The History of the French Manicure

Did you know that the French manicure is not French? It’s Californian.

Today, I got a French manicure and pedicure. As defined by Wikipedia, a French manicure is a manicure in which the nail tips are painted white while the rest of the nails are polished in a pink or a nude shade. Of course, a similar effect can be garnered with artificial nails, but you get the general idea.

Anyways, as I gazed at my beautiful nails, I wondered where this style of nail design came from. I did a little research and found out that the French manicure was invented in California, in a small suburb called Calabasas.

Jeff Pink, the founder of professional nail brand Orly, is credited with creating the nail design in 1976. According to this article on the New Beauty blog, he created this nail style for the actresses working in Hollywood studios.

During this period, actresses were spending so much time having their nails painted to match their outfits during scene changes that it was cutting into their directors’ precious filming time. To counter this problem, directors called upon Orly to create a nail style that would match whatever outfit the women wore. He created the nail style, and the rest is history.

The style grew more mainstream after Barbara Streisand’s appearance on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. On the show, she “raved about the French manicure in the same way today’s celebrities show off their nail art on the late night circuit.” Cher and other stars adopted the manicure and its popularity continues to this day.

The French Manicure is celebrated for its simplicity, its elegance, and its versatility. It’s ironic that such a classic manicure has such modern origins, but as someone whose personal style can be described as stylistically understated and practical, I still recommend the look.

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