Saturday, October 17, 2009

Mad Men(icures)

In a recent Bazaar article on new manicure colors and shapes, the author recommended looking to Mad Men for a longer, almond-shaped nail.

I remember being vaguely repelled by the manicures in MM, precisely, I think, because we’re supposed to be.

Consider Betty Draper’s hands in an early episode when she loses control of the steering wheel or can’t apply her lipstick: her clumsiness indicates her repressed frustration over her status as Don’s wife, and her awkward manicure punctuates that thought.

Indeed, Betty’s nails seem like artificial appendages that get in the way of everyday activities. She doesn't even eat supper with the family, smoking and drinking instead, as if managing a knife and fork is simply too difficult. Note, too, how her long nails curl up a little at the end, suggesting their inappropriate fit on her hands, the poor fit of her character to her life.

There’s also Glenn’s mother, who has long, red pointy nails, which, ahem, point to her being marked as a divorcĂ©e, a woman whose selfish actions threaten the other wives (could she have designs on their husbands?).

The manicures of the other female characters didn’t leave an impression in my mind. But if I were to follow Bazaar’s advice to emulate a Mad Men manicure, I might cheekily look to Betty’s hands when she’s shooting at the birds. In this moment of inspired Hitchcock one-upwomanship, Betty’s manicure is tellingly all but invisible as she finally asserts her authority.


WendyB said...

As someone with extremely short, practical nails, I actually enjoy the Mad Men look, symbolism or no symbolism. My nails haven't made my life any better, that's for sure!

Make Do Style said...

I do think the almond shape is old fashioned, too old fashioned. I prefer the hybrid almond/square I've developed.

Good analysis wanna write my dissertation!

Passementerie said...

That was a wonderful scene, when she shot the birds... I have been studying the manicures on Mad Men with interest - note Rachel Menken's (the glamorous Jewish department store owner) long red nails and contrast their function with Helen Bishop's. Helen's are a challenge, Rachel's are a defence.

We're just a couple of episodes from the end of series one and I'm LOVING it. What do you think we should watch next? We have seen all of the West Wing, Big Love and Gossip Girl.

enc said...

I enjoy the look of a beautiful manicure. I've always admired women whose hands are perfect and porcelain. Alas, I can't maintain long nails to save my life.

Mary-Laure said...

Betty's manicure always struck me as in bad taste, unlike the rest of her look. I think it looks cheap, tacky.

Are you, like me, a Mad Men addict?

Couture Cookie said...

Not a fan of Betty's manicure. However, it does strike me as being classier than Carmela Soprano's overgrown French mani... the Jenna Jameson look.

Anonymous said...

...tellingly all but invisible?