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The French Manicure: Elegance at Your Fingertips
You’ll find the simple yet chic french manicure on many salons’ service lists. Check out our study of the methods and history behind this distinctively elegant design.
One of the most-requested nail designs around the world, the french manicure eschews the showiness of a vibrant color for a subtle, more natural look: understated yet elegant nails adorned with precisely painted white tips. Although the simple design may look effortless, it requires a keen eye and a steady hand to pull off effectively. After applying pink, beige, or nude polish across the nail, manicurists tackle the manicure’s hallmark tips. Some bold technicians might prefer to freehand the process, but many will rely on a template, either attaching a stencil or coloring the back of the nail’s free edge with a white crayon. They then color them in using white nail polish, making sure to paint only the small part of nail that extends beyond the finger itself. Once completed, the style’s unassuming simplicity makes it a worthy complement to all manner of outfits, from everyday casualwear to glittering overalls fit for a red-carpet gala.
The origins of the french manicure are unclear. Some insist it began in French salons in the 19th century, whereas others argue it didn’t surface until the 1930s, when Max Factor—considered by some to be the father of modern cosmetics—used a similar design to offset the overly moisturized hands of the Parisian noblesse. Its recent popularity, however, is likely thanks to Jeff Pink, founder of Orly nailcare. He claims to have invented the look in 1975 after being approached by movie and TV directors who were searching for a universal nail style that could adapt to multiple wardrobe changes. After taking it to the runways of Paris, where it became an even bigger hit, Pink rebranded it the “original French manicure” and trademarked the name in 1978. Regardless of who invented the design, the distinctive manicure continues to stand the test of time, gracing women’s hands and peacocks’ claws the world over.