The curious thing about classics it’s that they seem timeless, but of course what is now a universal staple was once a passing trend. While red lacquer nails can be part of your everyday beauty look in any season, regardless of the decade, it hasn’t always been the case.
In fact, it’s widely recognized that the ubiquity of red manicures emerged from World War II when American women found themselves on factory assembly lines building munitions, planes and armored tanks – if you imagine Rosie the Riveter, you’re exactly on target. In his concise history of red nail polish for British vogue, author Francesca Segal believes that the dominant red at the time was probably Revlon’s Cherries in the Snow or Scarlett Slipper. “Smart, crimson-tipped fingers were busy winning the war,” she explains, concluding that a love of makeup and a commitment to hard work weren’t mutually exclusive and that red fingernails were iconic for to do work.
Today, all kinds of people can be found sporting crimson polish, with or without the red lip that came with it in Rosie’s days. Whether it’s running errands, working overtime, overseeing a business empire, or even garnering congressional votes like Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Corteza perfectly polished red manicure is a coup de force: red nails mean business.
Of course, some 70 years after red manicures became a trend, the color has become a classic. However, this is not a unique situation. With literally hundreds of different shades and variations of red nail polish, it’s possible to find the perfect shade for you. Keep scrolling through 26 of the best red nail polishes of all time (plus some special recommendations from three nail industry experts), and we’re sure you’ll find your new favorite.
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