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Seeing pop culture through nails

Shutterstock/Subbotina Anna

For some women, their face is their canvas — mascara, blush, luminous lips. Others let their clothes make a statement. And for the young and the restless (and trendy), nail art is it.

Stylists say that the practice has reached new heights of intricacy and creativity, driven by pop culture. Exhibit A: The recent trend of adorning nails with Pokémon Go designs, a movement chronicled by no less a fashion authority than Cosmopolitan magazine.

“No matter how awful or boring your day might be, you can look down at your nails and see something that makes you happy. It’s simple, attainable, and it brings a lot of joy,” says Nina Park, a Boston-based nail artist with a massive social media following.


Park’s Instagram showcases photos of geometric nail art — “geometric patterns are huge right now,” she says — plus flags, flowers, even flamingos.

And claws are only getting crazier. Park now sees customers who want chrome powder, a metallic coating applied to nails that acts as a mirror, making ordinary nails transform into disco balls.

“It’s very chic and beautiful,” Park says.

Even chicer? Nails painted with holographic powder, a trippy look popularized by Gigi Hadid at the Met Gala earlier this year.

“The holograms make your nails look three-dimensional and so shiny. I’m seeing people asking for things just beyond what’s painted. It’s awesome watching people come up with crazy ideas,” she says.

For those who eschew the Studio 54 or Alice in Wonderland look, there’s also a newer trend toward “negative space,” says Boston nail artist Jeannie Vincent. Here, parts of the nail are painted and parts are left nude to create shapes and diagonal lines.

But whatever happened to fire-engine red polish or a French manicure? Boring.

“A lot of it is vanity. You want to be able to take a picture of yourself holding something, like ice cream in front of a wall — that typical blogger picture,” Vincent says.


More than that, though, it’s a relatively inexpensive way to get happy.

“You look down at your nails, you’re driving, and it’s a mood lifter,” says Vincent.

Best of all? A whole new image is just a polish change away.

Kara Baskin can be reached at