What color nail polish was popular in the 1920’s?

What color nail polish was popular in the 1920’s?

Inspired by the 1920’s? Wanna know what nail polish colors they wore 100+ years ago? In this post, we’re going to look at what color nail polish was popular in the 1920’s.

If you’re looking to recreate a 1920’s nail look. Read on. We’ll show you how to paint your nails in true flapper style. This guide will help you to create an authentic 20’s look.

Here’s a table of contents to help you navigate:

What nail polish colors were popular in the 1920’s?

A brief history of the 1920’s nail scene

What nail polish colors were sold in the 1920’s?

Who wore nail polish in the 1920’s?

How did women paint their nails in the 1920s?

How to paint your nails in true 1920’s style

Final thoughts

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Scroll through 20’s nails on Instagram, Pinterest, or TikTok.

You’ll see lots of gold, black, and silver nails, and art deco-inspired designs.

So, it might surprise you to know that these colors weren’t actually available back then!

Don’t get me wrong.

Black nail polish was incredibly popular.

brandless black nail polish 1920s https://nailhow.com/what-color-nail-polish-was-popular-in-the-1920s/

But it didn’t gain traction until the 1930s.

Nail polish, as we know it today, was invented in the 1920s.

When it first came out, there weren’t that many colors available.

Natural colors, like pale, floral pinks, were popular.

In the later part of the 20’s, you could also get nail polish in red and orange shades.

Clear nail polish was also very popular in the 1920’s.

One of the first-ever nail polishes sold was a clear nail enamel.

Cutex released it in 1916.

Working-class women loved clear nail polish.

Clear polish allowed them to work, wash dishes and prepare food.

All without “ruining” their nails.

According to 1920’s newspapers, men thought that clear nail polish was ok.

But colored nail polish, especially red, was a step too far.

A brief history of the 1920’s nail scene

1830s lady nail polish https://nailhow.com/what-color-nail-polish-was-popular-in-the-1920s/

The story of nail polish begins way back in the 1830’s.

A new substance, a compound called nitrocellulose, has been invented.

European chemists are experimenting with this new “stuff” to see how they can use it.

Unfortunately, this new compound turned out to be highly flammable.

So they blew up a few labs before they finally found a use for it!

After a lot of trial and (explosive) error, they discover a use for it.

In paints and lacquers.

This revolutionized the car industry, which began painting cars in black lacquer.

A French make-up artist named Michelle Menard got inspired by the new car paint.

He wondered if the same technology could work on fingernails.

Menard paired up with another businessman, Charles Revson, and began making nail enamels.

Their company is still going today.

Maybe you’ve heard of it? It’s called Revlon.

Two other well-known nail brands, Max Factor and Cutex, were also established in the 1920’s.

What nail polish colors were sold in the 1920’s?

Before modern-day nail polish existed, women used to “polish” their fingernails with powders and creams.

These products promised to enhance a woman’s own natural nail coloring.

Adverts would often describe the natural “soft pink glow” that these powders and pastes would give.

These nail enhancing products were widely used and accepted in the 20’s.

So it makes sense that the first-ever nail polish patent (filed in 1919) was for a color called “Faint Pink”.

If your looking for something similar try this one from Essie (check price on Amazon).

Soft, feminine, barely-there pinks were widely available by the end of the decade.

Words like “delicate, rosy, seashell, and natural” were often used on packaging.

It wasn’t until the 1930’s that other nail polish colors like red, orange and black really took off.

Although there is evidence of a Peacock Green nail polish being popular in the 20’s.

Who wore nail polish in the 1920’s?

1920s lady nail polish https://nailhow.com/what-color-nail-polish-was-popular-in-the-1920s/

At the turn of the century, a manicure was a status symbol.

Only wealthy ladies of leisure could afford the time and money to have their nails shaped and polished.

Rich socialites would spend hours getting portraits painted onto their nails.

Working-class women of the 1920’s generally had rough hands.

Regular women also had chipped nails due to the type of work and chores they did.

The 1920’s was the first time that ordinary women got encouraged to use nail polish.

It was marketed as a way to elevate your social status.

How did women paint their nails in the 1920s?

So how did women paint their nails back in the jazz age?

Well, the most popular style was “The Moon Manicure”.

Moon Manicure 1920s style nail polish design https://nailhow.com/what-color-nail-polish-was-popular-in-the-1920s/

It’s basically a thick horizontal stripe across the center of each nail.

The half-moons at the bottom of the nails, and also the tips, are left bare.

The “Moon Manicure” was popular because of the bare tips.

Leaving tips bare meant that your manicure would last longer.

This nail art was actually quite hard to do!

So if you wanted the “Moon” mani, you would have to visit a professional nail artist.

Recreating this authentic 1920’s nail art is quite easy nowadays.

All you need are some french manicure guides and some hole-punch stickers.

How to paint your nails in true 1920’s style

Here’s a step-by-step guide to re-creating the most popular 1920’s nail art style.

The “Moon Manicure”:

  • Prepare your nails as normal. Buff, file and push the cuticles back.
  • Paint on a layer of base coat and let it dry completely.
  • Use hole punch stickers (you can get these at any stationary store) to cover the half- moons at the bottom of each nail.
  • Use French manicure guide stickers to cover up the tips of your nails.
  • Paint the bare parts of each nail. Pale pink is the most authentic color. Lighter coats are better. A thick coat will be more likely to seep underneath the stickers.
  • Wait for the polish to dry.
  • Carefully remove all stickers.
  • Add a topcoat and you’re done!

Final thoughts

Well, that’s it!

A complete guide to 1920’s nails.

I hope you enjoyed reading about what color nail polish was popular in the 1920’s.

Have fun experimenting with 1920’s nail colors, and definitely give that “Moon Manicure” a try!

Other posts you might find useful:

What color nail polish goes with a black dress? Full Guide.

14 nail polish colors that go with any outfit!

Best acrylic nail brands: the most popular brands for acrylic nails.

How to match nail polish colors to your skin tone perfectly.

What Color Nail Polish Should A Bride Wear? Complete Guide.

What’s the best acrylic nail brush? My top 8 recommendations.

What color nail polish goes with a green dress? Ultimate guide.

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  • Phoebe Meadows

    Phoebe Meadows is a self-proclaimed nail addict, always on the lookout for the latest trends and techniques. When she's not creating stunning nail designs, you can find her researching the latest nail care products or experimenting with new techniques.