Most Iconic Stars of the 20th Century, and Their Signature Nails

Today we have celebs like Cardi B and Kylie Jenner to thank for viral nail trends. They’re responsible for bringing styles like ultra-bedazzled extensions and cow print nails to the masses, and it’s easy to see why, in the age of Instagram, it’s so easy for these influencers to turn the tide of nail trends.

Pre-social media, the nail trends of the stars still had major reach. The trends may have lasted for years rather than having a fleeting fifteen minutes of fame, but they still became iconic markers of their generation.

Here at Nailista, we’re taking a look back at some of our favourite starlets of the 20th century, and their chosen manicures, for a little vintage inspiration!

Decade: 1900s

Name: Camille Clifford

Known For: The belle of the Edwardian stage, this famous actress was known as ‘the Original Gibson Girl’ for her distinctive chingnon’d hair and S shaped corset.

Her Nails: Colourful nails were considered vulgar in this time period, Camille rocked short, neat and shiny nails which proved you were ‘too wealthy’ to toil in manual labour. Her nails were likely covered in a coat of clear nail enamel for shine.

Decade: 1920s

Name: Josephine Baker

Known For: One of the first internationally recognised African-American showgirls who found recognition and fame in France with the Folies Bergere.

Her Nails: Post-war most Western nations quickly recovered and there were a few wild years of glamour, glitz and extravagance. The flappers of the 1920s would have worn a pale pink or a red, with an oval shape and no colour on the half moon.

Decade: 1930s

Name: Jean Harlow

Known For: Being the original Blonde Bombshell, Harlow was a big inspiration for Marilyn Monroe, and starred in many of the most glamorous movies of the silver screen.

Her Nails: Oval, elegant and red, with the cuticle area half moon left clear.

Decade: 1940s

Name: Betty Grable

Known For: Being the iconic pin-up girl for the American troops fighting overseas in WWII.

Her Nails: Patriotic, bright cherry red. Longer and more towards an elegant almond shape.

Decade: 1950s

Name: Grace Kelly

Known For: Being a timeless Hollywood actress turned Princess of Monaco when she married Prince Ranier in the wedding of the century.

Her Nails: Pale, peachy pink in a pretty and neat almond shape. Grace wasn’t as flashy as her decade counterparts Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor, but she was more often imitated by the everyday women of the 1950s.

Decade: 1960s

Name: Jean Shrimpton

Known For: Being one of the first supermodels, she was the doe-eyed darling of 1960s fashion and beauty brands, she was always seen sporting the 60s mod fashions in white tights, slipper shoes and mini skirts.

Her Nails: Although she famously appeared in this Revlon Ad with bright red nails, Shrimpton was actually most often seen sporting nude and tan talons, a real marker of the transition into the non-traditional 60s.

Decade: 1970s

Name: Cher

Known For: Half of the musical duo Sonny and Cher, Cher became a solo superstar in her own right. Her style epitomised the 1970s, with sequin catsuits, a California tan and drippings of sparkling glamour.

Her Nails: Cher pioneered long, squoval nails. Before the 1970s most women opted for elegant, natural length almond nails, and this was a severe departure from tradition. Cher also often wore French style nails or painted them white, as a sharp contrast to her tan.

Decade: 1980s

Name: Grace Jones

Known For: Powerful, sexy, androgynous style. Grace was one of the pioneers of 80s fashion, where fashion gender constructs were being teared apart at the seams.

Her Nails: Long, square, masculine and strange, a sharp contrast to the feminine nude nails of other 80s icons such as Molly Ringwald and Madonna.

Decade: 1990s

Name: Gwen Stefani

Known For: Being the front woman of Ska-Punk band No Doubt, her rebellious, girl-power led style was adored by legions of 90s teens. She was the anti-Britney, and soon conquered a solo career.

Her Nails: Girly, but punk. Long, bright shocking pink, designed to make an impact. With her nails the focus of every shot of her singing on the mic, she started some major nail trends.

Decade: 2000s

Name: Rhianna

Known For: Being the definitive soundtrack of the 2000s, Rhianna constantly dominated the charts. Her style started hair trends, fashion trends and nail trends, and she remains a beauty business force to be reckoned with to this day.

Her Nails: The 00s were all about more is more, so nails had to be long, fake and embellished too. Swarovski had a major moment, leaving stars with dazzling talons more expensive than jewellery.

Which star is your nail icon? Fancy imitating your favourite trend? Contact us with your inspiration to get a quote and book in!