The Ruffian Manicure: Trends Of Future Past

This one's for Lesley. With a special guest appearance by my husband's thumb.

Apr 24, 2012 at 12:00pm | Leave a comment

With fashion, it can be tempting to think that new things are cool things and press forward without any time to spare for looking back. Sure, we look back once two or three decades have passed, but a couple of years? We're so over it.

That's one reason I have a problem with trends. If I like something, I LIKE IT. I don't want to hate it just because there's some new hotness -- especially given how much time and energy I've put into acquiring my wardrobe.

That's also the case with the Ruffian manicure. This manicure was developed by  Creative Nail Design (CND of current Shellac manicure fame) for the Fall 2010 Ruffian show. Brian Wolk and Claude Morais feature the moon manicure as their signature mani -- and so each show involves variations on that nail polish theme.

For the show, the nail artists started with press-on nails in a mirror gold finish. (You can kind of duplicate it with chrome polishes, but it can be challenging to achieve at home -- I really wouldn't sweat trying to exactly duplicate it.) Then they topped it with a matte navy polish. It's meant to look like a glowing crescent moon against a dark blue night sky.

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Silver and matte red - seemed like a good idea at midnight on a Friday night.

When Lesley asked me what this manicure was called, I couldn't actually remember. That's what two years will do for a manicure. Sometimes this gets called a reverse french -- but that's just confusing because there are other things going by the same name.

I started with what I had on hand at home -- which is when I realized I had no gold nail polish (much as I have no gold jewelry). I wanted to keep the matte part of the top color, but blue wasn't doing it. I don't do red nails very often, so I dragged out a vampy shade.

The big deal about this manicure is cleanliness. Clean cuticles, clean curves, clean edges. It's all about precision. Give it a try even if you think you can't freehand (and I have a solution for that, too). I swear it's easier than you think.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. I did my usual routine with two basecoats, then I applied my silver. I used a quick-dry topcoat because I was already getting impatient to get to the fun part. The topcoat does make this manicure a little thicker, but it's not overwhelmingly so. I didn't experience any peeling or chipping (which often result from too-thick manicures).

While my silver dried, I went to town on my cuticles with a pointed q-tip and some nail polish remover. Generally, washing your hands takes care of messy edges. But cleanup is imperative for this one. Then I went and had some dinner. It's called setting yourself up for success -- hungry-and-shaky-time is no time to try to polish your nails.

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Gold and purple - actually my high school colors, but way cooler.

When I was comfortably fed, I had no more excuses -- I used my red and this method. I also tried swooping the bottom curve on first -- that didn't work very well; my curves wound up too severe and I had to go back over them. Result: draggy and gross. In the end, pushing around a fair sized drop of nail polish was the most effective method; it created the smoothest line with very little effort on my part.

It's also possible to clean up the curve with a flat brush dipped in nail polish remover. That sounds like a trip to having to redo my manicure to me, so I didn't even try it. Instead, I concentrated once again on cleanup. Cleaning as you go is way easier in manicures as in all other cleaning type situations.

I used Essie's Matte About You topcoat over the red. I mostly didn't get any on the silver.

While I liked the result, I was still obsessing over gold nail polish. Ed, my husband, says it's because I don't like to be thwarted. He's not wrong. And I figured another attempt was a good idea anyway -- practice making perfect and all that.

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Gold and purple - I kept the glossy topcoat so the purple wouldn't turn black.

So, I repeated the whole routine the next day, obsessive cleanup and all. And this time, because I knew a bit more about what I was doing, it went more smoothly and more quickly. I topped the gold with dark purple because I didn't want to have patchy color (a drawback to the red). It was only after everything was dry that I realized I'd painted my nails in my high school colors.

If purple and gold had looked so awesome when I was in high school, I might have had more school spirit. Or gone to my high-school reunion.

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This one is all about clean lines and clean cuticles.

Be aware: This can make short nails look even shorter. Some would say stubby. I would say screw that, but I know some people do care. Just play with the golden ratio to find the gap that works for you.

But Marianne, I hear some of you say, what if I can't freehand? And in response I say this to you: NAIL STICKERS. I doubt I'm the first person to think of this but let me tell you, I felt like a goddamn genius when I realized it.

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Freehand, schmeehand - replicate the look with nail stickers!

Ed is pretty much the most patient, awesome husband I could ever imagine having. Because I didn't want to mess up my own nails, Ed let me paint his thumbnail and subject it to the entire process. Silver, because he's not a gold guy, and a patterned nail sticker.

He kept it on for most of the weekend so I am fairly confident he thought it was pretty, too. (It kept surprising both of us, which was great. "Hey, what's that on your thumb?" "Oh, yeeeeah.") I don't think I'd use the thicker jeweled Kiss nail stickers for this -- it's important to apply a layer of topcoat so you don't get a weird ridge in your nail between the polish and the sticker. But the Sally Hanson nail stickers, especially the patterned ones, open up a whole new realm of potentially awesome Ruffian manicures.

That's another thing I like about revisiting trends that are a few years old. There's always more to do, another thing to try. Current trends can be great stuff -- but I don't want to forget about the things I like. And I really do like the Ruffian manicure. For everyone.