When my mother would hand me a Dollar General shopping basket to fill with pencils and three-prong folders for school, she'd catch me on the makeup aisle trying on French manicure nail sets and shoving them back into the boxes neatly. I wasn't allowed to get acrylic nails like all the older girls, so I figured Mom would compromise with press-on nails. Let's just say my checkout items were more scholarly and less stylish. Luckily, my circle of friends had extra ready-to-wear nails tucked away in their backpacks for me to get in on the fun. And this was a huge part of the appeal back then, according to MAC Cosmetics Senior Artist Keri Blair.
"In the '80s, having long, luxurious nails was a big trend, but not everyone could grow or maintain their nails on their own," says Keri B. "When press-on nails were introduced, women were empowered with the ability to change up their look in seconds flat."
She adds, "This ability to customize was seen all over fashion and beauty trends: Women were matching socks with their shirts, their makeup to their outfit, even Swatch had fun bright colored plastic watch bands and watch covers that were affordable and let you interchange the colors to customize your outfit of the day."
But with the advent of gel manicures and nail stickers, we can't seem to wrap our minds around the reemergence of press-on nails. From burlesque star Dita Von Teese's cherry red, half-moon versions to celebrity manicurist Kimmie Kyees' pink glitter Elegant Touch designs that Katy Perry wore to MusiCares tribute to Paul McCartney to MAC and Ruffian's couture take on the classic trend.
"With the nail industry growing in the double digits (up 67 percent in the last year) everyone seems intent on getting their hands on (all puns intended) on the latest and greatest in polishes, appliqués, stickers, gels and art," explains Keri B. "Nails are an affordable luxury and incorporating the notion that you can get a great looking, picture-perfect manicure, with no dry time -- well that could perk even the plainest Jane's interest"
How exactly do you wear fake nails without them looking fake? Thanks to advances in nail technology, brands are creating products that allow you to create a more custom fit through filing and buffing (without breaking a nail).
"I use nail tips frequently to try out new color combinations and nail art designs. They are like little canvases that open up an entire world of creativity," says Keri B. "Even trying out some fun DIY art like water marbling or creating gradient with polish press-on nails gives you a place to perfect your technique before committing to your own nails."
What do you think about press-on nails? Sound off in our poll and then shop the products in the slideshow below for a more modern look.
Meanwhile, check out Lady Gaga's press-on nails from her workshop at Barneys.