You Won't Believe How Much Celebrity Nail Shapes Have Changed

Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images.
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.”
Advertisement
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.
1 of 16
Photo: Alfred Eisenstaedt/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images.
Who: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

Nail Shape: Short & Square

True, Jackie Kennedy spent most of her time as first lady with hands covered in gloves or folded neatly in front of her, so as not to show the nails. But underneath it all, Kennedy wore a nail shape that’s long been favored by first ladies and royal types: short, unpolished nails with a square shape. The American icon also wore the style while working as a book editor in New York City.
2 of 16
Photo: Lance Jeffrey/AP/REX/Shutterstock.
Who: Diana Ross

Nail Shape: Square

Diana Ross has always worn her nail shape to match the style of the day. The long, rounder shape she wore in the ‘70s gave way to square acrylics, worn in the ‘80s.
Advertisement
3 of 16
Photo: Broadimage/REX/Shutterstock.
Who: Gwen Stefani

Nail Shape: Long & Square

Long, square nails are just as much a part of Gwen Stefani’s signature glam as is her platinum blonde hair. Here, she matches her nail color to Nickelodeon's signature shade of slime green, just for the network’s Kids' Choice Awards.
4 of 16
Photo: Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images.
Who: Grace Kelly

Nail Shape: Round & Short

According to Gibson Tuttle, round nail shapes can help make hands look more feminine. So it’s no wonder Grace Kelly kept her short nails filed into a rounded shape.
5 of 16
Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images.
Who: Elizabeth Taylor

Nail Shape: Round & Long

Elizabeth Taylor’s round, long nails added instant glamour to her look in 1949, though it's not like she needed it. Though she kept her nails short when off duty earlier in her career, the actress and activist became known for wearing ultra-long acrylics in the eighties.
6 of 16
Photo: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images.
Who: Kate Middleton

Nail Shape: Short & Squoval

For an updated take on the classic short, minimal manicure often worn by first ladies and royals, Kate Middleton opts for a clean, squoval shape.
7 of 16
Photo: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic.
Who: Beyoncé

Nail Shape: Stiletto

One way to make an already fierce nail shape look even more edgy? Paint stiletto-shaped nails in a metallic polish.
Advertisement
8 of 16
Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images.
Who: Katy Perry

Nail Shape: Squoval

Katy Perry is known for her off-the-chain manicures rendered in show-stopping lengths. But as the pop star’s hair has gotten shorter as of late, so has her manicures. Here, she opts for a simple squoval shape when celebrating Elton John’s 70th birthday last month.
9 of 16
Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images.
Who: Marilyn Monroe

Nail Shape: Long & Almond

How did Marilyn Monroe do bombshell off duty? With long, oval nails. But when it was time to slip into her onstage persona, the actress often wore nails filed to a slightly sharper, almond shape.
10 of 16
Photo: Moviestore Collection/REX/Shutterstock.
Who: Audrey Hepburn

Nail Shape: Oval

Audrey Hepburn’s pixie cut and ultra-fluttery lashes weren't the only beauty elements crucial to her gamine image: Medium-length, oval nails helped portray a flirty, delicate look.
11 of 16
Who: Cara Delevingne

Nail Shape: Squoval

In the early aughts, the squoval nail shape started to dominate the nail shape landscape, according to Gibson Tuttle. Instead of wearing nails in a short, square cut, edges were rounded a bit, for a more feminine edge. “People wanted to be more feminine and the squoval was born,” she notes, adding that the shape is still popular today.
12 of 16
Photo: Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic.
Who: Selena Gomez

Nail Shape: Stiletto

Nails filed into a point have been in and out of fashion since the ‘50s. Here, Selena Gomez does her part to keep them in style.
Advertisement
13 of 16
Photo: Stephane Cardinale/Corbis/Getty Images.
Who: Rihanna

Nail Shape: Stiletto

Like many pop stars, RiRi bounces between square, almond, and stiletto-shaped nails. But she gave the fine-point look an extra vote of confidence when outfitting models at her FentyxPuma Spring/Summer 2017 show with the long, claw-like shape.
14 of 16

My #WCW @jlo 💗

A post shared by Tom Bachik Nails (@tombachik) on

Who: Jennifer Lopez

Nail Shape: Stiletto

Jennifer Lopez is one of the strongest nail icons we have today. The star frequently switches up her mani style, but this sharp shape is an all-time favorite.
15 of 16
Photo: Karwai Tang/Getty Images.
Who: Heidi Klum

Nail Shape: Coffin

The coffin shape is one of the newer styles to emerge from nail culture. Here, Heidi Klum proves the tapered shape pairs perfectly with classic Oscar glamour.
16 of 16
Like this post? There's more. Get tons of beauty tips, tutorials, and news on the Refinery29 Beauty Facebook page. Like us on Facebook — we'll see you there!
Advertisement