Hey, Quick Question: What's Behind Fashion's Recent Obsession With Pierced Chain Nails?

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Welcome to our column, "Hey, Quick Question," where we investigate seemingly random happenings in the fashion and beauty industries. Enjoy!

Pierced nails: by now, you've almost definitely seem them in your Instagram feed. Long, acrylic and (often, though not always) square-shaped, the multi-media nail art trend employs hoops, safety pins or thick metal chains to puncture the tip of the nail for a dramatic effect. So, I ask in my best Jerry Seinfeld voice: What's the deal with them? The first instance I could find of their use in high fashion was Emerson's spring 2014 show, in which models sported striped manicures pierced through with safety pins. The look also popped up at Vivienne Westwood's men's show in January; then they appeared again at the recent fall shows. Nail artist Mei Kawajiri (whose own nails are shown backstage at the Balenciaga show above, though that wasn't the look on the actual runway) has been behind a number of the trend's appearances. Her team worked on a variety of pierced/chain manicures at the Philipp Plein show, for instance:

And nail artists at Ryan Lo's Fall 2017 show, where the beauty look was an exaggerated, absurdist nod to Harajuku girls, referred to them as "Japanese Chic".

But here's the thing: While plenty of people were quick to point to Kim Kardashian — who has been spotted with a couple of pierced and chain-adorned manicures on social media — as the catalyst for this recent wave of nail piercings, this is yet another case of misattributing a trend to the Kardashians that was actually widely present (and yes, largely in black culture) long before. (The below image shows one example of Kardashian's chain nails, also created by Kawajiri). 

In looking into the genesis of this nail look, I came across multiple internet sources stating that Missy Elliott and Lil' Kim wore pierced chain nails throughout the '90s; though, sadly, I have yet to find any photographic documentation of their looks. As Billboard pointed out, this trend actually dates back to the '80s, but experienced a resurgence in the late '90s — Janet Jackson wore long, pointy nails pierced with hoops in the 1998 "What's It Gonna Be?" video (you can get a clear glimpse if you fast-forward to about three minutes and five seconds into the video below):

So although Kim's recent penchant for the look may have contributed to their proliferation on the runways of late, let's keep things in perspective as we scroll through our social feeds (and if you happen to be wearing pierced nails yourself, well, scroll carefully).

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