The History of Nail Polish – 1940’s

By Inspirationail

The History of Nail PolishAs we’ve gone through our history of nail polish we skipped a few decades of the 20th century (just checking to see who’s been paying attention ;)). The 1940’s fill the gap and catch us up on the 20th Century.

Ancient Timeline Rundown

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

Rita Hayworth

The 1940’s was largely shaped by the war. Fashion and cosmetics stayed feminine but a need for practicality left women juggling their femininity with daily responsibility.

From Ancient to Modern Days

From the time of ancient Egypt, nails fell onto the back burner until the 20th century when during one pivotal decade the creation of glossy car paint and the newfound use of technicolor in the film industry changed the way women looked at nails.

Zora Neale Hurston

Wartime Fashion

The invention and mass marketing of nail polish formulas kept this war time era more colourful. All available resources were used for the war, so fashion had to follow function. Although dresses stayed super feminine, during work hours women wore trousers or overalls – a comfort they soon learned to appreciate. A strong duality existed in the modern woman of the 40’s, the need to remain feminine often battled with the toll of the daily grind.

The affordability of cosmetics allowed women to feel attractive – even when working heavy machinery.

40's Fashion

The Future of Nails

Looking towards nail trends of the future, in the 50’s they’ll fall in love with red, in the 60’s pastels came into vogue, in the 70’s nails got super deep and in the 80’s things went neon. In the 40’s it was popular to match nail colour with that of clothing or accessories and a much wider variety of colours were used.

Peggy Corday

Inspirationail Recommends

The 40’s was a time of cosmetic experimentation – this was an affordable way to remain a woman under any circumstances. We recommend bold shades and matching colours to get the ‘you can do it’ attitude of the time. Try Lady of the Lake, Sassy, Red Crystal, Lost Red, Navy Blue, Gunmetal Silver to Red or Rose. Be sure to also check out nail looks from other decades of the 20th century.


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