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The Chicest Manicure Ideas for Short Nails

Yes, short nails can be fun too.

The Chicest Manicure Ideas for Short Nails
Photo: Getty Images

My nails are at the top of the list of things that have prevented me from becoming a rockstar. There’s also my complete lack of ability, but we can blame my love for a good set of acrylics as the reason my guitar sat untouched for most of my early 20s. Unfortunately, quarantine reawakened my Kim Gordon fantasy and I have picked up the bass which means saying goodbye to the talons that make me feel like Cat Woman. Instead, I have been embracing short nails, and by short, I mean nubs—the flesh of my finger extends beyond the nail. While I still miss the way my long nails looked in mirror selfies, there is no shortage (forgive me) of fabulous ways to style short nails. Dolly Parton may have used her acrylics to help her write “9 to 5,” but we can’t all be Dolly, so I’ve gathered some of my favorite sources of inspiration that prove short nails can be fun too.

Work With Negative Space

Since I’m going low-maintenance anyways, sometimes my whole nail design is just a single dot on each nail over clear polish, but I love these abstract shapes by Nails Bab.

Ombré Collection

Katie Mok
Ella & Mila
$63 $50

Mix Up Designs

You’re working with limited real estate, why not do complimentary patterns on different hands? Alternatively, I love doing a design on one hand then a solid color on the other or alternating different patterns on each finger.

Black Cherry Manicure

There is a scene in the second season of the original Gossip Girl where Serena and Dan are on the bus back to the city from the Hamptons. They had recently decided they absolutely cannot hook up ever again, but the sexual tension of being on bus (hot, obviously) and Serena sucking on her fingers (sticky from a slow-motion chocolate strawberry moment) simply forces them to make out in the loo.

But this scene was formative for me in more than one way: It was Serena’s short, glossy ox-blood manicure, not Dan’s chiseled jawline, that captured my attention as she caressed his face after tripping directly into his lap. After this episode came out, I remember seeing this manicure everywhere. You might recall the chokehold Chanel Rouge Noir had on early Tumblr, and with the resurgence of this aesthetic, I think its time has come again.

The @Gelcream Aesthetic

The Instagram account @gelcream, run by photographer Yana Sheptovetskaya, is famous for two reasons: succinct, honest beauty reviews and Sheptovetskaya’s signature images of her hand holding the product in question. Her nails are always immaculate and always short, usually featuring elegant colors like matte gray, warm browns, and burnt orange.

Glitter French Manicure

Short nails can enjoy the classy elegance of a french mani too! Sometimes we just need a little something, and this checks all the boxes for a simple yet eye-catching mani, especially since we’re staying short.

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