Black nail polish is more than a mere fashion trend, as it is a cultural statement used throughout history to convey a social status, a countercultural affinity or just a different way to perceive fashion. Black nails have, both attracted and repulsed different people from all over the world, with (we bet) many teenagers still fighting with their moms to get the permission to show off a dazzling black manicure.
But why is black nail polish so controversial, loved, and culturally multifaceted? Why is it, along with red nail polish, the only fashion statement that never ever goes out of style? From Chinese royalty to Freddie Mercury, here is what black manicure has to say about people, society, fashion, and culture.
Black Nail Polish Meaning: Should You Pull off Black Nails?
How could “Chinese royalty” and “Freddie Mercury” be together in the same sentence? Well, black nail polish is to blame in here, as both Chinese royalty and Freddie Mercury, among many others, were spotted channelling a black manicure in their lives.
Nail varnish in general originated in China circa 3000 B.C., and was made with a mixture of egg whites, beeswax, gelatin, and Arabic gum. Used by almost anyone who could afford it, nail polish was a way to convey a person’s social status and, unsurprisingly, was one of the Royal Family’s favorite way to showcase power and richness.
While the Chou Dynasty (600 B.C.) mainly used gold, and silver nail varnishes, the majority of the other dynasties painted their nails black or red, with the former being particularly considered a synonym for royalty itself.
Fast forward to the Western world and to the first decades of the Twentieth century, black nail polish was mostly avoided in haute couture, if not shunned at all. With black manicure considered as a sort of rebellion against mainstream culture, there’s no surprise the most famous rebellious glam-rock stars of the Seventies, such as Freddie Mercury, Marc Bolan, and David Bowie, began wearing it for their gigs.
From the Seventies to the Nineties, black nail polish spread messages of nonconformity, gaining the reputation of the fashion industry’s bad boy status. Things (slightly) changed in the mid-Nineties, as black manicure became a fashion statement for all those people who defined themselves as “Goth”, mainly thanks to musicians such as Marilyn Manson (who, by the way, still sports some pretty cool black nails).
It was in 1999, however, that black nail polish received its blessing from Gucci, officially becoming an haute couture hit (and, subsequently, being sold and worn everywhere in the world). From the late Nineties till now, black nail polish has become a must-have item in almost any beauty kit, and is fiercely showed off indistinctively both at punk-rock music events and high-end runway shows.
Nowadays, black nail polish has become more mainstream, and the wearer is no longer considered Goth or depressed wearing black manicure. The meaning of black nail polish has evolved to point out the daring, rebellious femme fatale attitude anyone opting for black nails would like to convey. It’s a trend you can embrace every day and everywhere without feeling you are making a big fashion blunder.
How to Wear Black Nail Polish Right
As you can see, there’s quite an intriguing history behind something as “simple” as black nail polish. Now there is only one question left – how to wear black nail polish right? As always, there is not one single right way, unless you consider “feeling comfortable” a rule rather than an unavoidable fact. But there are a few tricks and tips to follow if you feel you are not letting your black manicure achieve its full potential. Here you have them!
Black Nail Polish Dos and Don’ts
• As with clothes, when it comes to manicure, proportion is key, too. And in this specific case, the key to wearing black nail polish right lies in the length of your nails. If you feel your black nail polish is making your fingers look chubby/ stubby or simply ugly, try wearing black nail polish with neat, short nails, preferably squared.
• If black is too dark for your pastel-colored soul, do light your black manicure either with an ombre effect or a sparkly, glittery top coat, which is also perfect for the weekends.
• Unless you are going for the punk-rock look, always repair cracks and chips as soon as possible.
• Since black nail polish gives its best when always polished and clean, invest in a good, long-lasting top coat that can protect both your nails and the black varnish.
• If you regularly moisturize your hands, well done! Try to do it as often as possible while wearing black nail polish, as this dark color will highlight any small imperfections your hands/ fingers might have.
• Don’t wear too many rings – let your black nails be the sole protagonists for a few days!
Getting the Look with Black Nail Polish
Two are the main looks one can go for while wearing black nail polish, with the first one being closer to the punk side of fashion, and the other to haute couture. Either way, black nail polish always exudes fierceness, and, why not, sensuality! So whether you are opting for a rock-infused or soigné look, get ready to be the center of attention with your black nails!
Here are some tips on how to achieve the best punk/ high-end look with black nail polish.
• If you are going for a gothic look à la Morticia Addams (which is and will always be a good idea), just opt for a simple total black outfit that could feature a plunging V-neckline, and a gloomy black lipstick, if you like daring with fashion. If you prefer less revealing outfits, opt for a classy, black turtleneck sweater, a pencil skirt, and a silver necklace to lighten up the look.
• Those who prefer more conventionally soigné looks, on the other hand, should avoid pairing their black manicure with black lipstick, as the overall style could come out as quite heavy.
• As for a more grunge-inspired look, combine your black manicure either with a classic flannel shirt and a pair of skinny jeans, or a cute mini skirt in gingham (black, of course!) patterns, combined with a simple black top.
• Do pair your black manicure with a piece of clothing or accessory item dipped into millennials’ favorite color, i.e. rose gold. Your overall style will look both sophisticated and gloomy, and will turn heads, for sure.
13 Best Black Nail Polishes to Buy Now
From minimalist monochrome black to glittered options, these are some of the best black nail polishes of the moment that will inspire you to give a subtle edgy touch to your day-to-day and special occasion looks!
1. Givenchy Black Nail Polish in Noir Satin
Deeply pigmented, Givenchy’s Noir Satin black nail polish combines an easy application with a long-lasting, jet-black color. And you can’t really say no to such a glamorous packaging! Get yours at Net-a-Porter!
2. Marc Jacobs Nail Polish in Blacquer
Speaking of cool packaging, we can’t help falling in love with Marc Jacobs’ Enamored Hi Shine line, where Bacquer is the black nail polish we are all craving now. Available at Sephora, it gives any black manicure a high-end, plasticized wet look.
3. Smith & Cult Black Nail Polish in Bang The Dream
If you are looking for an opaquer finish, we recommend picking Smith & Cult’s Bang the Dream black nail polish from Saks Fifth Avenue, the lasting formula of which also provides a covetable, brilliant shine. One of the best black nail polishes to buy now, this one isn’t exactly jet-black, but a softer graphite with a subtle metallic shine that is much easier to wear on a daily basis.
4. Nails Inc. Black Nail Polish in Alexa Silk
We instantly fell in love with Nails Inc’s new Alexa Silk black nail polish, the pearlescent and satiny finish of which is the night-out approved effect we have been all looking for! You can find your bottle at Net-a-Porter!
5. YSL Nail Polish in Noir Over Noir
Yves Saint Laurent’s La Laque Couture collection is one of the French label’s most acclaimed beauty lines, and it is not that hard to understand why. Lasting and all wrapped in a gorgeous packaging, La Laque Couture is a must-have item for all those nail polish collectors out there! Get your Noir Over Noir black nail polish at Nordstrom!
6. Pretty Vulgar Nail Liquor in Deep Dark Secret
Pretty Vulgar’s shiny Deep Dark Secret is our glam-rock-injected favorite black nail polish, as it exudes coolness and dark attitude, indeed. Its built-in top coat makes everything better, granting a long-wear finish that will last from one Saturday night party to the other! It is available at Sephora.
7. Deborah Lippmann Black Nail Polish in Fade to Black
Deborah Lippmann strikes again with the Fade to Black satiny black nail polish with a creamy texture, available for purchase at Net-a-Porter. Apply two coats for a darker finish, and you’ll never go wrong with this classic black, which is as timeless as a pair of black pumps!
8. Gucci Nail Polish in Iconic Black
Formulated to treat anyone to a high-end manicure, Gucci’s Iconic Black is the nail polish we all deserve. Fall in love with its triangular-bristle brush for its precise application, and head over to Saks Fifth Avenue to get your bottle!
9. Chanel Black Nail Polish in Celebrity
From one luxurious beauty brand to another, Chanel’s nail polish line is to die for, indeed! Its Celebrity black nail polish features a new formula that nurtures your nails, coming to make you feel like a real celebrity every time you walk out the door wearing this color on your fingertips. Find it at Nordstrom!
10. Christian Louboutin Nail Colour in Khol
Pretty nail polish bottle lovers, rejoice! Christian Louboutin’s nail polish line is not only gorgeously structured, but also filled with an equally glorious black nail polish color that lasts for days. You can get it at Sephora.
11. NARS Black Nail Polish in Night Breed
When in doubt, always wear glitter! Available at Saks Fifth Avenue, this glitter black nail polish is the best beauty product to (literally) sparkle up your life. Wear it either over your transparent base coat or layered with your favorite nail color for a striking look that never fails!
12. Burberry Beauty Nail Polish in Poppy Black
Romantically inspired by British weather and formulated with a patent-pending technology that helps the color pop, Burberry’s Poppy Black moisturizes the nails while at the same time lasting an entire week. Find it at Net-a-Porter!
13. JINsoon Black Nail Polish in Polka Black
What about black polka dots on your perfectly done nails? Available at Saks Fifth Avenue, this black nail polish proves one can never go wrong when combining black with black. It features tiny black accents that create perfect polka dots on any manicure, including dark burgundy nails.
Photos via @tsangtastic, Net-a-Porter