August 31September 7, 1995
Reconsidering the world of nail polish? Or just suckered into another trend?
By Margit Detweiler
I've never been enamored of nail enamel.
For one, I'm an absolute impatient spaz putting it on. In fact, I'm sitting here typing with my new nails still wet because I couldn't wait for them to dry.
Another reason I'm often averse to painting my nails is that I think it looks sleazy at least on me. Especially shades of red.
Granted, that might be the little inner voice of my conservative mother telling me, in a hushed, chiding tone, "Oh Margit, it looks... cheap."
That, along with ankle bracelets and getting on a motorcycle.
Both of which I've done... mom.
Still, I can't shake the idea that nail polish is for women of leisure. That working girls (of the office variety) don't have the time to fuss with swabbing Jungle Red across their nails. It ain't for people who get their hands dirty with newsprint.
Sure, I've had the occasional manicure, say, once a year, because I get the urge to have someone trim down my out-of-control cuticle growths and make my stubby nails look less like my cat's been gnawing on them (which he probably has).
And any time I go, the manicurist gently holds my hand examining it from side to side and says with delight, "You have wonderfully wide nail beds."
Which I think is plain weird.
Wide nail beds. Sounds like some geological phenomenon. Or something the Marquis de Sade would sleep on.
Plus, I've never been able to grow my nails longer than 1/8th of an inch.
In struts Vamp.
Vamp is Chanel's new black-blood color for nails that's being advertised like crazy and hyped by trendoids everywhere.
It's a nail polish color that sounds like it's destined for hideously long, three-inch nails, more apropos for Cruella DeVille than an Anna Quindlen wannabe.
Vamp: harlot, whore, slattern, hussy, and, of course, painted woman.
But the idea is that Vamp is to be worn on short-lengths. Nails are in control; only the color is vicious.
Curving long nails with decorative jewels affixed to them? Forget it. The short-nail trend says that modern women want all the glamour and wild color, but they want it to be practical.
And boy do they want it.
"I travel for Chanel," says enthusiastic Chanel representative Judy Biasalli, who wears her hair in a severe red bob. "And if I had a penny for everyone that wanted Vamp, I'd be rich. It's literally flying out of the store. In my 11 years with Chanel, I've never seen anything like this."
I put in my order for Vamp last week at Wanamaker's and got a call that it was in at 10 a.m. on Thursday. When I went to pick it up, there were only two left.
Thirty-three people (out of 35 orders) had already come in and picked up their Vamp, the Chanel salespeople told me.
Everywhere, I'm seeing Vamp. A poster inside the soon-to-be record store HMV featuring Madonna what's that on her short nails?
A girl in jean shorts and open-toe platforms strutting into the new cigar lounge, Old Hickory. What's that on her toes?
It's a case of Vampitis.
The color has become so popular that Chanel is adding two new Vamp shades in September: Very Very Vamp, which is a deeper brown, and a disco-y sounding Metallic Vamp, which is a deep purple highlighted with silver.
When was the last time a color, simply a color, was advertised in two-page spreads in fashion magazines?
Certain makeup colors stick out in my memory, like Silver City Pink the iridescent pink lipstick you just had to have in seventh grade in 1979. Or, even going back a little further, the white eye shadow worn by the likes of Twiggy and Nancy Sinatra in the '60s.
Sure, we smart women know it's just another marketing scam. Just like cigarette and beer companies repeatedly introducing new versions of their product (Camel's "The Wides," or Anheuser-Busch's pseudo-micro-brewery Red Dog), and fashion designers telling you that this year it's breezy pastels and next year it's solid primaries. But a new length and a new color got me to my Wanamaker's Chanel counter.
So here I am test-driving it: writing this story, slicing open CD packages with my Vamped nails, gesticulating wildly so people notice my glitzy digits ("What's that black stuff on your fingers?").
Nary a chip. Maybe it's because I usually spend 99 cents on drugstore Wet and Wild, rather than $15 on Chanel's finest.
When my nails get scuffed up over the weekend, I repaint them while sitting in the sun and glancing at the New York Times, turning the pages with my toes (they're next) There's still a big back-page ad for Vamp on the magazine section, but in both the "Fashions of the Times" supplement and the magazine, style stories allude to the fact that Vamp's days are numbered; the 18-year-old makeup hound interviewed in "The Pursuit of the Perfect Face" names Chanel's new Beige D'Or as her color of the moment. Vamp, she suggests, was just a spring thing.
But I just... bought...
Still, a vamp's a vamp. Why should she care if her 15 minutes are up? Tossing back her long black hair, squashing her cigarette in the ashtray, she'll just strut out the door.
She knows we'll want her back.