Fashion Unstitched: Nails as Jewels and Accessories for Hands

Hands can immediately give telltale signs about you; about your health, your age, your style, your wealth, and sometimes even the type of work you do. One thing is certain, there’s something hypnotic and attractive about beautiful hands and especially the fingernails that accentuate them. On the other hand (pun intended), there’s a total adverse, guttural reaction when we see unkempt, unclean hands. So appearance really matters when it comes to the whole package: hands and nails.

Our ancestors knew this, and developed all kinds of concoctions to deliver colour on nails. As far back as 3000 BC, Babylonian warriors would soak there fingernails in Khol before any battle- at that time this signified those who were of a high rank. Later, we find that China used colours on nails as distinguishing markers of dynasty and social class. Red being the superior rank of all. It was also said that Cleopatra much preferred using henna solely on her fingernails rather than all over her hands or arms. This was very distinctive and meticulous in the most saturated of reds. This colour being solely reserved for the Queen herself.

In terms of the brands starting out in nail colour, Cutex was the first in 1911 to launch a product for cuticle care and then later in 1925 to market the actual nail polish as we know it today. But without going into the history of the brands that succeeded Cutex, such as Revlon and others- today I’d like to focus on the art of nail grooming itself. Because let’s face it, getting your nails done can be anything within the realms of, glamor, style, fashion, art, and also controversy. They play a huge part in the cultural phenomenon of fashion as well.

Nail shape, style, colors change along with fashion trends themselves. Like makeup, manicures are not just additional touches- these have become accessories in their own right. Getting your nails done is a way of not only beautifying your hands, but also a way to accessorize your look. Length is another matter of choice, as is color- and, as are nail embellishments or appliques.

The business of nail care has become big business in the fashion and beauty industry. And with today’s gel/type manicures that stay on relatively strong, anywhere between 2 to 4 weeks, it just makes sense to get your nails done; for monetary, practical and good grooming purposes. Statistically speaking, in the 2000’s, reasons for not wanting to care for your nails remain a personal, but less popular, choice- just look around you.

At one time long nails were a hassle to grow and to upkeep. Today, there’s still an upkeep of course, but the limitations for length are almost nil- anyone can have them. It’s a matter of choice. Of course, practicality also comes into play- but even with short nails a gorgeous gel/ acrylic/ dip, manicure is possible. Keeping you fresh, current and stylish no matter your lifestyle.

Let’s take a brief look at some trends throughout the decades:


The 1940’s half moon look





More of a square look is starting to appear.
Neon’s of course!


The darker shorter nails of the 90’s.

And who can remember these works of art that mostly Black Women styled up- the Acrylic look and super length were all the rave:

Y2K and art inspiration

To the French Manicure

Today pretty much all of these past decades are still inspiring us. We have all kinds of shapes: Square, Oval, Tombstone, Pointy… and the very latest:

Bejewelled Nails.

Here is a photo of my 20 year-old’s nails done just recently by Enlightened_Esthetics

And here’s the clip of her at the salon

It will be interesting to see how the trend will keep on evolving. One thing is for sure, if fashion keeps on dictating, our technological devices and all apparatus we operate will also have to transition and adapt to our manual capabilities. We’ve come a long way from learning how to strategically pull up a zipper in long nails (Remember that? Apparently, it’s still an issue today!) Today there’s more to contend with- We need new acrobatic movements just to operate our phones, tablets and PC’s! Some advancements have taken place, such as tap to pay, which don’t involve using fingers for the most part. However, I hardly think this development came about because of nail trends- or did it?!

Will the technology industry take this fashion trend into account when developing new products?

Who will adapt first: fashion or technology?


Fashion Unstitched is a series where I take you through bits of fashion history, fibres and textiles, guest interviews, industry talk, fashion events, sustainability, museums, reviews…If it’s fashionable- I’m covering it!! Suggestions, and collaborations are welcome. Send me an email. Thanks for reading.

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14 thoughts on “Fashion Unstitched: Nails as Jewels and Accessories for Hands

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  1. I think fashion will be the first to conform to the technology only because fashion is always evolving. I love your daughter’s nails…so original! Were the designs her ideas or the salon’s? I used to have my nails done. They are so thin, though, they would peel off of the back of the acrylic or gel. My mother, on the other hand, had to soak her nails before she could even clip them! I have learned to live with my unvarnished nails. Strangely, my toenails don’t have the same problem so I get pedicures regularly through the summer! Thanks for an interesting read, and I hope you’ll join me for 10 on the 10th on Friday!

    1. Hi Marsha! Thanks for reading- I agree that fashion will conform as well- it’s all about change. Pedi’s are just as fun and glam. As for my daughter, it’s the salon who gets creative with whatever idea she throws at them. And I did not go online this Friday (didn’t even write my Friday post like usually do…some times life takes over)! I’ll go check now. xx

  2. Lucy, this was such a fun and interesting post. I never really thought about the history of hand fashion! I used to go get my nails done regularly in the early 2000s then only occasionally after that. Now I prefer short, rounded, clean, and naked. I always keep my toenails painted but rarely do I ever like my hands with nail polish on.


  3. Such an interesting post! My first ever nail polish was by Cutex, shade Sea shell, a pretty pearly pink, when I was 12. I’m still persevering with trying to improve my nails, they are so weak and flakey x

    1. I think I actually remember that Cutex shade! Gail, I find that keeping up with my nails has made them stronger- and I’m so less scared to break them now that I get the dip/ gel done. Thanks xx

  4. It’s interesting to see the trends over the decades. I used to get my nails done every three weeks with gel overlays, and I even did a nail tech course myself, but now I just use nail polish. My nails are very weak and flaky so polish doesn’t stay on long, but I have to keep them short – I can’t function with long nails!

    Emma xxx

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