The New Shape of Long Nails

side-moon-bridal-lace1 Photo Credit: @FuriousFiler For a certain kind of woman, fingernails — lacquered and lengthened to alarming proportions — have lately become a way to self-consciously embrace feminine artifice in the name of feminist authenticity. The most famous examples — Rihanna’s, Katy Perry’s, the girls on Instagram pointing coyly at gnomic passages in unnamed novels — have been sharpened to claws and decorated with war paint. These are manicures of carnal danger, of weaponized sex appeal, of “erotics” as intimidation tactic.
If this look cuts a stark contrast to the long-prevailing trend of wearing nails pared-down and boyish — in keeping with the Céline-inflected minimalism that has ruled the runways since 2012 — we’re now beginning to see something closer to a settled middle ground. The new nails are, like their more conspicuous antecedents, long and absent of cuticles, but their shape and shade is softer. If they are painted it is simply, with something sheer and neutral, sometimes with a striking but subtle embellishment — a French tip, a pop of color. Long nails of this kind are a bit old-fashioned and assuredly adult, something a lifelong devotee of Pond’s Cold Cream might wear and tend to as her tea steeps. Their condition is the result of effort, of patience, of buffing and filing and oil treatments. Some of the best examples come from midcentury cookbooks. Ginnie Hoffman and Beverly Warner’s illustrations in “The Joy of Cooking” show nimble, disembodied female hands poaching fish, weaving lattice pie and stuffing a bird. The nail itself is usually invisible but implied: The fingers are elegant and tapered. In the place of Auntie Mame-style nails — long, “each lacquered a delicate green” — we have something closer to Emma Bovary’s: “lustrous, tapering, more highly polished than Dieppe ivories, and cut into an almond shape.”
Halfway between homely and aggressive, the new 1950s-style manicure is a subtle kind of boast: anachronistic but assertive. Discreetly polished and well-tended nails like the kind worn by Michelle Obama, Sheryl Sandberg and Oprah are a display of general competence — something closer to a symptom of good health than a strictly semiotic statement.
But to wear them with confidence, one must be capable of tolerating — and, ideally, enjoying — the sensation of being always aware of the body. They clack on the keyboard, accrue crud, catch the eye and require near-constant pruning. Even the most understated of long nails dictate delicate and self-censoring behavior. They can ruin one’s world — draw blood, snag knitwear — but they can also, all too easily, be ruined themselves. Having them forces a person to perceive their self and their surroundings as vulnerable, yes, but also worth protecting. Source [NY Times]

Leave a comment