Is LA's nail art obsession part of a vibe shift?
Writer and Holloway House member, Gabriela Ulloa, sits down with her nail tech, Anna Stimson, to discuss why people are so in love with their new kaleidoscopic nails
Monday 28 March 2022 By Gabriela Ulloa
During a time where not much can be controlled, there’s one thing I know to be certain. It’s something I count on each month and integrate into my budget without question: getting my nails done. Funds are allocated accordingly, schedules shift, but the fact that every three to four weeks I get a fresh set is a truth that in a world of unknowns I grip onto tighter than I should.
Planning out my next design is essentially equivalent to deciding what part of my personality I want to showcase. My Instagram saved folders burst at the seams filled with inspiration, while my DMs with friends consist of astrology memes and yep, you guessed it, nail art.
Roll your eyes, but I know I’m not alone. I mean, don’t take it from me, just pay attention next time you go to your favourite coffee shop, restaurant, turn on the TV, or just sit at Soho House. It’s all around you. The question isn’t if people are jumping on the nail art train, it’s why.
Nail art has taken over the world and, in our case, Los Angeles. We shouldn’t be shocked that our city in particular has become the stomping ground for sought-after nail techs and all people, be it men, women, and non-binary folks proudly sporting fresh sets like a badge of honour. After all, LA is and always will be a city that’s bursting with creativity.
And although some may see this as a ‘trend’, it most definitely is not. While nail art has now gone mainstream, it’s imperative to acknowledge its roots firmly planted within Black culture. For decades, long artificial nails have been proudly worn particularly by Black women, despite being called out by society as being ‘ghetto’. So, as we play with different designs, shapes and colours, we simultaneously must amplify and pay homage to where in fact our inspiration came from.
Call it a sense of self-expression coupled with feeling put together/ in control, but for me, nails are a non-negotiable that might appear superficial but have a deeper sense of purpose buried within my subconscious. Plus, it’s no coincidence that my obsession began at the start of the pandemic (although I couldn’t act on it), and only heightened when I quit my job and realised I could dress for myself. So, while I knew my why, I wanted to understand everyone else’s. Cue my favourite – and extremely professional – way of getting information: Instagram. I asked my followers why they’re obsessed with nail art and getting their nails done, in the name of journalism, of course.
The common denominators? A sense of liberation, femininity, creative self-expression, empowerment and self-love melded together with the added bonus that their nail tech acts as a stand-in therapist during their session. All themes I wholeheartedly stand behind. The next step, of course, was to reach out to the one other person on this journey of self-discovery: my nail tech.
Anna Stimson and I met a year ago thanks to a dear mutual friend and one of her long-time clients. It was love at first sight. Dozens of nail designs later and here we are, more in sync than ever. And because I deeply believe Anna knows best, I somehow convinced her to give me her take on just why nail art has taken over LA. Read on to find out.
Why do you think people are so obsessed with doing their nails?
‘I think it’s a combination of self-care and wanting to pamper yourself coupled with people just wanting to lean into artistic expression. It’s also just a great accessory to carry with you at all times.’
Why do you think nail art has taken off particularly in the last year?
‘It started in the 1990s and has been steadily on the rise. But since the use of social media and photo sharing, it’s put nail art in the position to be appreciated in its own lane now. Nail art was huge before my time with the OG tastemakers and trendsetters like Lil’ Kim, Dennis Rodman, Selena, and Olympic track star, Florence ‘Flo-Jo’ Griffith-Joyner who used to actually be a nail tech. But when the whole 1990s style wave made a comeback during the last few years, it definitely started to get more popular.’
In your opinion, why are the bonds between client and nail tech so strong?
‘The bond between a client and beauty professional is certainly a very special one. There’s a lot of trust and loyalty there. My clients always joke about how I double as their therapist, but they are also trusting me to execute the vision they have for their own beauty standards. When you look good, you feel good, and the feeling of getting a fresh set of nails is top tier.’
Where do you see the industry headed?
‘I think the fact that nails are becoming so much less of a “feminine thing” and more masculine/ for everyone/ art thing is the reason why the industry will continue to soar, and break beauty boundaries and societal norms.’
Next month we open our latest LA outpost, Holloway House. Find out more and apply for membership here.
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