Photographed by Phoebe Chuason.
Those of us who spend our professional (and, okay, emotional) lives in Nail Polish Land don't blink at someone else's encyclopedic knowledge of discontinued polishes or enthusiasm for tracking down certain cult shades. We don't even think the fact that there are such things as "cult shades" is news — it's just how it is, right? Well, leave it to The New York Times to point out that we're all pedicure-deep in a
gritty sparkly subculture of nail polish worship, complete with its own jargon.
According to the story, "Obscurity Is the Lure," the hard-to-find polish fervor has escalated along with the rise of the beauty blogosphere. Nail-polish fanatics have developed a highly interactive world in which colors are tested, swatched, and hunted. Though the article refers to the collectors as "lemmings," we had a collector contact us to note that lemmings are actually the hard-to-find polishes themselves, not the people collecting them. The collectors self-identify as "lacquer-heads" or "polish addicts."
The Internet has become a place where you can refer to a certain discontinued Essie color by an abbreviation and count on your audience knowing what you're talking about (Starry Starry Night, for example, is often referred to as SSN). Then, of course, there is Clarins 230, a discontinued shade so hard to find that collectors have taken to calling it "Unicorn Pee." And, paying $150 for it on eBay.
The Times reports that people are coughing up as much as $250 on eBay for SSN. But, it translates into real life, too. Nail-polish hunters search for polishes at flea markets and garage sales, and there's even a recurring party in the East Village for those who love discontinued shades.
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