But it’s not what you think. We’ve seen French manicures all over the runways for the past few seasons now — but basic they are not. Gone are the white tips with nude-polish topcoats that were a staple in every sorority from the ’90s to the aughts. Instead, we’re seeing manicurists breathe new life into contrast tips thanks to colors, metallics, graphic shapes, and negative space.
And it’s trickling down from the catwalk to the nail salon. “We’re definitely seeing a recurrence of the French manicure,” says Eleanor Langston, CEO of Paintbox. “But it’s more updated and modern. We’ve done many evolutions of this design over the past year-and-a-half.” (Like the one pictured here.) Ahead, we take a look back at where the French mani came from, how much it’s changed, and the endless possibilities to come.
Natural nails with white tips date all the way back to the 1800s, when women would use a bit of lemon juice or vinegar to brighten just the tips to a crisp white (they were all about purity back then). But it wasn’t until the 1970s that the term “French manicure” was born — and it wasn’t in France.
Rumor has it that the founder of Orly, Jeff Pink, first created the white tip with a nude overlay so the ladies of Hollywood could have one nail look on a movie set that would match all their costumes. He then took the nail to the Paris runways, where it became the top choice of designers as well, and thus he named it the French manicure — though some people say he did it because adding the descriptor “French” to anything instantly makes it seem chic.
But let’s not forget that French manicures with major (often square-shaped) tips, like the ones Jennifer Lopez is sporting here, were a thing, too.
But despite the trendsetting capabilities of Mr. Karl Lagerfeld, the classic version was out. As nail guru Miss Pop tells us: “The classic nude-and-white French isn’t making a comeback. It’s being reimagined.” The look at Tibi that season was close to the classic, but the tip was wider and had a wavy pattern.
“The French manicure, in any color, is an extremely flattering design on a round or oval nail,” says Miss Pop. “Because it is so natural, it’s a shape I often draw inspiration from.” Looks like the Rebecca Minkoff fall 2015 show did just that, too.
The nails at this Tadashi Shoji show prove that an updated French manicure can work on square tips, too.
“The majority of Paintbox’s nail-art designs are actually inspired by a French manicure,” says Langston. “It’s one of the fundamentals of nail art that will always be evolving and becoming more modern and chic.” Here — at Jeremy Scott fall 2015 — it’s certainly both modern and chic.
“We find that our simplest designs are often our most popular ones, as many of our clients are new to nail art,” says Langston. “A French manicure in a new, updated way is a great entry into nail art.” At Monique Lhuillier, we saw the perfect gateway nails: French manis with green Morgan Taylor Lacquer tips.
The nails at Rodarte were courtesy of Miss Pop herself, using OPI. “I created a gold French tip combined with a silver ruffian French, or reverse French, along the cuticle line,” she explains. “Together, the two framed the nail in a two-tone metallic… I then added a sheer, peach nude wash over the entire nail to tone down the bright metallic and make the nails seem like vintage jewelry.” Gorge.