Courtesy of Tiffanie McAlister

Ever since I can remember, nail salons have been a huge part of my life. My memories of them start very young, when I would always go with my mother. Trips to the nail salon didn’t bore me as much as usual errands, like going to the post office or picking up laundry from the cleaners, it actually really intrigued me. I would sit and watch my mother’s hands be pampered and nourished, fascinated by the process. I would beg my mother during every trip to let me get my nails done like hers – short, French tip acrylics – but to my tiny disappointment, my hands were too small. Finally, once I was old enough and my hands had grown a little, I was able to be just like my mother. Although my first experience ended with several tears because of a badly broken nail and an allegiance to never getting acrylics again, my fondness of the nail salon only continued to grow. 

In the years to come, it became ritual for my mother and I to get our nails done together. We’d go to the nail salon to be pampered and taken care of, I mean who can deny the soothing qualities of a manicure and a pedicure, but aside from that, the shops were our safe haven. When we were there, all of the outside baggage that we may had been carrying would evaporate. We’d talk about a range of things from silly workplace drama to reality TV shows. Sometimes we’d just vent to one another, unloading any of the stress that we were harboring. Other times we wouldn’t focus on any of that at all and just enjoy each other’s company. Our conversations within the nail salon were always intimate, regardless of the topic and I would always feel closer to my mother after we would leave. We would gain new perspective about so many things – life, our emotions, each other – and emerge with a special rejuvenation and bond. 

Trips to the salon also became vital in preparation for any major event. Beauty pageants, vacation, award ceremonies, and first days of school would all mandate a visit. Changes in the season would even have my mother and I gushing over all the color options, pondering the perfect shade. “Last time I got this color coral, I think I want to do something lighter” or “I’ve never done a lighter pink, so let’s go with that.” I’ve always been slightly more adventurous with my color palette, almost blindly choosing my colors most of the time. Sometimes I base my color off of nothing, just picking what stands out or how I’m feeling, sometimes I do variations of a color, for this past fall I wanted to stick to nudes. It really all depends on simultaneously nothing and everything. Though, it’s all a form of expression. Third-year fashion marketing and management student, Gabby Robinson says of nail salons, “I used to go at a young age with my mother. I go to the same nail salon now that I grew up in, so I love the hospitality. I go really just to pamper myself. I just like to keep myself up and look nice for any special occasions. Whenever I go, it’s always happy and new because I never get the same color.”

Courtesy of Tiffanie McAlister

You literally can go to the salon and get any color, any shape, any design, any length, just anything. Glitter chrome stilettos, hot pink coffins, baby blue almonds, the options are endless. Women go to nail salons to further express themselves, getting beautified for birthdays, weddings, or just to bond with other women. Third-year fashion marketing student Shanietha Cockfield says of her nail salon experience, “Since I moved to Atlanta, I started going to a black nail salon and it’s like this girl experience that I don’t want to miss. Before I started school and moved here, I didn’t have any female friends because all my friends and my sisters are out of state. So now, it’s my girl time.” For women all over, the experience of going to the nail salon offers a community of bonding, femininity, self-expression, and self-care. 

Courtesy of Tiffanie McAlister