trend ender – nail art

trend ender — Danielle on September 9, 2012 at 5:40 pm

Trend Ender is a new irregular feature, meant to identify, illustrate and investigate the origins of current fashion trends, assess when they’re fabulous and when they fail, and attempt to predict their demise.

Trend: Nail art. This term describes any type of manicure that is more elaborate than just a swipe of one nail polish. It can be as simple as layering one nail polish over another, or as complex as three-dimensional, multi-media collage. Essentially, it’s the application of time, thought, and technique that elevates fingernails into ‘art’.

Where it came from: Colouring nails has been a part of human history for thousands of years, across many cultures, but the first instance of figurative nail art is thought to be by the Incas in the 15th century. More recently, royalty of the decadent Qing dynasty in China grew their nails very long and wore decorative jewelled nail guards to emphasize their leisured lifestyle. Creative, unconventional manicures have been recorded since nail polish was introduced in 1917. In the 1980s, star athlete Florence Griffith Joyner’s nail art was famous – she said she used it to emphasize her femininity. There is an unexamined anecdotal modern phenomenon of elaborate nail art worn by African American and East Asian women, though frustrating Google searches on the topic reveal very little. It seems to be related to marginalized female entrepreneurship. In the only decent post I found, rather than exploring the racial aspect of the history, Robin Givhan only offers an explanation for why it is not discussed. I hope some smart young journalist out there writes a thoughtful article about this soon. (UPDATE: Britticisms has written a wonderful post about her personal experiences with nail art growing up in Chicago in the 1990s.)

When it works: Great nail art truly lives up to the name – there are manicures that are postmodernconceptuallavishtechnically impressive. Perhaps nail art’s greatest virtue is that it is one of those rare little luxuries that is accessible to everyone. No matter how bad life gets, anyone can have a bit of glamour at their fingertips.

When it’s wack: Sub-trends in nail art are driven by novelty and technology. So when a new gimmick in nail polish is released – like Crackle Nail Polish was in the summer of 2011, it fads and fades before it even gets a chance to dry. If you’re not willing to do the necessary upkeep to stay on top of this type of high-rotation trend cycle, you might as well not bother dipping your chipped fingernails in.

How it will end: The current obsession with nail art is fuelled by technology of a different kind – social media. The camaraderie of the nail salon has become an international grass-roots gab session which even a naked nail type like myself can appreciate for all the enthusiasm and creativity on display. I doubt this trend will end anytime soon – it’s community-driven and the big brands are very late to the party. Now that the fashion industry is getting into the game, the faddishness of specific techniques do seem to have shorter and shorter life cycles. It’s not hard to imagine a future where a novel nail art innovation receives wholehearted praise and all-round condemnation within a single day, if not a single hour.

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    1. If you get rid of the NART, what will all the NARTISTS do??

      Comment by Adrienne — September 10 2012 @ 4:44 am
    2. I’ve always been obsessed with my nails since I was in high school. Flo-Jo was a definite influence. Not only did she have wild nails, she also developed her own nail art kit. I bought it on the shopping channel in the 90’s. It had nail polishes, decals, rhinestones, brushes and even gold leaf (which I still have to this day).

      Comment by Tricia — September 16 2012 @ 3:31 am
    3. Tricia – thanks for sharing your personal nail art history!

      Comment by Danielle — September 16 2012 @ 10:36 am
    4. […] photographs of elaborate nail art are by artist Helen Maurene Cooper. As a personal coda to my trend ender on nail art, the brilliant writer Brittany Julious recalls her own experiences growing up in […]

      Pingback by final fashion » click click – 17-10-12 — October 17 2012 @ 1:26 pm
    5. […] The flat platform form fell out of fashion in the west, but rose in the east. The 18th Century was the era of the classical geisha in Japan, where young geishas in training would wear a solid, block-like form of the geta called okobo. In the 19th century China, Manchu women wore platforms with teeteringly tiny footprints, some think as a more practical version to the fashion for bound feet among Han women. During the Qing dynasty, Empress Cixi wore bejewelled, platforms along with her long, precious nail guards. […]

      Pingback by final fashion » trend ender – flatforms — November 20 2012 @ 9:31 pm
    6. […] nail art – “one of those rare little luxuries that is accessible to everyone.” […]

      Pingback by final fashion » 2012 redux — January 9 2013 @ 11:42 am
    7. […] it! The unique history of race and class in Chicago’s nail art – when I did research on nail art for this post I was frustrated to find a huge gap in the available information on the social roots of this trend. […]

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