Much has been made about the cultural differences between the French and Americans, and nowhere more so than within the fashion and beauty industries. Put anything about the “French Girl look” in a headline and readers will immediately know what it means: artfully undone, timelessly chic, and allegedly elusive to anyone without a French passport. Conversely, American style is defined by a mix of eclecticism and casualness — think lots of individuality and bright colors anchored by jeans and cotton. French style extends to the French manicure, too, with its crisp, precise lines and unchanged colorway. But the American manicure? Now that’s a different story.
There are two distinct varieties of this manicure, and they fall in line with how American style is typically described. For the most part, an American manicure typically refers to a more subdued, naturally-toned variation on a French manicure: “This is where the tip is a much softer, natural-looking white,” Michelle Humphrey, manicurist to celebrities like Dua Lipa and Priyanka Chopra, previously explained to TZR. “Very nostalgic and becoming a huge hit on the celeb circuit.”
Rather than stark white tips with standout pink nail beds, this stateside iteration often features off-white or cream tips with a far softer pink or nude base — essentially, the goal is to approximate a more polished (so to speak) version of real, unadorned nails. Often, when searching for inspiration on the style, you’ll see an almost ombré blend of off-white seamlessly bleed into a very pale pink — a popular take on the American manicure’s hallmarks.
Compare this American manicure celebrity nail artist Tom Bachik painted on for Lily Aldridge to a more traditional French manicure and the difference becomes a bit easier to spot — note the difference in the tips’ shade and brightness versus these classic French tips by Imarni Ashman:
However, a muted take on the original is just one way to get an American manicure. The other is a bit bolder, louder, more colorful, and undeniably fun — the American way, really. Colored nail tips are also considered American manicures, Bachik told Allure. “People can personalize this look with their favorite colors — whether all the tips are one color or every fingertip a different color,” he explained to the magazine, which fits considering a key element of American style, in general, is individuality.
This take on the American manicure is one that’s been spotted on celebrities with stunning regularity, even if the style’s not always labeled as such at the time. In September 2021 alone, some type of colorful tips were worn by Kourtney Kardashian, Megan Thee Stallion, Dua Lipa, Camila Cabello, Lizzo, Jasmine Tookes, and Anya Taylor-Joy — just to name a few.
But regardless of if you’re looking to opt for a traditional French manicure, a softer American pink-and-white combo, or adorning every nail tip in a totally different color, one thing’s for sure: it’s hard to imagine either type going out of style again — but that’s probably what everyone said back in the early ‘00s, too.
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