An Exploration of Nail Art: The New Frontier of Fashion

By Jenny Rae

Taylor C. Snow/Collegian

Fashionistas have forever been expressing themselves through the medium of their clothes, shoes and accessories. Now, however, there’s a new kid on the block, and its name is nail art. That’s right, art on your nails. Forget the fuss of color-coordinated outfits. Just get jazzy with your nails and you’ll be the epicenter of cool, an innovator of creative self-expression throughout any season. Appearing on the fingertips of celebrities, on runways, and all over the web, nail art is taking both the fashion and regular world by storm.

While gaining popularity, nail art isn’t actually anything new at all. As describes: “3000 years B.C. the Chinese used enamel on their fingers. They applied the substance and left it to sit for several hours, the result: a pink finish on their nails. This was the beginning of nail art and the earliest records. Indian women also practiced nail art in a similar period using dye derived from the Henna plant.” The ancient Egyptians also used this practice to indicate wealth and power, with lower class women restricted to wearing duller shades while Queen Cleopatra got to rock Rusty Red.

Despite its long global history, nail art has been pretty lackluster until now. But, the advent of the Internet  — and with it blogs, Instagram and Pintrest — nail design lovers can now share their tricks of the trade and seek inspiration for more outrageous designs. Wah Nails, a U.K. brand, recently collaborated with Topshop to provide nail art to their customers, setting up manicure stations in some stores. Now patrons to the store leave not only with a bag full of new clothes, but with nails to match, too.

Even the fashion elite are getting involved. Dior’s Creative Director Raf Simons recently partnered with nail art online mecca The Illustrated Nail to create designs inspired by his 2013 spring/summer collection. This project also features in store manicure stations.

In addition, brands like Sally Hansen, CND, Opi and Mac contributed with designers in their New York City Spring 2013 runway shows, spicing up the east coast February gloom with splashes of color. CND for the Blonds’ looks consisted of real ground glass on the nail beds, meant to evoke reflections on water.

Fierce and famous women like Beyoncé, Rihanna and Katy Perry have also caught onto the trend. Twizzling her hand along to “Single Ladies” during her Superbowl performance, Queen Bey showed off a tribal gold pattern on her nails. If it’s good enough for pop royalty, it’s good enough for us.

Perry leads the pack for the most inventive nails, showcasing different designs for different events, whether it be the royal wedding or the Barack Obama’s inauguration. Once upon a time her fingernails even acted as a loving tribute to now ex-husband Russell Brand. That in its self provides the beauty of the practice; if the design doesn’t suit, you can always wash it off.

The question is: what comes next? Nail wraps provide a pattern without the hassle of nail polish or a shaky hand. Japanese nail art continues to integrate into American culture with 3D emblems, which look fabulous but make menial tasks somewhat impossible. There’s even a world “Nailympics” with different quirky categories such as “Stiletto Nails.” It’s enough to make the imagination run wild.

There are many ways to follow the trend on a college student budget. Revlon has released a string of affordable nail art pens in vibrant colors, available at Target and other stores.  As previously mentioned, Pinterest is overflowing with tutorials.

Jenny Rae can be reached at [email protected].