. “Somehow, it’s easier to go crazy when dibutyl phthalate and toluene aren’t involved. At its core, nail polish is an easy and inexpensive pick-me-up and assertion of femininity.”
I think all of these panelists have great points. Wearing bright and crazy colors is more “acceptable” today because getting manicures and pedicures is more mainstream than ever. More women can afford to get their nails done (even coming out of a rocky economy) and nails are showing up in the pages of consumer beauty magazines, on fashion runways, and even in The New York Times. The world of social networking has made it easier than ever for us to see what celebrities and fashionistas are wearing on their nails, and we’ve become more comfortable (and maybe more relaxed in a variety of settings) where we aren’t afraid to show off our “true colors” in professional environments. All hail the bold, bright, and fun colors of nail polish. We salute you!
So what do you think helped pushed crazy and wild polish colors to the forefront of fashion? I’d love to hear your comments and we’ll be running some of them in a future issue of NAILS.
— Hannah

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