15 of the Most Iconic Nail Colors of All Time

Most Classic Nail Colors
Photo: @opi_professionals

To us, a manicure isn't just a minor flourish we hurry ourselves through on a spare lunch hour. Nail color can make us feel put together and polished (pun intended), even when we don't feel that way on the inside. It's the kind of boost only a truly great polish can procure. Over the years, we've come to know certain shades as forever classic, borderline iconic. These are the sheer nudes, bright reds, and sultry shades on the dark side that never go out of style. There's history in these bottles, and they've stuck around for good reason. Trendy shades come and go, but the best are forever. For example, a variation of Revlon Red has been around since the 1930s; Chanel's Rouge Noir debuted in the 90s on a Parisian catwalk (giving the angsty decade a black cherry lacquer to match). Where you sit on the Ballet Slippers versus Bubble Bath debate is no business of ours, but we do have thoughts on any vampy purple you're using that's not Lincoln Park After Dark. Blasphemous. One thing we know for certain: Every one of these iconic nail polishes should grace your fingers at least once. Here are the 15 all-time best nail colors that have ever existed.

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These Nail Colors Will Never Get Old

02 of 16

Ballet Slippers by Essie

"Ballet Slippers" by Essie

Over the last 40 years, this barely-there pale pink has remained a favorite of celebrities, royals (Queen Elizabeth, we're looking at you), and all of Essie's customer base (which is, as we know, mammoth). It looks good on everyone and works for every occasion.

BUY IT: $8.75; amazon.com

03 of 16

Cajun Shrimp by OPI

June: OPI Nail Lacquer in Cajun Shrimp

This is where red likes to summer. The beloved shade is the most perfect pinky (read: notorange) coral-red in the whole world.

BUY IT: $10.50; amazon.com

04 of 16

Lincoln Park After Dark by OPI

"Lincoln Park After Dark" by OPI

This is the ultimate winter classic. It's best described as "where midnight meets purple." After two creamy coats, it commands the room in an almost-black aubergine.

BUY IT: $9; target.com

05 of 16

Revlon Red by Revlon

Revlon Red Nail Polish

Revlon Red—ever heard of it? Of course you have. This glossy strawberry shade comes off cheerier than any blue-toned red. Plus, Revlon's chip-resistant formula will never go out of style.

BUY IT: $3.97; amazon.com

06 of 16

Funny Bunny by OPI

"Funny Bunny" by OPI

White nails aren't for the faint of heart—but this soft, slightly sheer white will silence the naysayers. It's anything but stark.

Salon tip: The day our nail esthetician recommended one coat Funny Bunny, followed by one coat Ballet Slippers, was a real game-changer. Sheer pink meets creamy white? Perfection.

BUY IT: $10.50; amazon.com

07 of 16

Big Apple Red by OPI

OPI Big Apple Red

Is it the most iconic red of all time? You bet. OPI's Big Apple Red is a perfect true red if you're looking for a manicure á la Rita Hayworth.

BUY IT: $10.50; opi.com

08 of 16

Rouge Noir by Chanel

"Rouge Noir" by Chanel

Debuted at Paris Fashion Week in the mid-90s, this iconic shade makes every woman feel like an absolute fox. That's perhaps why it's one of the most coveted lacquers ever made. It's a vampy black cherry color worth wearing at least once.

BUY IT: $28; barneys.com

09 of 16

Chinchilly by Essie

Essie Chinchilly Nail Polish

How to describe a perfect taupey gray? We imagine something chic, sophisticated, and anything but frilly or stuffy. We imagine this nail color. Southern gals love this gray-beige (with purpley undertones) as a never-let-you-down neutral.

BUY IT: $10; amazon.com

10 of 16

Light Pink Perfecto by Givenchy

"Light Pink Perfecto"by Givenchy

This couture shade is like if Ballet Slippers got a backbone. Creamy, opaque, and unrelentingly full-bodied, it's the perfect pale pink for everyone's inner Elle Woods.

BUY IT: $24; barneys.com

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Caviar Bar by Essie

"Caviar Bar" by Essie

This might be a newer nominee—but what it lacks in age, it makes up for in decadent, dark, and racy long-wear color. Expect a dark navy so deep and mesmerizing that you won't want to take it off all winter.

BUY IT: $11.59; target.com

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Russian Roulette by Essie

"Russian Roulette" by Essie

Meet Big Apple's fiery orange-red counterpart, Russian Roulette. Even the name sounds a tad more rip-roaring, hm? If your skin tone runs warm, this orangey red is your most flattering new friend.

BUY IT: $9.60; amazon.com

13 of 16

Black Onyx by OPI

"Black Onyx" by OPI

Any belle with a dark side knows this blackest black shade. It's like an ultra-glossy coat of armor for your nails.

BUY IT: $10.50; ulta.com

14 of 16

Expresso by Sally Hansen

"Expresso" by Sally Hansen
Sally Hansen

Sally Hansen is quite the lady to know in the beauty world, and this shade is one of her crown jewels. The deep, dusky pink color is consistently one of the brand's top sellers.

BUY IT: $4.20; amazon.com

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Bubble Bath by OPI

"Bubble Bath" by OPI

This is OPI's answer to Ballet Slippers. It's a pale, sweet pink that masters the art of barely-there color. (It's also dreamy when layered with Funny Bunny.)

BUY IT: $10.50; amazon.com

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Rouge 999 by Dior

Dior Rouge 999

In 1953, Christian Dior sought the perfect red to complement his designs—and he found it. This is Dior's hero hue, which comes through in a shade so true and pigmented that you'll feel like a 50s starlet upon first swipe.

BUY IT: $28; macys.com

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Should toe and fingernail polish match?

    Matching nail polish colors for your toe and fingernails is up to you. If choosing different polish colors, select complementary polishes for a cohesive look.

  • What are the different nail shapes?

    When getting a manicure, there are several options for nail shapes. These options include oval, almond, square, squoval, coffin (ballerina), stiletto (pointed nails), and round.

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