Once again it seems the fashion world has caught on to something black women have been doing for years and turned it into a trend. Everywhere you look, women are proudly showing off nail art from DIY creations to intricate designs painted, glued, and pressed on at salons. It’s being featured in high-fashion magazines, the New York Times, and touted as one of the hottest trends of the year, but a few people are calling the industry’s bluff.
“It’s something that’s been around forever in the black community,” NY Magazine beauty editor Aja Mangum told Buzzfeed Shift. “You used to associate it with being a little ‘hood’ or ‘ghetto fab.’ Now white women are tricking out their nails and it’s not seen that way.”
She’s definitely got a point. At the beginning of the acrylic nail craze, it was black women signing up for airbrush designs, getting charms attached to their nails, and sporting wild colored patterns and designs that you wouldn’t catch “certain people” in. But truth be told, there’s not much difference in those styles and the neon geometric shapes or animal patterns you’ll find in a pack of press on designs being modeled on a white set of hands in Sephora. What was once seen as a hot ghetto mess is now being touted as a haute mess because other women have taken a liking to it.
Fashion critic Robin Givhan has a different take on why nail art has suddenly become trendy to the masses. She says, “Maybe it crossed some class line, as opposed to having crossed a racial line … You have to be very careful in claiming that any group of people owns a look, or claiming that you have to pay homage to them.”
In reality it could be said that Asian nail technicians are the ones who truly made the style hot since they were often the ones putting these creations on black women—although black nail techs also deserve credit. But if we’re going to talk about where this trend was first seen and grew in popularity you don’t have to look much further than black women—and it certainly wasn’t just black women from lower socioeconomic standing as Robin’s comment implies. The issue isn’t that the industry needs to pay homage to the originators of the style, whoever they may be, but acting as though they created the nail craze we’re seeing today is false. The thing is, black women have always been comfortable enough to rock these styles no matter who turned their nose up at it, and that fearless trendsetting is something that should be paid homage to.