Nail Art Evolution and Inspirations

Photo posted by @kyliejenner on Instagram

From the natural buffing and clear enamel strengthener of the late 1800’s to the pure artistry that is contemporary nail trends; the nail industry has undergone an undeniable evolution.

Following the opening of the first manicure salon in 1878, Mary E. Cobb designed her out nail upkeep system that buffed nails and cleaned cuticles; which provided her with the title “manicurist”.

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In the late 1800s and early 1900s, those who received manicures deemed it as a symbol of “a clean and wealthy life of leisure” according to Nails: The Story of the Modern Manicure by Suzanne E. Shapiro. In her book, Shapiro highlights the practices, trends and general attitude toward nail art and how it shaped the contemporary trends of today.

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The cosmetics company, Revlon, was the first to release nail enamel strengthening polish in 1932. Following this, there was an aggressive push by the company of nail polish onto the mass market. Painted nails and nail art became a huge trend. It became less of a symbol of wealth and more about keeping up with what was trending.

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Similar to fashion trends, nail art also goes through phases and now serves as another outlet of expression. Similar to the clothes we wear, the color and art we put on our nails are an easy way to adapt to a new style and identity in a temporary way.

The Classic French Manicure
Photo posted by @Kayelynn Kennedy 

Take a look back at your high-school homecoming and prom photos and you will probably see thick French manicures and these square-shaped acrylics. While we don’t know if this trend will resurface, we can see how so many of the present popular trends of today have slowly branched from this style.

Ombre Nails
Photo posted by @courtneycantwell_nails on Instagram

Ombré nails probably sit somewhere near the top of the nail art family tree. We can easily see how the French tip inspired this design. Although it was a huge trend in the 2010s, this nail style is still so heavily requested to present day and we have seen it portrayed a number of different ways from crazy colors to topped with glitter.

The Fancy French
Photo posted by @kyliejenner on Instagram

How fun is this colorful dripping French manicure posted by the queen of acrylics herself, Kylie Jenner? If you want to make your French mani anything but basic, try playing with different shapes and colors on your next visit to the nail salon.

Add Some Sparkle
Photo posted by @nailsbyNick_La

In addition to nail art, nail jewelry became popular in taking nail looks to the next level. This trend also became popular for DIY nail art because people could now buy their own nail rhinestones and glue and create 3-D nail art at a cheaper price in their own home.

Extreme Artistry
Photo posted by @theestallion on Instagram
Photo posted by @kyliejenner on Instagram

We have recently seen influencers and celebrities hire expert nail technicians and experts to go above and beyond for their nail designs. It has not only become a way to enhance an outfit and a look, but also a way to promote the work of the artist that did the look. The artistry and creativity put into nail sets today are entirely individual and unique to the artist and recipient.

Shapes and Lengths Galore
Photo posted by @iamcardib on Instagram

The past decade we’ve seen extreme love for the long acrylic nail look. Functionality to the wind, we have been loving all the long nail looks. It is important to note however that long and colorful nails have long been an important component to Black culture and were often a way that Black women expressed themselves before it became mainstream.

Whether it is through rocking bare nails with no polish at all, or through lengthily colored acrylic sets, there is no true limitation to the statement we can make with our nails. This in addition to fashion, hairstyles and make-up all are outlets and ways that we build our unique personas.



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