Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Thinking About Color...and a crazy NOTD

Below I have somewhat of an academic analysis of color. Feel free to skip it and scroll down for pics!

In one of my classes a few weeks ago, we read Michael Taussig's What Color is the Sacred?, which got me thinking a lot about nail polish. Taussig's book traces a genealogy of color and connects it to colonialism and capitalism, questioning why bright colors are often connected with being "primitive," while subdued colors are expected of the more "civilized" people in the West. It is not an easy read and he kind of rambles on for awhile, but it's worth a look if you are interested in reading an academic analysis of color. Anyway, it really got me thinking about nail polish. I know that sounds kind of silly, but really, nail polish is very connected to ideas of race, socioeconomic class, and gender. For example, it is generally believed that it is not appropriate for men to wear nail polish (I don't agree). Socioeconomic class affects which women can afford to go to certain nail salons. Certain salons that cater to specific classes of women may have different products in their salons than other salons. Women of color are often stereotyped as wearing huge, chunky acrylics. Manicurists are generally stereotyped as Asian, usually with very little English-speaking ability. (Please note that I'm saying "stereotyped." These stereotypes are not necessarily true.)

Most nail polish companies in the U.S. recycle the same colors every year in collections that consist of sheers, pinks, beiges, and (muted) reds. The “unique” colors tend to be released in Asia, specifically Japan and Korea. These “unique” colors are practically impossible for anyone living in the U.S. to purchase, due to exorbitant prices or unwillingness of sellers to ship overseas. Why is it that OPI will release U.S.- and Asian-specific collections? Why is there apparently no market in the U.S. for glittery colors?

Why do people have such a negative reaction to me when I wear “unusual” nail polish colors? Strangers stop me in stores to ask why I’m wearing a certain color, coworkers make disparaging remarks about my “weird” colors, and colleagues comment on my color choices in classes. Until green was reported as the trendy nail color of 2010 in fashion magazines a few months ago, wearing green or yellow would cause the most negative reactions from people who are never too shy to tell me that I am wearing an “ugly” color. Bright red is still regarded, often by elderly women in my experience, as the color of prostitutes or tramps.I was once confronted by an elderly woman in a store as I picked up a bottle of bright red nail polish. The elderly woman claimed that “only tramps wear that color.

Well, I have no conclusions to these musings. Just that nail polish is intertwined with race, gender, and class, and that we should not forget this.

In light of such thinking, I was inspired to wear something unusual. As I expected, I received quite a bit of attention for this mani. Mostly it was compliments, which surprised me.

This is 3-4 coats of China Glaze Happy Go Lucky and 1 coat of China Glaze Doll House. Happy Go Lucky wasn't too bad to apply - just kind of thick. I could have gotten away with 3 coats if I was more careful. Now that I have been enlightened by MeganChair's amazing nail cleanup tutorial, I don't really care how difficult a nail polish is to apply. No matter how much of a mess I've made, I can easily clean it up when I'm done! I think China Glaze has changed their formula too - it dried super fast despite so many coats!



Well, what do you think? Ugly, ugly-pretty, pretty?

Thanks for looking!

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mKat said...

I love the colour... I think it's really pretty. Not sure if the glitter works for me (but that's just me).

The book you read sounds very interesting - certainly more interesting than a lot of what I partook in this year! :P Maybe I should look for nail polish in everything? :)

~Elizabeth aka Lacquered Lizard said...

this is a FUN mani! I find it so very interesting to think about the things we place value upon and how it can be marketed to change the overall social impression as you mention with green nail polish.
Not too many years ago, a diamond that had color was not as valuable as those with no color and exceptional quality. Now, the ones with color are super expensive. Marketing. Don't buy into the hype, wear what you love.
I've worn black, blue, green and whatever odd color I liked since I was a youngster in the 70's and it got me many a disparaging remark or grimace. I enjoyed watching reactions based on indoctrinated beliefs. I still do, and I challenge them to find out WHY they believe it! Generally, people realize it wasn't their own belief but one handed to them and happily accepted. Wow, sorry for the long comment. These kinds of posts bring that out for me.

chickadee1066 said...

Very interesting analysis. I am always intrigued by stereotypes and preconceived notions people have, especially when people who have these notions think of themselves as enlightened, and therefore above that sort of thing.

FYI, Sally Girl has a glitter polish very similar to that!

SalvagedExpression said...

Yep I've been told to watch wearing fire engine red and looked at a bare dollar store selection and imagined who the company thought would be buying certain colors (gold is a good example). It's a little sad that I can wear whatever color shirt to work I like but there are still work safe polishes. It is fun though to observe people and their choices and reactions.

jaljen said...

Well, it seems to be human nature to be conformist and culturally conservative. How, when, where and why cultural shifts occur is fascinating.

The wealthiest men for many centuries wore elaborate and colourful costume to signal their riches. Ornate lace, buckles, jewels. Entirely impractical. Entirely understandable too. You make a display of your wealth on your person! Self-advertisement. What signs are acceptable for wealthy men now? A Rolex, yes. Purple snakeskin trousers, no.

I have never been made to feel uncomfortable about my appearance as I am fairly thick-skinned. Until I went to Morocco and really felt the weight of displeasure at my clothing. I covered up but I felt oppressed.

Luckily in the UK we are fairly relaxed about these things - for which many thanks.

Skulda said...

I think it's pretty. but then again... I wear "ugly" colours too. Well... not so much at work because it's not really office appropriate.
Anyways, your mani is fun. So screw the rest.
I once had a woman in her 70's comment on how much she liked my electric blue nail polish, and I suggested she grab a bottle. ;) Her husband gave be a nasty look though. :S

yardsticks 4 lunatics said...

I love this....it's just like pennies shining in the sun! They are your fingers, and your nails - do whatever you want.

I love it when people stare at my nails....and I have yet to have one person say anything negative. They usually want to know who did them or what salon I go to....well, when I tell them it's me, me, me - they can't believe it....it's all about the art, baby.

I don't really get the "NSFW" polishes - but, I teach music lessons and own my own photo studio - so I guess I'm lucky.


Lacquer Ware for Tips and Toes said...

I think it's a fabulous mani! I also appreciate your insights to class/race and color in a nail polish related way. I've been studying this for years and the more people put this out there for all to hear and think about, the better. Fabulous thoughts for the day and thank you!

Natalia said...

Great post! (as usual)
All those teories about colour and "stereotypes" seem so ridiculous to me! In fact we shall say they're mostly based on people's prejudices more than science. So, in order to fight prejudices, everyone should wear and love whatever colour it is, and not becoming influenced by stupid generalizations. I LOVE your mani!

The Polish Hoochie said...

I loved your post today and your thoughts, I really enjoyed reading this. All the stereotypes you listed ITA with. It's amazing how polish almost molds (in other peoples eyes) who we are, yet knwoing nothing about us personally.

I love your mani and that glitter is gorgeous. I think this is a beautiful combination!

Jackie S. said...

HA! I am wearing H.G.L. right now and was thinking to my self," what should I put on top"..Hilarious!

I guess its one of those colors that people notice, but do not have the balls to wear..just 10 min ago my co-worker said "wow yellow", I didn't think anything of the color, but apparently some just don't like it...some people just can't think outside the box!

The Student's Guide To Nail Polish said...

This post really made me think. I love all colours of nail polish but I think that's very rude of people to comment negatively about your polish choices!

Anyway, your manicure is really cute :)

B.Stone said...

This is really quite true. I think bright, flashy reds are retro. Yes they are racy, but that's the point, isn't it? Why can't I wear my ChG OMG to work, or a bright green or a glittery purple? People assume it's not professional, but am I not the Patient Coordinator, here at work, handling business and being professional and mature? Yet the color of my nails would have people frowning, though to be fair I do tend to wear what I want. I also know that the louder my nails are, the more people might attribute it to being black. It's just the way of things. As far as men go, they have it rough if they want to express themselves. Clothes, shoes, hair, nails- they don't have many options. We might get looked down upon but in a way it's expected. If a guy wants to wear nail polish, have long hair and wear a weird, colorful t-shirt, he'd best be in a really popular band or else...

Irides said...

This is really, really interesting, and I'd been wondering about it for a long time! I think the conception that subdued colors are more "civilized" come out in other things also--i.e., the comparison between OPI's India and France collections.

I've as of yet never received any negative comments on what colors I wear, but on how often I change my color. It doesn't seem to translate into 'I just like doing it' as much as it does 'high-maintenance' or 'has nothing better to do'. Hmm...

Ice Queen said...

I think it needed more glitter. :D Dollhouse... *sigh* Just got bumped to the top of my lemming list. lol

Megan Chair's clean up tutorial was life changing for me. :D

Jackie S. said...

Update: Even funnier, today I topped my H.G.L. manicure with a turquoise metallic glitter polish, from Tony & Tina, which is similar to Dollhouse, and the same -co-worker, said "What did you do to your manicure?"...OYE VAY, some people just don't know when to stay quiet!

Arrianne said...

Wow, what a bunch of a-holes. My nails don't really ever get noticed or if they do no one says anything. I wear whatever I want, even if it gives me corpse hands...I think everyone should follow that.

Kate said...

I'm a college student (i.e. undergrad) and I'm always complimented on my nail color by girls my age or older! Apparently, my area loves "crazy" colors because I wear purples, blues, greens, glitters, and now holos (I didn't like them until I saw Hi-Def by Milani....now I want the blue one) and "safer" colors like pink and red. A lot of females here wear yellow, neons and orange, two colors and one finish I don't think look too great on my skintone.

I think the "crazy" colors are more socially accepted in areas with a younger aged population. This is strange because my community college's average age is 35. Most of the women though are about my age (21).

B.Stone said...

lol @ Jackie. So true! While I don't think anything is wrong with a little constructive help, you sure as heck need NO help with your polish. Why do people think we need their say!? Luckily my coworkers are nice. I showed them SH Grass Slipper and one said "Ohh, wear it! It'll look so nice with your pretty brown skin!" and then they were disappointed when I chickened out and didn't wear it Wednesday.

daydream222 said...

Thanks everyone for your lovely thoughts! :) I really appreciate all your comments! I love that PoP's readers are such intelligent and fabulous individuals!

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