Beauty Wednesday: Nail Colors For Work

What Nail Colors are Appropriate At Your Office? | CorporetteWe haven’t had a poll on work appropriate nails since 2011 by my count, so here’s a fun question for today:  what nail colors do you consider appropriate (and inappropriate) for your conservative office?  For my $.02, flipping through Elle‘s recent slideshow on the top nail colors for Fall 2013, I see a lot of dark, muted colors that I probably would try in a conservative office — provided that a) the polish is in impeccable condition, and b) I didn’t have any big meetings that day.  That said, dark blues and grays are one thing — I can’t ever see some of the 3D nail art (pictured) or crazy patterns/colors being appropriate for a conservative office.  But I’m curious what you guys think — what colors (beyond pinks and beiges) are appropriate at YOUR office — and when? 

 

Comments

  1. WorkingMom :

    In a conservative office I would stick to the more “neutral” colors, and maybe a slate grey to get crazy. I am in a casual office (jeans allowed) and I will do everything from navy blue to green to red. However – if I am meeting with a client I go conservative – neutrals or a light grey at most. BTW, I LOVE Essie. Two coats of Essie lasts ALL week and I love it.

    • We don’t use colored nail polish because the men think less of us when we do. I do not recommend anything but clear polish. Men like to think of us as wildcats, and that is exacerbated were we to use black or red nail polish. This is Ellen’s only weakness, but she uses it to exploit the Judge’s sexual sensibilities, as he is kept under her spell when she dresses provocatively. Kudo’s to Ellen for so doing!

  2. I get manicures on Saturdays and work in Biglaw. Here’s my rules, because I love nail polish and am senior enough that I don’t have to worry about making a first impression based on nail color:

    - Lots of client meetings in upcoming week, especially if more towards Weds/Thurs/Fri – pale pink (one coat of Sugar Daddy and one coat of Mademoiselle)… better safe than sorry re: conservative clients and the risk of a little chip appearing.

    - Regular week with some meetings, but mostly my normal coworkers – in summer, a berry or bright red (Lollipop), and in fall/winter, either gray (Chinchilly), brown/gray (Hot Cocoa), or plum (Recessionista). If I’m careful, I get only miniscule chips on the corner of a finger or two by the end of Thursday… but usually take off the color by Friday morning to avoid tacky visible chips at work.

    - Feeling rebellious and low risk of client meetings – the other week I tried navy (Essie’s Schoolboy Blazer or something similar) which I loved, but probably won’t do again because my fall/winter wardrobe is more gray and black based, so I felt compelled to invent navy touches in my outfits to coordinate. So… back to my usual fall/winter go-to of Wicked for these weeks :)

    • Orangerie :

      +1 to all of this. I abide by pretty much the same exact rules in my conservative office (finance, not law).

    • Another +1!

      I wore a lot of bright pinks and corals this summer. Rocked teal one week, including in Court, and no one cared! As long as it looks neat, almost anything goes.

    • Blair Waldorf :

      This is my general approach as well. I definitely look at my schedule and plan my nail color accordingly. I paint my own nails and touch them up throughout the week to avoid any visible chips.

      I have gone through weeks of the most conservative polish available (pale pink/neutral), and times when I feel more rebellious and have gone as far as a dark plum that is almost black.

      I am also as junior as they come, but see women at work expressing themselves in many ways, including nail polish. As long as it is on the traditional spectrum of nail color I will try it. No neon, sparkles, or nail art, but other than that, I do what I want!

    • Anonymous :

      Have you tried gel polish? It lasts all week. Also, it doesn’t “chip” but rather peels off like a sticker. So you can remove all nail polish in a few seconds and without any products if one nail is not holding up. Great if you need to meet cleints or something.

  3. Wildkitten :

    I’ve been hearing lately that french manicures are very dated and not on-trend. Do you think that’s true everywhere, or just if you work in the fashion industry in New York or LA?

    • I don’t even wear nail polish and I agree that french manicures look extremely dated. Like stonewash jeans and starfish bangs dated.

      • Miz Swizz :

        What are starfish bangs? I tried googling it but came up with some weird stuff.

        • 80s-style big bangs. Achieved with curling iron (directed both downwards towards nose and upwards towards sky) and lots of hairspray. Like a starfish sitting on your forehead, bangs going in all directions. If you google bad 80s bangs, that will give you some idea.

          • Miz Swizz :

            I’m pretty sure we referred to those as “mall bangs” where I’m from.

    • I think they’re “out” right now, but I’m sure they’ll come back in style in a few years. At least in Chicago anyway. Could be different regionally.

    • I am in the southeast and they are out to the point where my husband, he of the Canadian tuxedo and weird shoes, comments on them when he sees them.

    • Wildkitten :

      Ugh. I was afraid of that. Thanks ladies.

    • I still see them in Texas, although less than they used to be (but still see them even in cities that are considered fashion forward).

    • What about the look where you have a different color on the tip (like a french manicure, but with the base and tip both colored)? I’ve been seeing that in a lot of magazines and it looks fun. (Tried it myself last weekend – not nearly as cute when I freehanded it!) Probably not great for a conservative office, though, unless the colors are very close and it’s not very noticeable.

      • Blair Waldorf :

        This is very in. Traditional french manicures are out (for now), from what I’ve seen.

      • Senior Attorney :

        I love that. I’ve also seen/done a variation where it’s like a regular French manicure with a clear coat on most of the nail but black or gold or a color on the tip where the white would have been.

    • Anonymous :

      I still love how they look, I’ll always view them as classic.

      • justvikki :

        I think they look OK on short, more round nails, particularly if the white and pink are natural enough (ie, not White-Out and Soft Pink, but slightly lower contrast and beigier). On long and square, it’s Pron Nail.

    • I think most “french manicures” I see now are with non-traditional color combos, like gray with black tips, or red with pink tips. But I’m in LA

  4. With the caveat that I don’t wear nail polish myself, I think that anything outside of the pretty neutral pinks/beiges/reds would look pretty out of place in my office. I think griege is about as “out there” as I’ve ever seen.

  5. midwest mom :

    I coach college students on interview skills and I suggest neutral, naturals or the calm pinks and reds. I was a part of a hiring committee a few years ago at a CPA firm…. one of the candidates had on a light blue polish and in the recap meeting at the end of her day of interviews… every woman in the room had her nail polish color in their notes… not that it was bad just that it was noticed.

    I go every two weeks and get a gel mani….this time of year it’s a maroon or red. I tell students this is the real world not prom.

    • I just interviewed someone for a job yesterday. She was perfect– sharp, organized, unflappable. I’m pretty sure I want to hire her. What gives me just a bit of pause? Her nail polish– it was a shimmery, sparkly brownish color. Not terrible, but not right for an interview. A seemingly small detail like nail color really does say a lot.

  6. For long nails, I’d only wear a very light beige/pink color. With short nails I’d do a muted red or an ox blood color depending on the season, or maybe also a gray. I love, love, love painting my nails funky colors, but I get my fix by doing it on my toes.

  7. (Former) Clueless Summer :

    I get my nails done every 2-3 weeks (Shellac type product) so once I have a colour, I’m stuck with it. I’m still pretty junior and our firm-wide dress code is quite conservative (business formal, no demin on fridays, etc.) but I’m in a more relaxed department. That said, I would obviously do the neutrals, any red, and then seasonal colours. I do darks, including grey, burgundy, purple, navy (but not black) in the fall and winter. I think increased acceptability of dark colours is realllly recent though (last couple winters). Peaches, corals, even a mint green once in the spring. My position is that you are better to have flawless (no chips, well applied) nails in a colour that’s wilder, than horribly chipped light pink or badly cared for nails in general.

    No nail art ever, I’d save that for vacations. No crazy shapes or anything too long either.

    • Hollis Doyle :

      I have a question re: Shellac. I got a Shellac manicure for the first time a couple weeks ago, and by a week and a half later, the color still looked great and wasn’t chipped, but I felt like my nails had grown out so much that I needed to take the color off. Does that not happen to you by 2-3 weeks after you have yours done? I had a bright red and felt like it was noticable, whereas if I had used a lighter color it might not have been as noticable.

      • Wildkitten :

        Yes. That’s why I was doing the gel/french. Now I need to come up with a new strategy…

      • Stephanie :

        Yea by two weeks and a couple of days, it’s pretty bad. But the whole reason I get the gels is for the dark, super shiny colors so I ignore the problem and just get in there ASAP.

        • I bought the whole kit on Amazon and do gel nails at home myself. That way if I hate the color, etc. I don’t feel guilty taking it off because it didn’t cost me $35. I usually redo my nails every weekend to avoid the grown out look.

      • (Former) Clueless Summer :

        Yeah, I find three weeks is too long – I usually game time it and book my appointment just as I can’t stand it anymore. The lighter the colour, the less obvious the grow out, and it also depends on the amount of growth your nails personally do. Another thing I find helps is treating your cuticles with cuticle oil daily but not pushing/playing with them at all. They seem not to shrink as much if I keep them moisturized, and it keeps the whole thing looking good.

      • My best friend taught me to combat this by doing a half-moon manicure, with regular polish which will cover up the base of your nails

      • I bought the stuff on amazon to do my own Shellac and it has been a game-changer. I use a neutral pinkish color (Negligee). I like doing it myself to save money, time, and most of all because I can always fix it/change it even if it’s midnight. If you can paint your nails, you can do Shellac. My nails always look perfect, and as long as I use a non-acetone remover, I can put a coat of regular polish in a crazier color over my Shellac (it lasts beautifully because the Shellac give it a perfect rigid surface)… then it’s just one swipe of np remover and I’m back to my shiny Shellac nails in time for a big meeting. I haunted nail tech forums for a couple weeks and took notes — there really isn’t much to it.

  8. I work in house and do gel manicures for a few months a year. My favorite one is a dark grey, but right now I have a dark burgundy. I’ve also done navy blue. At least there is no chipping with the gels. I would draw the line at “nail art.” There’s a woman in my office who is fond of an all-black french manicure, meaning that the main part is shiny and the tip is flat black, and it’s not a good office look.

  9. I grew up in the era of 3 shades of eyeshadow and Tammy Faye and I just can’t do anything but a short buffed fingernail (so the reds, which I love, go on my toes). I also play violin and that has colored my views on simple non-Flo-Jo nails.

  10. Senior Attorney :

    I can never get polish to last on my hands for more than a day or two. But for fall I love deep purples and plums.

    Threadjack: Help me cope with a volunteer gig that is driving me nuts! I volunteered to help teach Sunday School at my new church as a way of getting involved and meeting people. We are a team of four, and each Sunday one of us leads the class and another of us assists. This is great because each person only has to lead once a month and assist once a month.

    Two of the other ladies are great, but the third is, shall we say, super different than I. Lovely woman, but perhaps a bit… scattered. She is always late, she forgets materials and leaves out parts of the morning routine, she lets the children (4th and 5th graders) pretty much do whatever they want, at the expense of getting the morning’s lesson done. This past Sunday she was the lead teacher and I was the assistant, and I smiled and nodded, and let her lead the class her way. Not how I would have done it, but it was my job to assist and assist I did. I truly think I was gracious and… helpful.

    The last straw came today. It is customary for the lead teacher to send an email to the parents describing the day, including who taught and who assisted. I just received her recap talking all about the great time SHE had with the children, completely omitting the fact that I was even there. Gah.

    It bugs me that this bugs me, but… it bugs me. I understand that not everyone is a member of the Punctuality Community. I understand that not everyone believes that teachers should exert control in the classroom. I get that it takes all kinds to make a world. I am not doing this for rec0gnition. And yet… Here I sit, bugged.

    Talk me down, ladies!!

    • Bless her heart

    • Wildkitten :

      I think, given her general disorganization, you can rest assured that her forgetting you, like her forgetting the time or the material or the lesson, is not personal or intentional. But I understand that it’s still frustrating!

    • Talkin' Texas :

      Grace and a deep breath. Remember you are all there to serve the Lord. As a Type A the same things drive me completely crazy, too. I’ve learned if no children went to the ER, it was a successful Sunday School class. Because kids are all wired differently, there are a group of kids that probably really enjoy this teacher and the one Sunday a month that she is the lead. Thank you for being a part of training up children in the way they should go.

    • Wildkitten :

      Also – the key to getting polish last on your nails is gel/shellac polish. It’s life-changing.

    • marketingchic :

      Just to commiserate . . . . I was in a very similar situation a few years ago, albeit with the pre-K class. I was paired with a high school senior (?!), who didn’t show up half the time! Between her and the 4-year-olds, teaching Sunday School caused me to do a lot of mental cursing. That was the end of my teaching career! I’ve since found other ways to volunteer at my church.

  11. I alternate between a beigy-pink (Essie’s Topless and Barefoot) and a light silver (Pearly White) in the summer. In the winter, I’m often tempted to rotate in more bold colors like navy and dark gray. However, I usually stick with a neutral polish – it is one less thing for me to obsess over in the mornings.

  12. I honestly probably should be more conservative with my nail colour. I’ve never had any comments on it (other than a very stylish client saying she loved it, which made me very happy). If I’ve got important client meetings I will err more conservatively.

    In the summer, I switch between white (I really love this look), gold, silver and dusty red.

    Right now (Fall-Winter) I switch between:
    - Slate grey (Sephora by OPI),
    - Darkish brown (OPI You Don’t Know Jacques)
    - Dusty red (a random Chanel tester with no name)
    - Oxblood (Butter London Moss)
    - Green-gold (my absolute new favorite, Chanel Alchemie)

    Once I wore a very dark purple (almost black) but felt a bit uncomfortable so have avoided since.

    In the spring I’ve done a pale purple (can’t wait to try Marc Jacobs Delphine).

  13. Who decided red nail polish is conservative? When I wear red, it’s like waving a red flag around here. Very distracting. Blue, on the other hand, nobody notices.

  14. Sydney Bristow :

    One of the benefits of doing document review is that even though I’m working in a fairly conservative big law firm in NYC, I feel ok taking risks with my nail polish. I tend to do a really dark red, dark purple (OPI Lincoln Park After Dark) or blue/gray (Essie Bobbing for Baubles). I’ve done a matte finish on my ring fingers before too. I like to take advantage of any positives when lots of times my job can be made up of so many negatives.

  15. I think red, lightish or neutral pinks, mauves, plums, oxblood/burgundy, neutrals, and maybe dark gray would be a go in my office. But honestly, maybe it’s just a DC thing, but I feel like the very successful women just don’t wear polish on their hands (feet, yes). Even among the very well-dressed I’ve noticed rarely have anything but shortish, nude nails. (Jewelry can be severly understated as well. The plain wedding band without engagement ring tends to be popular.) The younger women still wear polish, but most in the 30+ age group I’ve seen just don’t. It seems like the thing is more to wear expensive (but understated) shoes and suits, but keep the make-up and jewelry to an absolute minimum.

    • I hear you. I see a lot of nails these days that remind me of Melanie Griffith’s character’s before version in Working Girl.

      Somehow I blame this all on Pete Wentz and company — if a guy can wear colored nail polish, nothing is off limits or too edgy in this department.

    • Anonymous :

      I know this is incorrect, but sometimes I think that super successful and busy women don’t have their nails painted because they don’t have time to have it done or do it. There’s a certain luxury to spending 45 minutes in a salon or waiting for your nails to dry that a really busy and focused person maybe does not have?

      I feel frivolous when I have my nails done (and I am hardly a super busy, super important person). But still, there’s a certain weird feeling of sitting in a salon having my nailed buffed and painted and my hands massaged that feels wrong. I’m not describing this properly, because there’s done of things that I do for myself that take time, but the nails feel specifically different.

      • I do mine myself because I don’t have time to go to a salon. I’ve learned a lot about doing them myself so I do a decent job. People are often surprised that I do them myself and that they are real.

        • In the Pink :

          +1,000 Nola!

          I do the same.

          In the spring/summer I wear fuchsias, pinks, true reds.

          In the fall/winter I wear more plum/darker fuchias, reds, and burgundies.

          While I can wear what I see fit, I associate these with classical presentations for long nails. My only comment is that by Wednesdays, the front edges of my polish has worn off due to writing, typing, filing, Xeroxing, collating, etc.

          I use D. Lippmann’s “Addicted to Speed” as a top coat to minimize the time I spend waiting for things to dry. But there are several coats total from Chip Skip to top coat, it’s 5.

          Are others worried or have bad experiences with the shellac/gel products in terms of peeling off nails, scouring off, etc. Initial reviews talked about that.

          • You’ll find that true Shellac (CND brand) is somewhat easier to remove than other gels (as it is a polish/gel hybrid). It is extremely important to keep your nail beds moisturized when using shellac/gel. They’ll try to sell you Solar Oil, but plain old jojoba works great. As far as removal, you must (must!) soak the gel off, not scrape/pick/peel it off. It’s time consuming. Wet a piece of cotton ball with acetone np remover, put it on your nail, wrap your fingertip in foil, and put your hand under a heating pay for 10 mins or so. Then gently try pushing the gel off with an orange stick. If you pick or peel it instead, you’ll damage your nails.

        • TO Lawyer :

          I do mine myself probably a couple times a week because I feel undone if my nails aren’t done. I do them before bed and let them dry while watching a TV show in bed. By the time the show is done, my nails are dry. I only tend to get them done in a salon if I’m also getting a pedicure, which is rarer in the winter.

          I tend to stick to greiges, pinks and purples although I will go bright pink, or coral or periwinkle or teal if I have a quiet week because I think it’s more fun.

          On my toes right now I have an almost neon purple polish on with a sparkly top coat and every time I look down at my toes I smile

      • There’s something to that.

        A pedicure feels like physical therapy for my feet and a mini forced vacation for me (and then they paint my toes). I feel like it’s mandatory maintenance if you ever show your heels (I cringe when I see cracked heels) or feet (and even if you don’t).

        For the hands, I think you still have to do the maintenance. It’s just good grooming. But I stop right before the nail painting stage.

        And is it me, or are the red polishes especially staining? I feel that I have to keep painting my toenails b/c the red just stains the nail bed. Even with regular polish changes (and I hate to change unchipped polish), it’s not good.

      • DC Wonkette :

        +1 my boss is super stylish but doesn’t get her nails done because it’s a pain to keep up. I’ve definitely done a drugstore run to take off my bright blue nail polish when I had a meeting with my super senior boss on short notice. Probably unnecessary, but it was one less thing to feel uncomfortable about.

  16. Chitown Lawyer :

    I’m wearing Marc Jacobs Delphine right now — I tend to go darker in the winter and lighter in the summer although I don’t tend to go much darker than a nice gray. I work in a casual (and fashion forward, if you can believe it) law office. I agree with other posters though — for me, it’s more about whether a person’s nails are well shaped, groomed, and the polish isn’t chipped than the actual color of the polish. I can’t stand nail art (just a personal opinion) but other women in my office sport extremely complicated looking patterns — I think my office is one of the few law offices where nail art is acceptable.

  17. Working at a university, I can pretty much wear whatever nail color I want. I wore periwinkle all summer. Students compliment it a lot. Now I am wearing gunmetal gray and hardly anyone even notices, unless I put fleur de lis decals on. Had them on last week (for the game) but removed them on Friday night because I was going to a funeral.

  18. Calibrachoa :

    Amusingly enough, for all the mad hair and alternative vibes, I keep my nails plain. Because I am lucky if my nail polish lasts through a single evening, let alone a day of typing etc. It just flakes away because I have stupid soft nails no amount of calcium helps.

    .. and yet I have bottles and bottles upon it and right now there is a bottle of silver glitter polish sitting on top of my work computer. I honestly have NO idea how it’s ended up in here. 0.o

    • Try more vitamin E or vitamin K. Nails are made up of keratin, like hair.

      • Or get your thyroid function checked. I had super soft, bendy nails that I could never keep varnished (varnish flaked/chipped off because the nails flaked so much). In my forties I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (underactive thyroid) and put on a thyroid supplement. Since then, my nails have grown like mad, hardened and lost the flexibility – I can use varnish again and am now making up for lost time. My mother had the same soft nail problem and after being put on a thyroid supplement (Hashimoto’s is familial in our case) her nails improved as well.
        Definitely worth a try both for the possibility of sorting your nails out, but also for the other health benefits if you do have an undiagnosed thyroid issue.

  19. New York biglaw conservative firm. Pretty conservative dresser, but I love painted nails. I used to try to stick to pink or red, but sometimes went orange. I like bright colors. Now that I am more senior, I don’t care as much and rotate in more trendy colors (pale purple, brighter pinks/oranges, navy, sea foam green) during weeks when I don’t have big meetings. If I see junior people notice, I tell them not to follow my lead. When I was home on maternity leave, I played with truly crazy nails (those stick on things) and really loved it. Truth be told, when I did on campus interviewing this summer, I judged one woman whose nails were too bright of a pink (basically neon). It was one element (of several) that signified to me she wouldn’t fit in at my firm, at least not right off the bat.

    I have started to do my nails more at home and just bought my first fancy (non-Essie) polish — Chanel and Deborah Lippman. I have to say I love the Chanel polish.

  20. Olivia Pope :

    I really lived it up in law school in the nail department. Nail polish was an inexpensive treat for myself. I used giraffe print stickers for a vacation with friends.

    But honestly, I got sick of how damaged my nails were. My nails are very attractive when left alone. Now they are bare, with the occasional clear polish for shine. I trim them when they get so long that I have trouble typing.

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