I was the victim of one of those stifling parochial-school upbringings. My parents thought it'd be wise to send me (but not my older brother—he's a boy) because it was safer than the public school down the street. Parochial school meant no premarital sex, no meat, no dances—and who the hell is Darwin? (Funny enough, it turns out that all of my friends who got knocked-up in their teens attended that same school. Social Darwinism at its finest.)
A girl in my religion class once received two days' worth of detention for wearing black nail polish. Nail polish was just about the only thing we had the freedom to choose without approval of the school-uniform board—or so we thought. They thought it symbolized something more than just nail varnish. Something evil. Like a rebellious preteen who liked to make out with boys behind the A&P while listening to Deicide and simultaneously perform ritualistic animal sacrifices. Of course, we all know it wasn't. We probably all went through some kind of phase like that, rebelling against the establishment, against the pink-spectrumed norm.
Black and red nail polish were once reserved exclusively for Chinese royalty. Biba offered it in their iconic boutiques in the '60s. But it was sometime after the color appeared on the nails of Bowie, Mercury and Bolan in the mid-'70s that the negative connotations arose.
In 2006, Chanel released their limited-edition Le Vernis Nail Colour in Black Satin here in the United States and defied any preconceived notions about black nails. It retailed for $18 per bottle. Hollywood's young and fabulous took the bait, and the masses followed. That $18 price tag soon disappeared, as did Chanel counters' stocks nationwide. People were putting their names on mile-long waiting lists for nail polish. And eBay entrepreneurs/thieves soon had them going for more than $200.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Was it worth it? No. It's hardly worth the retail price of $18, but I'll be the first to admit the incredible ease of Chanel polish application. It's thick, dries quickly and rarely requires a second coat. It doesn't chip easily, but then again, it's $18. You can get 18 shades of Wet 'n Wild for that at Rite Aid. Sure, it won't last as long, but it's 99 cents.
The whole thing echoed Chanel's Vamp craze in the '90s, when a makeup artist mixed up a batch of the red-wine-hued polish with which to send models down the runway. Beauty editors went with it and were soon featuring it in magazines around the world. Chanel capitalized on the fuss and released Vamp to the public. Waiting lists ensued.
While this year's thing is Chanel's Blue Satin, I'm still stuck on the Black Satin. It's a bit richer than your typical Rite Aid flat-black polish, and as long as you keep your nails trim and the polish neat, it's sophisticated as hell and goes with everything.
So, Chanel: That powerful? Or people: That stupid?