1940s Vintage Nails – The polish, the shape, and more

vintage nails 1940s half moon polish style

How much can you really say about 1940s nail polish and shape? It turns out… quite a lot. As I dug into my magazines, I found more than I expected. So let’s get into it!

The common 1940s Nail Polish styles

The common nail polish styles of the 1940s was partly a carry over from the nail polish style popular in the 1930s. These were 3 versions of a decorative style with crescent shapes at the base and tip that were similar to each other. Women also wore a basic fully painted nail, as I describe below about nails and the war effort.

The half moon manicure with a clean tip was a common manicure style.

half moon 1940s manicure nail polish style
Half moon plus clean tip style
half moon manicure nail polish directions
half moon manicure nail polish directions

Or pick one end, either at the base or at the tip. A clean half moon with the rest of the entire nail painted…

Or paint the entire nail and wipe the polish off of the tip.

You might also like: Nail shapes of the 1930s

Easy hack for a Half Moon manicure

If you look at those half moon manicure instructions and think, “no way”… here is a hack. It’s French manicure stickers. Just stick them over the natural half moon on your clean nail and then paint over it and along the entire nail. You can even use them to cover the tip of your nail if you want to try the clean tip look. And if you have a little edge mistake you need to clean up, I have an acrylic nail brush that I cut to be rounded. Then I just dip in acetone and touch up any red polish.

Half Moon with French Manicure Stickers

Conservative Nails for the war effort

Many of my posts about beauty in the 1940s bring up the subject of the WWII war effort. The changes in the daily lives of women, rationing of manufacturing of beauty products, and the basic expectation of female behavior during this time affected a woman’s nail care routine.

Women were expected to keep up appearances for her own morale and those around her, but she shouldn’t be too garish or flashy. The conservative, no frills fully painted nail was just right for this, especially at work.

1942 1940s beauty magazine nail article wwii womans hands knitting a red cross sweater
1942 beauty magazine nail article

This 1942 nail article reads, “These hands knitting for an American soldier symbolize all the feminine hands engaged in countless phases of active work… loading munitions, welding rivets, driving motor trucks, performing any of the vital victory jobs American women are doing today.”

It goes on to read, “Nails are covered all over with a conservative polish, no moons and no tips for stronger wear, longer service.”

You might also like: Victory Roll Hairstyle History

This Revlon Nail Enamel advertisement appeared in beauty shop magazines during WWII. Beauty shops were hit hard when metal was rationed for the war effort. The salon magazine advertisements were still in business though. Ads like this one instructed salons to use war effort propaganda as part of their beauty services selling techniques calling this new, fully painted fingernail manicure the “American Way” manicure.

Revlon 1940s WWII nail enamel polish manicure advertisement womans hand and nails
Revlon 1940s WWII nail enamel advertisement

Vintage Nails Bedazzle… but it didn’t last long

I found a few of these vintage nail bedazzle ads, but nothing else about it. It is the only thing I could find in my research that was different from the crescent moon style or the full painted nail.

I am not surprised that it didn’t last long. This kind of decoration would have been seen as tacky considering the serious things that were happening in the world. It also wouldn’t have stayed nice looking for very long with all the work women were doing with the their hands. But I do love the little military insignias. Anyone else ever see these in their grandma’s vanity?

1940s vintage nail decal art military insignias wwii advertisement

1940s Pedicure

The feet were not to be outshined by the nails. The pedicure was still a nice way for a woman to destress. The style of the half moon is carried down here to the toes. I think this is going to be my next pedicure.

You might also like: 1940s Elegant Hair Accessories

Rita Hayworth – The most beautiful hands in 1940s Hollywood

Ever notice how many starlet photos of Rita Hayworth have her hands in them? Imagine what you are about to read in the voice of one of those entertainment radio news readers… “Named the most beautiful hands in Hollywood, Rita Hayworth stars in the latest film from Columbia Pictures.”

I don’t know where she got the title of “The most beautiful hands in Hollywood.” It was probably from the movie studio marketing machine, but it is an apt description. Her hands and nails were the 1940s ideal.

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1 Comment

  1. it’s interesting you post that detail shot. When i was a teenager and my grandmother would paint my nails, she’d always swipe a tiny sliver away from the end. i remember telling her no one wore it like that after she explained it was to help the polish last longer. now i wear it that way all the time – grandma was right (bless her!)

Comments are closed.

Welcome to the Bobby Pin Blog! I am Lauren Rennells and as a hairstylist, makeup artist, writer, and generally artistic over-achiever, the Bobby Pin Blog is my outlet for thoughts and research about vintage hair and makeup trends and how to recreate them today. Thank you for stopping by!

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