Trap of the Day: Nail Art

As we’ve already established, I don’t always engage in the most high brow of activities when it comes to entertainment. I try to keep my life constructive, though, and since there is only so much statistics homework for me to do while half-watching episodes of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills/Atlanta/New York/New Jersey,” I’ve taken up the hobby of nail art to keep myself productively occupied during TV time. And I’m certainly not the only one–the internet has increasingly been churning out stories, images, and tutorials of nail art, documenting its creativity from the runways of NY Fashion Week to the living rooms of enthusiastic DIY-ers.

While committing to professionally done nails can be pricey, nail art created at home can be a fairly inexpensive, and even easy, endeavor. With its seemingly endless potential for personalization, polish has a bit of something for everyone–it can be used to express support for a favorite sports team, profess love for a particular movie or TV show, or simply celebrate a current season or holiday. Those with more scientific inclinations can experiment with the curious powers of magnetic nail polish, or attempt to place the universe at their fingertips (my personal favorite, and a deceptively easy style to recreate). And though nail polish is still a product mostly segregated to the lives of women, instances of men showing off their own artistic nails have popped up as well (a fact that makes my gender-studies-loving, liberal-feminist-identifying heart beat extra happily).

The trend isn’t without its critics and non-believers, though, as one Jezebel writer bluntly puts it, “What is the point of nail art?” Given the highly temporary nature of nail polish, the art form definitely has its downsides (nothing like spending two hours painting tiny owls onto your nails only to try to open a bottle of ketchup later that day and have poor Thumb Owl’s feet peel completely away. First World Problems!). And the issue of why a trend that already has a long history in some subcultures is only gaining coverage now that it’s popular with middle-class white folks deserves its own round of articles entirely.

Still, to me nail art remains an easily-accessible promoter of female (and hopefully someday all-gender!) bonding, with the added bonus of pushing a popular cosmetic product away from its usual use as a tool of self-objectification and more towards a popular medium for self-expression. And the internet backs me up here, with one Jezebel commenter sharply summing up the issue by firing back, “What is the point of any art?”

A perfect philosophical question to contemplate while recreating van Gogh’s “Starry Night” in miniature on your thumbnail.


Leave a Reply