TikTok is constantly churning out fashion trends, from the press-on nails movement to the cowgirl aesthetic. It’s the perfect place to garner inspiration on what vibe your summer wardrobe should emulate. It is also the perfect place to pick what style of braids should be next on the rotation. The latest trend is the “Clean Girl Nails Aesthetic.” It shows women sporting nudes, pastels and a ballerina cut. While it was once all the rave to have loud and boisterous nails, complete with emphasized length and rhinestones, the tides have turned and girls want a more muted look.

However, as the “Clean Girl Nails Aesthetic” follows a boom in Black nail aesthetic, it pegs the question: is it taking a subtle shot to the Black culture at play?

Photo Credit: Andrey Popov

There’s a common life cycle when it comes to appropriate Black culture. It’s ostracized initially, then feasted on by culture vultures. Eventually, they’ve grown tired of the cosplay and return to their roots. This can be seen in many celebrity eras, but it most certainly can be seen in fashion trends. Black women were nearly demonized for having larger butts until Kim Kardashian charioted the rise (and fall) of the BBL boom. This same lifespan can be seen when it comes to nail art.

When acrylic nails first emerged in the 1950s, Black women immediately adopted them as an expression of self. Donyale Luna, the first Black woman to be featured on the cover of Vogue, was sporting acrylics on her 1966 cover. Donna Summer and Diana Ross were rarely seen without their red acrylics. Flo Jo, a former nail tech herself, won Olympic gold while rocking six-inch multicolor nails. This, in fact, seemingly became the main focus following her win. It wasn’t her athletic brilliancy, but how “distracting” her nails were.

Black women have long pioneered nail art while suffering the brunt of their bold sense of expression. Yet, eventually, nail art became an Olympic ritual, just as long acrylics went from “ghetto” to “mainstream.”

The “Clean Girl Nails Aesthetic”

“Regardless of intention, French manicures and pastel colors signal white, middle-class, heteronormative beauty. said Miliann King, a women’s studies scholar. “Long, sculptured, airbrushed nails, on the other hand, are markers of Blackness, sexual deviancy, and marginalized femininity.”  

The “Clean Girl Nails Aesthetic” is a return to those French manicures and pastel colors, which is very much in contrast to the fluorescent colors and exaggerated designs. While for a season it was fun to rock long, multicolored, textured nails, the general public is returning to its heteronormative and palatable roots. A clean girl doesn’t dabble in Black adjacent fashion. Instead, the trend shows they prefer to opt for a “less vulgar, more politically correct” appearance. They have started to take off the costume they had once punished Black women for living in.

Take it With a Grain of Salt

Ultimately, there’s always a gray area to consider. Many women may simply want to rock nude nails for the sake of rocking nude nails, whether or not there’s subconscious prejudice interwoven. No one should follow a trend or adorn their nails in any way that feels unnatural to them, whether it’s short and bare or long and loud.