There are many reasons to wear nail polish, and two that are obvious. The first—the really obvious one—is as an extension of your personal style. This is the nail art, pinky piercing, acrylic bucket. If you've ever looked down at your nail beds and thought, "10 tiny spaces for fun!" you have a wonderful worldview and we respect your artistic spirit. On the other hand, nails can be a purely presentational pursuit. The thesis here is that a polished, cuticle-pushed nail is a well-maintained one. Good for corporate job interviews and other similarly formal occasions—an approach that is a little less fun, but certainly not wrong.
With very little hard evidence, we'd like to wager that there's a third group—a community of people who thinks nails could be really fun...if they weren't so averse to color. And hey, it's understandable. ITG is based in New York, where the official color is black so that if someone spills their coffee on you in the subway, no one will notice. Nails, however, are naturally stain resistant (well, sort of), and there are plenty of polishes in new and creative neutrals to get you started. Below are a few, and please drop a note in the comments to share what shades you've been using lately.
J. Hannah in Himalayan Salt
Jewelry Designer Jess Hannah's recently released nail polish collection is all about color for people who hate colors. No jewel-tones here, which is surprising the more you think about it. (Get it? 'Cuz she's a jeweler but there aren't any jewel tones? Right? It's funny.) Instead, she's got Artichoke (grey-green), Marzipan (toasted almond), and nine other shades for the saturation-phobic. Our pick is Himalayan Salt—it works in your food, it works in your lamps, and now it works on your fingers. And it's not really pink, if that's what you're worried about it. It's more of a mauve-y rose, with hints of orange. An innovation in neutrals for sure.
Guerlain in Pink Ballerinas
Down to the name, this is very similar to Chanel's Ballerina and Essie's Ballet Slippers—that sheer nail gloss that makes it look like your life is so together that you even remember to go get your nails done (and take your cash tip out of your wallet before the polish goes on) weekly. The winning aspect here in Guerlain's version is the brush. It's wide and short and holds on to enough polish to get the right amount on in the first swipe. Not an innovation in shading, but worth the mention for ease of use.
Gucci Nail in Swan
This is not your average pastel nail color. See, this brilliant Gucci rendition of light, light blue (periwinkle almost?) doesn't have a heavy white base. So it does what any of the ballet-inspired polishes do, except with a cool tinge. Two coats gives you a nice, transparant gel covering; three gets you full, but subtle, coverage. And everyone lives for Gucci these days, so shouldn't you?
Zoya in Snow White
The grown up version of painting your nails with white out in the back row of your middle school social studies class. This is the brightest shade of the pack, but remember: White isn't a color, so you can't hate it.
Côte in No. 43
The best application experience of the bunch, but because of formula instead of brush. Seriously, it's like spreading butter—very seamless and satisfying. Also the whole Côte line is 10-free, which means there's no formaldehyde, no toluene, no DBT, no camphor, not xylene, and five other things that don't need to be in nail polish to make it beautiful and long-lasting. Honestly, 10-free is just one notch above dying your nails with forest berries. And in more shades than there are forest berries, too.
Context in Estranged
Sparkle-free, grey nail polish is hard to find. For one, it's often sparkly. And secondly, sometimes it gets so dark, it's basically black. At that point, may as well just wear black. But Context has the perfect slate grey in its repertoire—it's "middle of the road" in the best way possible. Not too blue, not too green, not too blah.
& Other Stories in Wincey Clay
Brown nail polish is another thing that is hard to find, but that's because no one thinks "You know what shade we're missing? Brown—get the cosmetic chemists on that one, stat." But this & Other Stories shade isn't really brown; it's more like clay, as the name suggests. Alternatively, you could call it khaki, greige, or cement, if any of those words peak your interest. No matter what you decide on, it's got dark depth that never reads flat. And it's only available in-store, which means it's a great reason to go shopping.
Photographs via ITG.