What makes a killer mani? Dope nail art or 3D-bling? A milky, tiger’s eye finish or wire-infused design? Sure, all of these elements of the latest manicure trends are enough to get Instagram going. But the often-overlooked component to the coolest manicures ever (think: those worn by Jackie Kennedy, Diana Ross, and Kate Middleton) has nothing to do with polish shades or next-level nail art. Instead, it’s about nail shape — as in round, oval, squoval, stiletto, coffin, and square.
“People actively match their nails to their mood or to the fashion trends of the time,” says Sarah Gibson Tuttle, founder of Olive & June, an LA-Based salon that counts Drew Barrymore, Jessica Alba, and Emma Roberts as fans. “As a fashion trends change, you start to see that nail shapes also match those trends.”
For example, round and almond nail shapes become more stylish as fashion and beauty trends swing more feminine, Gibson Tuttle notes. Sure enough, these shapes ruled in the era of the bombshell (the 1950s and 1960s) and are returning to style today. “In the ‘90s, a shorter and more square nail shape was popular. The look was very minimalist and clean — and such a severe reaction to the long, painted nails of the ‘80s,” she notes.
Though certain eras are indubitably linked to specific nail shapes, today’s styles are all over the map. Celebs like Heidi Klum go for a more modern coffin-shaped nail, while Cara Delevingne opts for squoval. Katy Perry, Rihanna and Jennifer Lopez all bounce from one shape to the next with such speed, it’s impossible to keep track of what shape is favored. The good news? There has never been a better time to experiment with your own nail shape, too.
“It is just like trying on a new style of clothing,” Gibson Tuttle says. “Everyone should try on different shapes. You will be shocked by how different your nails look and how much you like it or dislike it.” The nail pro, for one, was surprised by what changing from a square to an almond shape did to affect the look of her hands. “It absolutely makes my very, very large hands look daintier,” she says. If one of LA’s top leaders in the nail world can learn from such epiphanies, then the only thing getting in between you and your next best mani may be your current shape. Ahead, see how celebrities past and present wear different nail shape trends, and prepare to go in a different direction the next time your technician asks how you want to be filed.