One cursory glance around big Tesco will show you that shrinkflation is rife- be it the number of crisps in a packet (surely they’ve reached the lower limit on this now???), the 5 watery strawberries you just paid £4 for, or 500g packets stealthily changing into 450g overnight. At the moment, the effects of the cost of living crisis can still be felt everywhere- but as the economy and our bank accounts get smaller, one thing is growing into the stratosphere: nail art.
3D seashells, cutouts, pierced tips, - extreme nail art is having a moment. The new nail scene is no place for French tips: we’re getting experimental, we’re getting futuristic, we’re getting weird. It’s less about having ‘pretty’ nails and more about uniqueness, playfulness and texture. If it's less about beauty, then, the nail techs du jour are further away from beauticians and closer to artists, pushing boundaries with their clients once every 3-4 weeks. The nail art boom is at a fever pitch right now- and I’m not not saying it has something to do with our crippled economy and doomed planet. Indulge me for a sec…
Lipstick effect for the It Girls
The lipstick effect is the theory that when facing an economic crisis, consumers will become more willing to keep purchasing lower-ticket luxury items. So, instead of buying expensive bags or items of clothes, for example, people will buy expensive cosmetics, such as high-end brands of lipstick- hence *the lipstick effect*. These smaller luxuries provide happiness to the purchasers, in no small part because it allows them to feel that they are still of a certain status. At a time when that new Ganni dress for spring might not be so easily justified, and those Prada loafers are gonna need a gofundme to get bought, getting your nails done extravagantly is a low-key flex that earns you cachet from those that know, and gives you something to smile about every time you look down at your hands (which is all the time, because your nails are f***ing sick). At £50 - £75 a pop, it’s by no means a small expense - it’s just the right level of indulgence to keep us investing, and likely why we’re seeing this trend right now.
Forms of self expression for a new world
This is a Hailey Bieber glazed donut free-zone. The new nail art is super expressive, as styles enter extra-terrestrial proportions, become heavily influenced by Korean style, and launch themselves into 3D. If you thought you knew all the shapes a nail could reasonably be, you thought wrong: they’re now defying physics, breaking out of conventions and teting what’s possible. There’s no better time to do this than when society feels at a low ebb, as a desire for change, for doing something differently, is at its highest. When it seems like the world wants you to be miserable, these nails feel joyful, and often come with a big dollop of impracticality, which acts as a rebellion against society wanting us to all just our heads down, work hard and get through it.
A chrome- tipped middle finger to a bleak reality
What we wear has long been a tool with which to protest undesirable realities (see Nigeria’s altė fashion movement), and nails are following the same path- just a more subtle one, only for those paying attention. To everyone who says you can’t get a job or be a professional with piercings, or tattoos, or outrageous nails, new styles are here to prove that wrong: you can hit the gym at 7 am, head to your 9-5 with your oat flat white and boss your day as a corporate baddie, all whilst having nails that would make Cardi B say oh my god, what is that?
Besides, if the world is in its last season, and Rishi is doing us all over, who has time for the perfect nude anymore anyway?? We’re sick and tired, and being demure isn’t going to cut it right now. Nails are loud and proud, and flout expectations placed on marginalised groups to be quiet, pleasant and submissive. You can’t control the government, you have little to no power over what happens to the country, but no one can stop you from putting whatever you want on your nails. 10 mini protest signs at the end of your fingers, a demonstration of ownership over yourself, your body and your decisions- however small.
I don’t know what’s next for nail styles, or for the economy. But, it’s always fascinating and exciting to see desire for change being expressed in creative new ways. This creative expression in the face of adversity presents a huge opportunity for brands, public figures and creators to connect emotionally with their communities - through acknowledging the lack of agency and loss of control the masses are feeling, and creating space for rebellion and moments of freedom and ownership. But until then, these new nail trends act as a reminder to all of us to take up more space - starting with our gel extensions.
Creds: @404mast, @3615_zbobinails, @nail.sucre