Flip the bottle to read the label and a quirky or funny name instantly sets a shade apart in a sea of reds, pinks and nudes — adding another coat of fun to a manicure.
"We're living in such a bespoke culture, everyone wants something that's speaking to them," says Eva Chen, health and beauty director at Teen Vogue.
When polishes that look alike speak, they may say something completely different. A shopper can find identical shades of soft pink, one bearing a girly-girl name like Essie's Ballet Slippers and the other with the racier I'm Not Innocent from Deborah Lippmann.
L.A.-based nail polish company OPI is arguably the pioneer in giving lacquers off-the-wall names. "We got into nail color in 1989, when colors were 'Red No. 19' or 'Mauve No. 7.' It wasn't sexy and it wasn't fun," says Suzi Weiss-Fischmann, OPI executive vice president and artistic director. "We made it into an emotional experience and named the colors after destinations."
Weiss-Fischmann and her creative team take inspirational trips to get ideas for each collection. The name that ends up on the bottom of each bottle is generally a riff on something like a landmark or food they experienced while traveling. They regroup back at OPI's North Hollywood headquarters, where about six people sit in a closed door meeting. Attendees bring food and other items of inspiration based on the collection's destination or theme. Naming a collection of 12 shades takes six to eight hours. The results for this fall's Touring America collection? Monikers including French Quarter for Your Thoughts and Are We There Yet.
Seattle-based nail polish firm Butter London turns to British slang when coming up with color names. The company's creative director, Nonie Creme, a British transplant, taps into tongue-in-cheek phrases that link back somehow to the shade. For instance, "Toff," a rose-brown that Creme calls very "posh," is British slang for a rich boy. "Jaffa," a punchy orange hue, is the name of a seedless orange and U.K. slang for an infertile male.
The company's current bestseller, "No More Waity Katie," is a cool, sparkly, purple hue that uses a former cheeky nickname for Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, to commemorate her wedding to Britain's Prince William this year. Butter London takes labeling a step further by providing a nail polish name dictionary to help shoppers understand the meaning behind each funny phrase.
Here are some of our favorite nail polish names and a few recent shades from fall collections that are sure to be more memorable than Red No. 2 or Pink No. 4.
Sephora Collection — Tomorrow, Detox! (teal with silver glitter)
Butter London — Wallis (a green-gold, named for Wallis Simpson)
OPI — Yucatan if You Want (a deep reddish-brown)
OPI — Mauving to Manitoba (a gray-brown)
OPI — Crown Me Already! (a bold, glittery silver)
Essie — Fishnet Stockings (true red)
Essie — No Prenup (an innocent baby pink)
Essie — Trophy Wife (a sparkly teal)
Orly — Two-Hour Lunch (hot pink)
Orly — Take Him to the Cleaners (shimmery brown-black)
Deborah Lippmann — Call Me Irresponsible (creamy violet)