Have you noticed how certain portions of the internet (namely the girly blogging parts) have gone wild for nail art recently?
I first noticed it on Zooey Deschanel's website, HelloGiggles.com, with their Nails of the Day feature, in which readers send in photos of their DIY painted nails. And not just perfectly executed French manicures either. We're talking a family of owls, cartoon cupcakes or Batman-themed nails. Deschanel herself was an early adopter of the creative manicure when she wore tiny tuxedoes on her nails to the 2012 Golden Globes, so I'm guessing the feature was her idea.
I pinned one of the Nails of the Day photos on Pinterest (the Angry Birds design by Aditee that you can see in the photo above) it got loads of repins. Subsequent googling led me to discover a whole social media subculture of nail art enthusiast blogs, Tumblrs, Twitter pages and YouTube tutorials. I found videos of a laborious but strangely hypnotic process known as water marbling particularly fascinating. That's where you add drop after drop of nail varnish into a cup of water and use the swirly patterned layer formed on the surface to coat your nails.
Why the sudden craze for crazy nails? Maybe it's thanks to the fashion industry, because nail art is clearly having a fashion moment too. Unusual nails were big news on the autumn/winter 2012 catwalks, lead by the London designers. Henry Holland's models had blue and black houndstooth patterned nails while Meadham Kirchoff used specially designed nail wraps featuring eggs and ghosts and other cutesy motifs.
It could be a product of the recession too. According to the New York Times, nail polish sales in the US were up 67% between 2010 and 2011, with non-traditional shades and textures becoming more and more popular. The 'lipstick index' theory goes that during times of austerity we look for cheap shopping thrills that have an instant impact, and out-there nails certainly fit that bill. As nail artist Karrie Bowers of Beautopia Nails puts it: 'It's a relatively inexpensive custom accessory, and it's the next trendy push beyond non-traditional colours.'
Or maybe it's not even a fad at all. Nail art has been popular in black communities around the world for decades, according to Buzzfeed's Hillary Reinsburg. Maybe we're just taking more notice now that it's crossed over into the mainstream and that claiming it's a craze is erroneous. Whatever the reason, with such a huge surge in interest online it looks like nail art, in terms of both sales and popularity, is going to keep on growing.
What do you think? Are you a nail art fan? Have you been dabbling in more unusual polishes or manicures recently? Or do you think we'll look back on nail art as being so 2012?
Follow Katie Wright on Twitter: www.twitter.com/blondekatie