Thursday, 9 September 2010

The vintage fingernail.

Nails are a curious thing, I’m not a terribly well groomed person. My deep aversion to mornings, particularly work mornings mean that I manage little more than earrings, brushed hair and clothes. But I always feel bad when my nails are bad. Perhaps it is because they are ‘in my face’ or rather right in front of it.

In terms of vintage wear they are very much a 20th century item. It makes sense really, the commercial nail varnishes were a spin off from the manufacturing and chemical industries making use of new chemical colours and substances. There is nothing remotely natural or earthy about varnish, reflecting a brash new mechanical age nail varnish is the most futurist of cosmetics.


A very late 20's style nail.

The story is that Revson, later Revlon invented it, using car paint enamel. The stuff sounds as if it was invented by Mr Burns from the Simpsons: nitrocellulose, camphor, phthalates and formaldehyde are some of the substances lurking in that jewel coloured little bottle. But it does smell appealing in its own glue sniffy way.

Initially considered highly vulgar painted nails became popular along with the emancipated woman and saw their popularity soar in the 20’s. However they always had a hint of danger, no femme fatale worth her pearl handled pistol would be without scarlet talons. Some believed they were worn to hide dirt under the finger nails and that they were tacky. This persists in the conception of long decorated fake nails as ghettotastic or chavvy. Others suggested that they were responsible for the eventual demise of the glove. I don’t agree with this as it seems the carefully removed glove revealing impeccable manicure was a staple of 50’s femininity.

Fifties elegance from Chanel.

So what of the vintage nail? well colour wise the 20’s and 30’s seem to have been the most interesting and there seems to have been a return to these shades. Chanels recent cult dark purply blacks and pale greens would have been familiar to the fashionable 20’s/early 30’s lady. Off-shades, somewhat gothic were the most popular, reflecting the affection for a perceived bright new world. At this point white moons at the base or/and the tip were the norm.

Examples of thirties 'half-moon' manicures.

The nail painted one bright colour is rumoured to have been worn for the first time by Rita Hayworth but this may be a myth. What isn’t imaginary is that sleek shiny red nails were THE nail of the late 30s,40s and very early 50’s when more candy colours joined their scarlet cousins. These morphed into the opaque pastels of the 60’s. The shape however has rarely moved away from a delicate sleek oval; squared nails are modern and I think,ugly.

I wish magnetic personality nail varnish was still on sale...

Long nails are a pain, try undoing a pin, unfastening earrings and picking coins up and threading needles whilst brandishing them. Very long nails are on the freak/tastic repellent fault line. But longish ones are lovely and drip with predatory glamorous femininity. Like shoes, hair and glasses anyone can have glam nails. But they are a faff. Whilst I think they top off a vintage look superbly, I’m not sure the chaps adore them, but since chaps adore the most peculiar things that is no reason for not growing them. So c’mon ladies, lets cover our sofas with spilt varnish!


Nails gone wrong....

Please comment: Do you have a favourite shade? Any nail hates/loves? xxx

17 comments:

Retro Chick said...

I tried that different coloured half moons thing recently. I did a blog post about it. It's a hell of a faff for everyday though!

I love red nail polish, deep blood red in winter and a brighter red in Summer, though I mostly wear a neutral shade on my fingers as I always chip it.

Ginger said...

Great post! I love the half moon look though have yet to properly achieve it myself.
When I wear polish I tend to wear shades of red and I'm just awful about it, I usually wear it until it's all chipped and terrible looking.

Straight Talking Mama! said...

I'm not a fan of the half moon look I'm a full nail lady, however rarely I hasten to add. I would love to be beautifully groomed everyday, but as I run my own business and am often opening boxes and unloading stock, or doing events carrying lots of stock it's impossible.

I do love when I paint my nails as I feel special, if I were a lady of leisure or didn't have manual work to do I'm sure I would be manicured all the time it just looks so finished! I'm also a red red red lady!

b. said...

~ * ♥ * ~

Love these informative posts! They are sooo interesting. ^__^

I am a fan of nail polish ~ but not in a terribly vintage manner. I do like the half moon look, although I have never tried it. I am more into painting my nails then decorating them with nail art. And any colour is great ~ I like dark purple, bright blue, baby pink and the list goes on. >__<

I also do a lot with my hands ~ I craft and have horses, {which will ruin a mani in ten seconds flat I have found!} but because I am so hard on my hands, I have figured out that to keep your manicure nice for about two weeks while doing hard work, you need to do it all.

Do your base coat, then two {at least, depending on the polish} colour coats then a good top coat. I use Sally Hensen IntsaDri top coat and found it saves my manicure from an instant chipping/beating relatively well!

xox,
bonita of Depict This!

Posted about ~ How to crochet your own strawberry charm
~ * ♥ * ~

RedlegsinSoho said...

I'm a lightweight and get my nails done, a strange experience that I will have to post on next.
Chipped nails are very frustrating! thank you for your comments! x

LandGirl1980 said...

Only just found this wonderful blog - so hello!
I am not a fan of the half moon nail either - to me it looks like a bit has been missed - or has chipped off. Full nails all the way for me. But I keep them failty short to lessen chippage :)

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