A brief history of the french manicure

Anybody who regularly has their nails done professionally will, at some stage, have had a French manicure. Even amongst the myriad of brightly coloured and different textured finishes that are available now for nail treatments, the classic French manicure is still massively popular.

That sheer nude look, finished with the distinguishing thin, white polish strip at the tip of the nail, gives that sophisticated look, whether applied as part of a manicure or pedicure. Why is it called a French Manicure though?

Here is a brief history of this particular nail treatment:

Did a French Manicure originate in France?

The short answer is – no, it did not! Contrary to common belief, and the name installed upon this nail treatment, it originated in America. The actual term ‘French manicure’ was coined by Jeff Pink, the founder of the nail polish brand Orly, in 1978.

What are the true origins?

The actual technique dates further back than the name, to the 1930’s, where the famous Max Factor invented the look for trendy fashionistas of Paris, giving us the ‘French connection’. In the late 30’s it was the look adopted by the classic Hollywood stars, thus giving it further exposure and prominence.

The rise in popularity

The French manicure became more universally popular, though, in the 1970’s. Jeff Pink created the first ‘do-it-yourself’ French manicure kit (simply branded as “Natural Look Nail Kit”), which was quickly adopted by the latest crop of Hollywood film stars and was massively favoured by the influential film studios of the day.

Film directors were always complaining about the amount of time lost ‘on set’ in preparation of the actresses changing nail colours to match the different outfits, and so embraced this universal, elegant look that would complement any wardrobe change. It saved the directors time and money, and stylists and actresses alike loved its simple and feminine finish, which never overshadowed the particular outfit they were sporting.

The french connection

The French connection for this nail treatment was then further strengthened when Jeff Pink took this DIY nail kit to Paris for use by the models in the fashion shows. After proving a success there, on returning to Los Angeles, Pink started referring to the look as a “French manicure”. When the look was adopted by the big stars of the day, Barbra Streisand and Cher, then it quickly became popular with everyday women.

Any nail or beauty salon will offer the French manicure look, and its’ simplicity and elegance is preferred by many.

Bibas Hair & Beauty

Mark & Sue Pittman established Bibas Hair & Beauty as their own in 1992. Together they have built a Central London salon which provides both Londoners and visitors from around the world with expert salon services including great haircuts, colours and beauty treatments.

You can view our range of hairdressing and beauty treatments on our new website. For more information please contact us or request an appointment online.