The History of Nail Polish – 1930’s

By Inspirationail

The History of Nail Polishit’s a holiday week for a lot of us so we thought we’d continue our look at nail fashion of the 20th century. This is a highly sensuous decade filled with high glamour.

Ancient Timeline Rundown

The idea of colouring nails began in India during the Bronze Age where they stained their nails with henna, quickly the idea spread to Babylonia where different colours indicated social status. Around the same time in China they began to crush flower petals and create a wider range of colours. Later, the fashionable women of Egypt made red nails famous forever.

Delores del Rio

The 1930’s was a time of great change in the world and softer, super feminine style replaced the freer, more boyish look of the 20’s.

From Ancient to Modern Days

Since ancient Egyptian times people continued to stain, lacquer and manicure their nails. However until the 1920’s there really weren’t many notable advancements in the industry. The invention of glossy car paint and then technicolor had an undeniable effect on the nail industry.

Zora Neale Hurston

The Depression Era

The fashion for this decade was highly influenced by the Silver Screen as film was often the only colourful escape from the bleak economic times. During this era celebrity marketing came onto the scene for everything from fashion to cosmetics. The resulting trends were slightly more structured (without being constricting) and feminine in every way. The use of fine furs and artistic embellishments was still practised, but with far more subtlety than in the previous two decades.

More structured fashion is a direct reflection of the growing art deco craze. Nails either matched lips in bold shades or remained sweetly subdued with soft colours.

Mae Clark

The Future of Nails

Looking towards nail trends of the future, in the 50’s they wore red, in the 60’s pastels came into vogue, in the 70’s nails went natural or super deep and in the 80’s things went neon.
Although the idea of nail polish came to fruition in the 20’s, it wasn’t until 1932 that polish was mass marketed to the world. This happened during a time when the use of cosmetics as an affordable way to accessorize became commonplace.

Jane Wyman

Inspirationail Recommends

The 30’s was a time of subdued and dramatic accessories and cosmetics. Smaller bits of colour on nails & lips accessorized on a budget and popular nail shades (often matched with lipstick) bold red, pale rose, light pinks and subtle cream shades. Try Guinevere, Flirt, Reno, Lost Red, Sheer Bliss, Pinkalicious to Plum or French Pink. Be sure to also check out nail looks from other decades of the 20th century (don’t worry, we’ll fill in the holes).


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