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