Journalist. Mother. Bunny enthusiast. Pop culture junkie.

Journalist. Mother. Bunny enthusiast. Pop culture junkie.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The History of Nail Art

I have this bad habit of thinking the entire history of the world revolves around me.

I mean, I know stuff existed before I was born, but I genuinely have a difficult time believing it.

I'm always shocked when I discover people living before 1983 did the same things I do today.

"People went grocery shopping in 1968?!?" I will exclaim, flummoxed. "But I wasn't even born yet!"


I'm trying to fix this perspective.

Well, when I was painting my nails the other night, I wondered if people had been painting their nails before I was born. Did nail polish exist in 1982? Or was it merely invented for my existence??

I was shocked to discover that nail art has been around...well, forever, it seems.

The history of nail art has a murky beginning.

Historians do know a form of it existed in 5000 B.C. when women in India would dye their fingertips with henna, leaving a reddish brown stain on the nails.

Nail coloring in ancient Egypt went by status. Kings and queens colored their fingernails and toenails ruby red, using solid gold manicure tools. Women of lower rank were only allowed to use pale colors.

In 600 B.C. China, nail art became a symbol of wealth as well. Men and women grew their nails to five inches long to show that they didn't have to perform manual labor for a living. Chinese royals often wore elaborate gold, silver or bamboo splints to prevent their nails from breaking.

During the Renaissance Period, nail art became fashionable again. Upper class European women rushed to get manicures, void of color.

On the other side of the world, the Incas invented nail art as we know it today, by decorating their nails with pictures of eagles!

In the 1800s, purity was all the rage. French manicures became popular (although the term "french manicure" actually wasn't coined until the 1970s). These original forms of french manicures consisted of a little lemon juice mixed with water, to whiten the tips of the nails. Also available were buffers, crystal stones, emery boards, cuticle creams, and bleaching powders.

The 1920s is when the fun began.

Automobile paint inspired nail polish enamel as we know it today. Nail salons started popping up all over the United States and Europe. Flappers invented the moon manicure, which involved painting the fingernail everywhere but the bottom.

In the 1930s, nail polish hit stores for the very first time, thanks to the newly created company, Revlon. Colors women had never seen before hit the stands. It was a phenomenon. In this decade, fake nails were invented as well.

Today, when it comes to nail art, anything goes. We not only use polish, but we use glitter, stickers, jewels, markers, and even newspaper. Blogs and fashion websites offer a vast amount of eclectic ideas and tips for colors, designs, and innovative tools.

What do you think? Are you surprised by the history of nail art?


Fashion, Art and other fancies said...

Not at all surpirsed by the history of nail art. Everything has history.

Miksu said...

I totally agree with you, it is sometimes so hard to understand that things have been invented long long ago :D I thought nail polish was quite new thing :D

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MessyDirtyHair said...

this is an awesome post! i did not know any of this. very cool to see how it all begun!

xx Kelly

Fashion Tales.... said...

Great post! Not really surprised, as much of what we do today has a deeper meaning and historical origin, even in textiles. :)

Kim (A Very Sweet Blog) said...

Awesome Awesome Post! I didn't know a lot of this stuff. I love knowing the story behind things and you always deliver Jennifer. Gosh, nail polish didn't appear in stores until 193o. That's amazing! I figured it was revlon. Very interesting about Asia, letting their nails grow to show that they didn't do manual labor. This post had me in awe. EXCELLENTE girlfriend!!!

Couture Carrie said...

Amazing history, darling!
Loving these pics ~ you should get on Pinterest (or are you already?)!


Sarah said...

Love this post!

Audrey Allure said...

Such an interesting post about the history - I love reading cool facts like these!

David Macaulay said...

I really can't imagine there was much historical stuff that predated you Jen - nothing worthwhile, lol - mind you I was suprised to see a drawing on the side of an Egyptian tomb from 200 BC or so that suggested the ancient Egyptians carried out heart transplants, probably not very well

Ayantika said...

such a nice post ...:)

Barry said...

Man it would have been so boring being a history teacher in 5000BC. What was there to talk about?

I think in time it will be proven that the Earth actually does revolve around Jennifer and that you were brought into existence to be my friend.


Josie said...

What a fun little history lesson! Love it.
xo Josie

Meri said...

I've never even considered how far back nail art/ polish goes, but I'm glad you wrote this because its really interesting! I like the dip dyed idea where it involves more of your finger too- almost a finger tip ombre would be really cool!

Ashley/ MILK TEETHS said...

omg that chinese nail poster=NIGHTMARES D:

Sherin said...

Lol at stuff existing before we were born. Surely not much went on before us!

Love this history. It was interesting to read, and by the looks of it, the 1920's really changed a lot for nails.
My gran still dyes her nails in henna, although I'm not a fan of the look.

house said...

I know, right?
i would like to say thank you about this cool post,and this idea very helpful to me,
Thank You

sherene said...

In ancient china they used bamboo splinter not to break their nails?lol that must be un comfortable:))
Mostly of days my nails are painted red. ONLY red hahahaha, no more other collors but looking at this pictures makes me wanna go out from my shell and try other colors too:))

Leia said...

This was an AMAZING post! Loved every bit of it!

Cafe Fashionista said...

As a person positively obsessed with nail polish, I am surprised to see that there is a history of nail art on record; yet thrilled at the very same time. I believe I've just become more appreciative of nail polish. :)

P.S. I'm SO glad that you're enjoying Gilmore Girls. It will forever be one of my favorites! Did you love the Britney Spears reference in the first episode of Season 1? :P

Little Rus said...

Such a wonderful post! Really enjoyed reading it. x

P.S. I am hosting a FreePeople giveaway at the moment and would like to invite you to take part, if you like the prize. :)

yiqin; said...

learnt so much <3

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melindaaa said...

wow this was a really fun post to read. thanks! I never knew that nail polish was so connected to status

Tights Lover said...

Ah yes, I remember the pre-nail polish days well. Everyone walking around, not knowing what to do to make their nails look better. 1983 the news hit.

'Guess what? Jennifer Fabulous has been born......AND we invented nail polish!'

I didn't know what to be more excited about ;P

Rachel said...

This was a really interesting read!

A BRIT GREEK said...

Great post doll, as someone who loves all things nail related this was fabulous!

Hope alls good babe. Hope you had fun at the wedding.

Ocean Dreams said...

Wow that was a great take on the history of nail polish - I love it today but I can understand how it would mean wealth back then.

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