Nail polish, like no other beauty product, has the power to distil the spirit of a season into one single shade. Unlike a red lip, which is always in fashion, even when it isn’t, each season has a nail shade that through some strange alchemy always feels exactly ‘right’ for right now.
Leading this phenomenon is Chanel; each season fashion folk lean forward eagerly to see what colour the model’s nails have been painted at the Chanel shows. When I see that Peter Philips, Chanel’s global creative director of makeup, has deemed jade, or mimosa yellow, or shell pink as The Colour for Fall 2009 or Spring/Summer 2012 or whatever, I think “Of course! That makes perfect sense!”
I don’t know how a single colour can capture the zeitgeist so precisely and powerfully, but Pantone manage it when they issue their ‘Colour of the Year’ (2013’s is ‘Emerald 17-5641’ if you were wondering) and somehow it always makes sense.
I like the fact that I can dip my toe into the new season simply by picking up a dinky bottle of polish and painting my nails in front of the TV. When SS/13 clothes are appearing in the shops but there’s still snow on the ground, the thought of embracing the new season’s fashions gives me goose bumps. With nail polish I can feel like I’m making a vague concession towards being ‘on trend’ with minimal effort.
Now you might notice I haven’t made any reference to nail art. That’s because I’m chiefly fascinated by the power of a single colour to set the mood for an entire season and also because my personal taste tends towards the chic simplicity of plain nail polish.
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing but admiration for those who can paint tiny watermelons or the Mona Lisa or whatever on their fingertips, but it’s not for me – I don’t have the skill, patience or inclination. I’d much rather cheerfully blob a hot shade on my nails and be immediately and sneakily up to date. Lazy girl beauty rules ok!
So this season Chanel’s Fracas (£18, harrods.com) is the shade to own but I’m not quite ready for this lovely warm pink; instead I’ve got MAC’s soft, pearly Quiet Time on right now. It’s like the inside of an oyster shell, gentle, refined, somehow Edwardian – like dove grey suede gloves – and very calming.
Anyway, as the days start to get longer I probably will feel like wearing a peachy-pink nail polish and Fracas is the one. I have no problems with spending £18 on this stuff; loathe as I am to use that naff magazine formula of ‘sacrifice your morning latte for three hundred weeks and then you’ll be able to buy that Prada handbag!' in this case, it’s true. If I didn’t buy coffee for two weeks, I could get that posh little bottle of season-specific polish and feel smug for months. Totally worth it.
Plus it reminds me of when I bought my first ever bottle of Chanel polish – the legendary Rouge Noir (No. 18 - the granddaddy of collectible nail shades) – and felt a little like Uma in Pulp Fiction at my school leaver’s ball. Anyway, if you decide not to opt for the Chanel pink, there are plenty of alternatives that are just as much fun and here's my pick of the best...
Priti NYC's 'Love Lies Bleeding' is probably my favourite from this selection, firstly because of its ridiculously melodramatic, Morrissey-esque name, secondly because it most closely resembles Chanel's Fracas, being a dirty peachy-pink and finally because Priti polishes are 3-free and as eco-and-human-friendly as polishes can be.
What shade are you wearing on your nails right now? Tell me in the comments below and BTW, don't forget to follow us on Instagram for more photos of my nails and other fun!