The Nail File: The History and How-To of Nail Art

(Feature Photo of Joan Crawford courtesy of Pinterest)

The Nail File: The History and How-To of Nail Art

By Zelda Dominguez

Whoever thinks stiletto nails or nail art is new, think again. Trendsetters Rihanna, Katy Perry, and Kylie Jenner might have led the recent charge toward long, pointed talons but they were not the first women to do so.

Manicures took place as far back as 5,000 years ago. In ancient Babylon, men of upper classes adorned their nails with black kohl while men of inferior status used green coloring. Gold manicure instruments have been found in royal Egyptian tomb because both kings and queens painted their nails red as a status rank. However, Egyptian women of lowly rank were permitted to paint pastel colors only. The ancient Romans painted their nails with a mixture of sheep fat and blood. In biblical times, a paste was made of the dried and pounded leaves, which women of all ranks and the men of the wealthier classes used to dye the palms of the hands, the soles of the feet, and the nails. It was Henna, which was also mentioned in the Song of Solomon. Women in India also dyed their fingertips with henna. Over the years, Indian henna designs have evolved into a practice that continues to this day!

Among the aristocrats in the Ming dynasty in China, both male and female grew their nails long and wore bedazzled, blinged- out nail guards to protect their nails as a sign of wealth and symbol of leisure. The native tribe of the Incas seemingly were the first to actually do nail art––they painted eagles on their nails.

By the 1800 to 1900’s, manicures were popular. During the Victorian age , lemon juice or vinegar was used to brighten the nail tips. In the 1920’s the flappers came on the scene wearing the bright red nails, or half-moon manicures that was brought back in recent years. In 1932 Revlon manufactured polish in various colors never seen before that point. A dentist by the name of Lappe created the first set of artificial nails in 1934. By 1954, Frederick Slack, another dentist, accidentally invented the acrylic sculpting nail extensions. While during the 60’s it was a more natural look with pastel shades, the 70’s brought the popular practice of long fake nails with disco glam colors. In 1976, the French manicure was created for Hollywood starlets. The 80s started with a rainbow of bright neon colors. Grunge fashion in the 90’s prompted black nail polish and people filled in chips with Sharpie marker.

Today, over $6 billion is spent on services in American nail salons every year and the art of the manicurist has become increasingly prized worldwide. Nails have become a fashion accessory and conversation pieces. This decade is defined by intricate nail art, textured colors, and new emerging techniques and textures. Nail polish strips, sticker designs, stamps, beads and crystals, glitter, 3D art, crackle lacquer, geometric patterns, mattes, oil spill style, mixed metallic, negative spaces, color blocking, velvet nails ,caviar nail art, ombre nails , with any length or shape nail.

Here are two easy techniques you can try:

The Salted Manicure (an alternative to the Caviar Manicure)

You can use a base coat of any color and, while nails are wet, apply salt to all or one nail. Let dry and apply a top coat.

The Newspaper Nails

simply apply a base coat of the color of your choice. Then find a section of newspaper, and cut in small strip. Dip it in a cup of water and wipe off excess. Once base coat is dry, place it on nail. Press firmly for a couple minutes. Carefully remove newspaper and there you have the imprint on your nail. You can variate by using magazines, sheet music, or maps.

Nail art may seem intimidating but you can do a great job at home and save so much money. You just have to have the right tools, workspace, accessories, and polishes. If you always wear polish, it could be as simple as rocking a hot new color. It’s all in the practice of your digit décor. Once you have a look you want to try, don’t be afraid to DIY. Have fun, and deck out those digits. I know you can nail it!