the weird, wonderful history of nail polish

calling all lacquerheads!

Photo by Jamie Nelson

“An old friend of mine once said, ‘When you greet someone, the first thing you do is look into their eyes and the next thing you do is reach to shake their hand,’” says Deborah Lippmann, founder of her own nail line, The Deborah Lippmann Collection—and manicurist to Lady Gaga, Martha Stewart, and Sarah Jessica Parker. “That has stuck with me. It’s important to make a good impression and have well-groomed hands and nails.”  

She’s not alone in this opinion. Some women say they don’t feel like themselves without buffed ridges and a shiny coat of polish: Chipped nails can be the equivalent of visible roots or leaving the house without mascara. And perfectly polished toes, even when they’re nestled beneath socks, somehow makes us feel put-together. With endless options, there’s a nail color to help everyone take on the world one step (quite literally) at a time. “OPI has more than 200 classic shades and we develop 60 or so new shades every season,” says Rebecca Brown, a PR associate at OPI, one of the world’s most iconic nail brands. 

To nail down why polish holds such a special and prevalent place in our cabinets, we took a look at lacquer over the years and spoke with a few of the industry’s innovators.