As the fashion for metro-sexuality continues to be popular, men are attracted to nail cosmetics. Men and make up have a long history which dates back to antiquity. In ancient Egypt (5000- 3500BC) nail painting was an art form and often included gold and nail charms. The art of nail sculpture and decoration was also practiced in Africa, hundreds of years ago. The Hausa from southern Sahara were so proud of their painted nails they wore turned up sandals to protect them. Both men and women painted their toe nails. In Egyptian times henna was often used to colour the hair, skin and nails.
It took until the 19th century for the fashion of nail painting to return and much of this was due to the invention of the orange stick (for getting to the ungetatable places). Resurgence of interest in the classical brought almond shaped finger nails to the fore. Nails were often tinted red and highly polished. Just as Queen Victoria was taking to her thrown, nail painting again became an art form and there were several professional journals to cater for the new fad. New salons sprang up all over catering for all incomes. Tinted creams or powders were popular and the shiny look very vogue.
In 1907 the first emery board appeared and by 1917 the dangers of damaging the cuticle was recognized and a new nail polish patented. The first beauty therapy magazine featured in 1922 and the fashion was to apply a single strip of nail paint avoiding the lunula and free edge. Etiquette books of the time warned women against painting their nails "garish colours". The first perfumed nail varnish was introduced in 1929 but this was unpopular and quickly withdrawn.
By the early thirties Charles and Joseph Revson with Charles Lachman created an opaque, non-streaking nail polish based on pigments rather than dyes. This made a variety of colours available and Revlon introduced the fashion of matching lip and nail co-ordinates.
A new lease of life was given to toe nail painting when shoe designers discovered how to make high heeled shoes without toe caps. The Peekaboo styles were made famous in the thirties and forties by many of the Hollywood sirens including Rita Hayward. She becomes a celebrated actress who preferred to wear her finger and toe nails, long. Her red polish establishes the fashion and new colours followed after the Second World War. This was in no short measure due to the advances in industrial chemistry associated with wartime.
New practices were developed for manicure and pedicure in the late fifties when Max Factor introduced a range of nail enamels. At first the pale look was the fashion but by 1960 coral overtook and set the trend for colourful nails. During this time false nails make their debut and like false eyelashes got longer and longer.
A decade later acrylic nails were introduced and nail sculpting became the happening skill. The square nail became vogue. And it was reported some women grew their own nails long and sold them at $10 per inch to women who wanted a more realistic look to their false nails.
By the 1980's nails were made from fiberglass and were often tipped in gold to look chic. False nails were now available with adhesive tabs for ease in application and removal. Wu-Tang Clan the rap, hip hop outfit was quick to see the commercial opportunity and incorporated into their lyrics reference to their painted nails. The group’s management set up a company (Wu Tang Nails) and released a new line in nail paints through Wu Nails.
In their New York salon you could choose from over a hundred colours as well as have the band's logo and members faces embossed on your own nails. According to their management, the Wu Tang Clan all have their nails varnished but prefer clear polish, top and tail.