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.
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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.
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.
Photos via @tsangtastic, Instagram