Polish and pattern choices aren’t the only ones facing manicure mavens these days—it turns out nail shape can be just as defining as one’s sartorial decisions

With the fashion and entertainment worlds’ current fixation on nails, we’re noticing a huge uptick in rounded-off and elongated oval and almond-shaped manicures, which begs the question: Are square nails now totally passé? Says CND education manager Roxanne Valinoti, “nail length, shape and color can communicate style just as fashion does, and the shape takes a cue from fashion silhouettes. The square nail was very popular in the ’80s and early ’90s when fashion was more menswear-inspired with chunky heels, big shoulder pads, blazers, etc.” Now it seems just as the pointy-toed pump—sans platform—is making its return, so too is a more elegant, less clunky nail.

“Oval and almond-shaped nails can add length to the hand and fingers just like a stiletto heel will,” says Valinoti. “It’s a classic, sophisticated length that CND has been showing for years on countless runways. It’s not a new trend, but one that is gaining popularity as women are realizing that nails are a great fashion accessory.” (See Adele, Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez, Katy Perry and Beyoncé.) While nail shape to a great degree should be dictated by a woman’s lifestyle and career, a more rounded silhouette is possible for anyone and the power it holds to flatter should not be overlooked. “Square nails can actually make short hands look wider and flat,” warns Valinoti. “Personally I prefer a medium-length almond—it can make any hand look long, lean and beautiful.”

That’s not to say there aren’t occasions for which closely cropped, square nails can shine. Valinoti says they can look great in dark colors such as gray, black and midnight blue—and they communicate to the world that the wearer is “active, practical and classic.” With an elongated shape, the possibilities are seemingly endless. On spring catwalks, CND’s creations ranged from long, pointed nails with pink matte and shiny asymmetrical French manicures at Angel Sanchez to pearlized, beaded almonds at Joy Ciocci, and even a shorter, but still curved, basket-weave pattern at Rodarte. Adds the expert, an oval shape says the woman “is feminine, sophisticated and modern. Almond nails have always been a classic vogue style for women as seen in the 1920s to current times.”

So when filing your own talons or sitting in the salon chair, remember that just as choosing between low-key baby pinks and wild, attention-demanding nail art communicates something about your personality, so does nail shape. “It is personal, just like fashion,” says Valinoti. “It truly is about what you want your nails to say about you and your style.”

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