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80s Nails and 90s Nails, Here’s Proof That Nail Trends Are Cyclical

Believe it or not, nail styles haven’t always remained the same. We know – shocker, right? Despite the fact that we’ve embraced a real “anything goes” attitude to nails, it’s taken us a while to get there. Before the days of scanning Instagram for the latest designs, the most fashion-forward of us were instead … scanning the headlines and tabloids for the latest designs. 

Okay. 

So maybe we haven’t changed that much.

The thing, is just because our avenues for chasing trends have changed, does that mean nail styles have? After all, fashion has proven to be cyclical. We’ve dug up a few examples from the archives – read on to find out about the evolution of trending nail styles from the 1980s to now.

1. the 1980s – Long squoval nails.

Instagram / @team187fitness

Madonna led the trend on these ones by decking her nails out in neon in her smash hit video clips. But, it was US Olympian Florence Griffith-Joyner who really owned the long squoval nails. In 1988 she set two words records at the Seoul Olympics while sporting some real blinged-out nails. She didn’t necessarily go down the Madonna path, though, and had forgone the neon in favor of a diamanté style.

2. 1980s – Lee Press-On Nails Launched

Instagram / @stilettomoons.london

1985 was the year that Lee Press-On Nails launched, and we haven’t looked back since. Let’s face it: these were a game-changer. We no longer had to sit in salons, waiting for someone to slap layers of chemicals and product onto the ends of our fingers to achieve that hella stylized look. Did the introduction of Lee Press-On Nails stop us from continuing to go to salons? Uh, no. But, at least they’re definitely a cheaper, and quicker, alternative.

3. 1990s – Moon manicure

Instagram / @erve_nailart

1992 saw the rise of the moon manicure nail – a throwback to the 1930s nail fashion of the same name. The traditional version of this style is basically a reverse French manicure: the white tip is instead painted over the cuticle, and the color is painted towards the tip of the nail. These days we see some pretty awesome iterations of this style, with tiny detail etched into the half-moon of polish that covers the cuticle.

4. 1990s – Bold Nail Art

Pinterest / @Lj Marles

Remember the days when Missy Elliott graced our ears with regular hits on the radio? Does anyone even remember listening to the radio? Well, Missy Elliott wasn’t just a pioneer in the rap scene, she also inspired the bold nail art trend, back in the ‘90s. Her contemporary, Lil’ Kim, also boosted the trend by wearing dollar bills encased in acrylic. Yeah, imagine being that loaded that you can just shred your money and wear it on your nails

5. 1990s – Dark nail polish on short nails

Instagram / @ginnie_sp

Uma Thurman’s nails caused quite a stir as one of the stars in the 1994 film Pulp Fiction, starting the craze for Chanel nail polish in Vamp. Do we still dig Uma Thurman’s kinda gothic, look? Yes. The answer is definitely yes. Especially when it comes to Halloween; it’s one of the easiest costumes to pull off when you’re stuck for ideas. Just remember to do your nails!

6. 1990s – Delicate, rounded squares

Instagram / @theroyalhistorian

Considered demure and feminine, these were made popular by Princess Diana. Is it possible that Princess Diana influenced the shape of our nails for weddings these days? Highly likely. But, it’s less likely that she’s influenced the color. After all, how often do we see a bride with a raucous red on her nails? 

7. 1990s – Crackle Lacquers

Instagram / @_anairamis_

CoverGirl was the first to launch a line of nail polishes that created a broken-glass effect on nails, way back in 1999. The idea was that it allowed us nail fashion freaks to let our flag fly and rock a few shades at once. Although, if you’re not careful, you may end up with a look that screams “scratched at her nail polish and wrecked it”. If you’re game, chances are you can still grab yourself a bottle of crackle lacquer these days – from Astra.

8. 2000s – Crisp right-angled nails

Pinterest / @Ange Grant

Early 2000s Britney knew where nail fashion was at! She was showing off her crisp right-angled nails in her music videos way back when, and of course, we couldn’t get enough of it. If you want to channel your inner Britney Spears, consider not only delving into the crisp right-angles but also using a shade of real icy white with glitter.

9. 2000s – Mood Nail Polish

Pinterest / @Katherin M

Otherwise known as PMS nail polish, mood nail polish was designed to change color based on your mood. We all know the real secret behind it – that the nail polish changes color based on your body temperature – but it’s still cool to think that you’ve basically got a mood detector on the ends of your fingers. It makes it that much more satisfying when you want to flip the bird at someone.

10. 2000s – Embellished nails

Instagram / @Michele Bonnet

Beyonce’s gold Minx nail foils started this nail trend in the late-2000s. Ornamented nails became a  really good way for people to express themselves, and it even became a huge trend for fashion runways, as well! Are we surprised that Beyonce the trend-setter responsible for this shift on the nail fashion landscape? Nope.

11.  2010s – Minimalist designs on natural-shaped nails

Instagram / @safinailstudio

After embracing some pretty wild looks for so long, it makes sense that we were going to go back to having some more minimalist nail designs. The natural-shaped nail complemented this change, and it meant that everyone could breathe a sigh of relief and not have to put in too much effort. Although, you still have to put in a little effort. Kinda like natural makeup: you have to put on at least three layers before you can make yourself look like you didn’t put on any makeup at all!

12. 2010s – Stiletto nails

Instagram / @slayxbeauties

We all know that stiletto heels are a sharp look. But, you know what’s even sharper? Stiletto nails. Although, you could reallynail that sharp look by pairing stiletto heels with stiletto nails. Anyway, the best part about having nails extra as the stiletto shape is that you have the perfect excuse to make the design as extra as possible, too!

13. 2010s – Gel manicures

Instagram / @fefethecreator

Gel manicures are definitely in vogue these days. They’re the kind of manicure that lasts much longer than the acrylic style. Which, if you can save time and money, as well as having hot AF nails for longer, that can only be a good thing, right? Plus, you can still design whatever styles you’d like with gel nails – it doesn’t matter that they’re not acrylic. Mucho bueno, right?

Which nail style is your favorite? Did you rock any of these looks yourself, back in the day? Or, are you wearing one of these styles already? Tell us about it on Twitter – you can find it by clicking on the logo at the top of the page.

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