The Shapes of Fall 2021: Claws, Coffins and Stilettos
Extreme lengths are what nails are now going to, as seen on Cynthia Erivo at the Met Gala (where she rocked silver talons covered in crystals) and the Emmy Awards, where New York nail artist Gina Oh created for her a new take on a ’90s French manicure, giving the look a “modern touch in a very elongated coffin shape with a swirly design in a new dark brown—perfect with her complexion.”
Also seen at the Emmys: more aficionados of stiletto-like nails, including Michaela Jaé Rodriguez; Emma Corrin, whose black claws poked through fingerless gloves; and Taraji P. Henson, who donned sharp, Swarovski-bedecked burgundy nails by Hollywood manicurist Temeka Jackson.
A few days earlier, at the Met Gala, Henson wore two different shapes of nails. “She wore one hand stiletto and the other skinny coffin,” says Jackson, who took three hours to create the look. “We did encapsulated art with silver dimension to give depth to the nails. There were 3D black roses handmade in the UK by artist Glam Susie, surrounded by Swarovski crystals, and a diamond ring charm that slides onto the nail, with gunmetal chrome polish on her toes.” (Jackson, who clients also include Alicia Keys, Wiz Khalifa and Saweetie, introduced her press-on CustomTNails collection in 2020.)
Nail artist Brittany Boyce though cautions that red carpet lengths may not translate well to reality: “Anything too sharp, especially when you start going into the holidays with dark colors, brings up witchy vibes. Maybe OK around Halloween, but hopefully not much longer!”
The Hot Shades of the Moment
Chrome colors are on the radar of Hollywood manicurist Kimmie Kyees and her clients: “Adele is wearing a bronzy chrome now. Rihanna has her toes done in a silver chrome [a new shade for her]. She literally has worn white on her toes since before I can remember and she never changes color,” says Kyees, who notes her client used Valentino Beauty Pure’s Gel Polish 100. “I didn’t do Lil Nas X for the Met, but he was all chromed out, and we did silver chrome for his album cover. I just did a chrome French on Iggy Azalea. So it’s a thing.”
Agrees Jackson, “The Met Gala was the most chrome nails I’ve ever seen in my career!” She also points to the comeback of ‘90s airbrushed stripes, dots and swirls and, for holiday, a plethora of plaids, charms, chocolate hues, and encapsulated glitters and leaves.
Meanwhile, Harry Styles’ U.K.-based manicurist Jenny Longworth is a fan of polish colors that “match your must-have accessories.” For example, “Match your nails to your Birkin with Hermès‘ new Orange Boîte nail enamel, reminiscent of the house’s trademark shade.” Or try The Gel Bottle Inc’s Bottega (sold to pros only), a shade similar to Bottega Veneta’s signature green. “The perfect match,” says Longworth, “to your favorite Cassette bag or Stretch sandals.”
The Guys With Head-Turning Man-i-cures
Gender-inclusive nail art is increasingly de rigueur for men on the red carpet, from Harry Styles and Lil Nas X to Ben Platt, Lil Yachty and Machine Gun Kelly.
Nail artist Boyce — who tends to the talons of Kelly and Megan Fox and launched her Nails of L.A. press-ons and wraps in 2020 — notes that the rapper’s signature is painting only one hand. In May, she created his wavy black-and-white checkered design and Fox’s coordinating edgy French manicure (a trend in itself) for the Billboard Music Awards as well as his over-the-top claws for the IHeartRadio Awards. “We created something that would match everything from his black leather jacket to his neon pink outfits,” says Boyce. “I bought as many spikes and chains as I could find and put it all together.”
And at the Met Gala in September, Platt accessorized his Christian Cowan denim with long nails in a swirl of four blue hues.
“It was Ben’s idea of using negative space with blue colors in the design,” says manicurist Michina Koide, who lengthened his nails with tips and used four shades of blue polish. “It was his first time having his nails done, and he is a total pro now.”
New this fall is Côte’s limited-edition Dear Evan Hansen nail polish duo, $30 with $4 of each purchase donated to The Jed Foundation for suicide prevention.
A version of this story first appeared in the Oct. 6 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.