My nails have never been subtle. From the day I first discovered the term “squoval” as a teenager, my nails have been my pride and joy. Aged 14, lumbered with terrible skin and an unfortunate fringe, nails were my thing.
I’d file them every night and push back my cuticles. I’d apply oils and lotions to help cultivate perfect white half moons at the base. I’d buff them to a shine and spend hours perfecting a French Manicure. At one point, I aspired to be a hand model; the thought of not being able to do the washing up for professional reasons appealed to me greatly.
Circa 1998, word of an American nail polish brand called Hard Candy seeped into my consciousness. Alas, it was expensive and not easily available for a girl living 140 miles outside London. How I longed for matte pastel nails in soft shades of pink, blue and yellow! Then, thanks to my local subcultural emporium, I discovered Spectacular Nail Polish – this was when my love of the bad taste manicure began. For a mere two pounds a bottle, I had access a plethora of crazy colours.
There was simple black for when I was feeling gothic, glittery black for when I was feeling glam-gothic, and beautiful creamy pastels for when I was feeling all sugar and spice. The Rainbow Sparkle topcoat added a delightful element of kitsch to any colour. Rainbow Sparkle alone was near impossible for a teacher to detect, providing a handy route around my high school’s strict “no nail polish” policy.
My youthful dalliances with intensive hand grooming have served me well as an adult. I can grow long and strong nails that people often mistake for acrylics or wraps. The distinctive squoval shape has remained and I feel naked with short nails.
For the past few years I’ve shied away from loud colours or artistic effects, favouring classics like Chanel’s Rouge Noir or (when feeling frisky) Miami Peach. It was only last month that I rediscovered the joy of a bad taste manicure. I had impulsively purchased a bottle of Barry M’s Acid Yellow. Wow, it was bright. After three days of wearing it, I got bored and applied a coat of neon pink crackle topcoat. My nails looked insane and I loved it.
A few days later I got my nails painted professionally and opted for OPI’s Spark de Triomphe. My nails were transformed into blinged-out shimmering disco balls – fingertips of pure glitter that left trails of sparkle in their wake. They were so distracting that I found myself sitting at my desk and simply staring at them.
My most recent discovery has been 17 Nail Extras Matte Topcoat. That stuff can make the most “blah” colour look like a work of art. It reminds me of those custom paint-job Lamborghinis that you see in places with a high quantity of ostentatious millionaires. I’m all for ostentatious millionaire style nails, though I’d draw the line at Cherish Angula’s £31,400 diamond manicure.
The internet has made sharing awesome nails easy. There are Tumblrs full of extreme nail art. I’ve recently spent far too many hours gazing at pictures of nails studded with Swarovski crystals. I know how to create Missoni-style striped nails using the “needle pull” technique, I’ve watched tutorials on how to achieve a perfect ombre effect and I am currently craving a Wah Nails style "Mix and Match” manicure.
Extreme nail art is enjoying a fashion moment. For spring/summer 2012 Nail Rock created super-kitsch nursery inspired wraps for Meadham Kirchoff whilst Sophy Robson (she of awesome Dalmatian nail fame) provided glistening hieroglyphs for Topshop Unique.
Innovations by high street beauty brands and readily available online tutorials mean that such crazy effects aren’t only available in salons. With a steady hand and a good imagination, the bad taste manicure opportunities are endless.
Image via pumpkincat210's Flickr