When it comes to nail color, there are certain shades that stand the test of time and remain classics. Nude and neutral pinks, reds, and French manicures are staples that have been popular for decades. But is there one nail color in particular that deserves the title of “most classic”? Let’s take a closer look at some of history’s most iconic and beloved nail polish colors.
The History of Nail Polish
Nail polish first became popular in the 1920s, when automobiles became more common and women started driving. Before then, most people kept their nails short and bare. As women began showing their hands more while driving, they wanted to make their nails look pretty and started coloring them.
Some of the earliest nail polishes were made from car paint and other toxic chemicals. More nail polish brands emerged in the 1930s, offering safer formulas in bright, dynamic shades inspired by Hollywood starlets. Reds, pinks and oranges were very fashionable during this era.
During World War II, rationing of supplies like nylon led to DIY beauty trends like painted nails. The 1950s saw the rise of neutral pinks and reds as the most fashionable shades. Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe famously wore a bright red shade called “Sequoia Red.”
Nail art became popular in the 1960s and 1970s, but French manicures also emerged during this time. Nude and natural nail looks grew in popularity in the 1990s, which brings us to some of today’s most classic shades.
Nude – A Perennial Favorite
One color family stands out as the most universally flattering and timeless nail color: nudes. Nude polish provides a clean, neutral palette that complements any skin tone. The versatility of nudes makes them a mainstay in women’s makeup bags decade after decade.
There are many shades that fall under the nude umbrella. Some of the most popular include:
|Milk/Skin Nude||Ultra pale, matches fair skin|
|Ballet Slipper||Soft pinky beige|
|Blush Nude||Warm peachy nude|
|Mocha||Rich caramel beige|
These shades are flattering on most skin tones when worn on the nails. Lighter skin benefits from soft pink hues like ballet slipper. Darker complexions suit saturated mocha and caramel nudes. The options are versatile for matching any outfit.
Beyond classic creme nudes, there are modern takes like sheer jelly nudes that provide buildable coverage. Matte and glossy nude finishes are also available. This color family truly has something for everyone!
Red – The Color of Confidence
Vibrant red nail polish conveys a sense of power and confidence. There’s a reason why red carpets and red bottoms on Christian Louboutin shoes equate to glamour – red makes a statement!
Ruby reds like Rihanna’s iconic shade have remained a popular choice for decades. Blue-toned true reds are universally flattering. Orange-leaning corals and deeper oxblood shades provide modern takes on red that still feel classic.
Some of the best red nail color options include:
|True Red||Blue-toned primary red|
|Coral Red||Orangey-red cream|
|Oxblood||Deeper burgundy red|
|Ruby Red||Saturated blue-toned red|
Red nails connote confidence and glamour. There’s no wrong way to wear red, whether you prefer a deeper oxblood in fall/winter or a bright coral red in spring/summer. Red nails are always in style.
Pink – Pretty & Timeless
Few nail colors feel as sweetly feminine and pretty as pink. Both soft powdery pinks and bright bold pinks have maintained popularity through changing nail trends.
Pink nails show creativity and fun – this color can be played up as an accessory to any outfit. Some top pink nail shades include:
|Ballet Pink||Muted dusty pink|
|Blush Pink||Neutral rosy pink|
|Bubblegum Pink||Vibrant blue-toned pink|
|Hot Pink||Bright magenta pink|
Pretty in pink nails suit any season. Darker berry pinks work in winter, while bright pops of pink liven up spring and summer nail looks. There’s no going wrong with a classic shade of pink polish.
French Manicure – Elegance Defined
The French manicure encapsulates timeless elegance. This nail look features a sheer pink or beige base with white painted tips. It creates the illusion of longer, slimmer nails.
French manicures first emerged in the 1970s but remain popular today. Celebrities like Kim Kardashian have revived the trend by modernizing it with abstract art and sheer nude bases.
While white and nude French tips are classic, colorful bases and tips also provide a modern twist. Some fun French manicure ideas include:
|French Manicure Style||Description|
|Classic French||Sheer pink base, white tips|
|Reverse French||White base, colored tips|
|Rainbow French||Clear base, multicolored tips|
|Glitter French||Sheer base, glitter tips|
The French nail retains its reputation as one of the most elegant manicures. It works for any occasion from weddings to job interviews. This refined style will continue to be popular for years to come.
When looking at the most iconic nail colors throughout history, nude, red, pink, and French manicures stand out as perennial favorites. The versatility and timelessness of these shades cement their status as classics.
Nudes work on all skin tones and complement any outfit which explains their unwavering popularity decade after decade. Confidence-boosting reds and playful pinks evoke femininity and fun with just a sweep of the nails. French manicures define elegance in their simplicity and elongating effect.
While new trends will continue to emerge, these four nail color families have proven their ability to transcend time. They endure as the most classic shades representing natural beauty, boldness, sweetness and refined glamour. There is a reason they have stayed at the forefront of manicure trends. These colors flatter, bring joy and make a statement.
So next time you paint your nails, consider opting for one of these tried and true classic shades. You can feel confident knowing these colors will never go out of style.