These days, we all know about nail polish, as well as the recent popularity of nail art. But where did the idea of painting one’s nails actually come from?
The history of nail decoration dates back to the Ancient Egyptians, who used henna to color their nails in order to indicate social status; the darker your nails, the higher you were in the caste system. Nail color was also used in China beginning around 600 BC, where members of the royal family wore gold and silver leaf on their nails.
The invention of the emery board and cuticle remover in the early 1900s is when taking care of one’s nails became fashionable. Cutex created the first nail polish in 1917, modeling it after automobile paint.
In the 1920s and 1930s, the most popular manicure style was the half moon manicure. Ladies would paint just the center of the nail, leaving the area closest to the cuticle as well as the tip of the nail bare. Covering the entire nail with lacquer was considered extreme and improper. Red was considered the most ladylike color, but pale pink, nude, white and peach were also popular. It was considered important to choose a lacquer that would complement your outfit as well as match your lipstick.
In the 1940s and 1950s, the half moon style was still popular and there were dozens of colors introduced, including green, yellow, blue, mauve, and black. Matching nails with your clothes was still in vogue. The fashions of the 1960s were far more relaxed than in previous decades. Instead of the half moon manicure, it was customary to paint the entire nail. Colors were less vibrant, including coral, purple and frosty blue hues.
Looking to recreate a vintage nail style on your own nails? Check out this awesome half moon manicure tutorial!