Press-on Nails

By Julie Anderson

80s Press-on NailsIt’s 1987. You need to be full-on glamorous (for, like, prom or homecoming) which means shoes dyed to match your gown, pantyhose, a labor-intensive hairdo involving LOTS of styling products, and long, polished nails. However, back in the eighties we didn’t have a Star Nails in every strip mall. Sure, fancy salons had manicurists who could give you acrylic tips, but after springing for our Dyeables and our dates’ corsages, we didn’t have the money yet for that kind of extravagance. Besides, permanent fake nails required upkeep. We were content to have totally bad claws like Alexis Colby for one night and then go back to our regularly scheduled program.

Enter Lee Press-on Nails: the Cliff’s Notes version of a full manicure.

Here’s the commercial for the original product:

Which were sort of cool, except you had to POLISH them. Which entirely negates the point, right? That’s EVEN HARDER than just polishing your own nails. Lee clued in and started putting the color on the nails so that all we had to do was, you know, press them on. A star is born:

Lee Press-on Nails were available in Active, Natural, and Glamour Length. Active length seemed sort of pointless, to be honest. They weren’t long enough to be fabulous, but were still a pain to apply and wear. This commercial amuses me because the “active things you do” include removing pristine gardening gloves, tying your sneakers, and playing piano with the flattened pads of your fingers (my piano teacher would be horrified: one plays piano with one’s fingerTIPS.)

Glamour length Press-on Nails were, like, Guiness World Record dragon-lady talons. You had to fully commit to wearing them (and forego things like using the bathroom and scratching your nose). Natural length was the way to go as far as I was concerned.

Here’s a commercial for Miss Lee Press-on Nails. Totally bogus. Little girls would tear those things off in, like, three seconds flat. And the part where she pops a bubble with her Press-on Nail is grody. You KNOW that gum got stuck up under that plastic fingernail:

Lee Press-on Nails weren’t perfect. They didn’t last forever, and would pop off fairly easily if snagged. The rough edges needed a touch of smoothing with a file, too. My nails are relatively wide and flat, and the curved shape of the press-on nails hurt a little bit when it forced my nail beds to conform. Lee Press-ons were kind of thick, too; they didn’t look realistic upon close inspection.

Lee Press On Nails from the 80s

But, whatever. Beauty is pain, right? Fabulously long nails were totally worth a little inconvenience. Plus, there was no waiting for polish to dry. Awesome!

Today, there’s a whole world of beautiful manicure options out there, but don’t think that Press-ons are obsolete. Press-on nail technology has improved, plus there are tons of fun designs and finishes these days. Katy Perry, for one, is a big fan. “My favorite item in my wardrobe right now would probably have to be my ever-changing library of fake, fantastic nails.” – Katy Perry, June 17, 2010

Author: Pia Sooney

Just a little obsessed with all things 80s, Pia still has her Swatch, her cassette tape collection, and her Converse Chucks. When not making friendship pins or listening to Depeche Mode, she runs a web design business.

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