May 10, 2013

Adventures in vintage advertising: Cutex Nail Polish


In the first year of this blog's life, 2009, I wrote a pair of posts each of which shone the spotlight on the history and ads of a particular product and/or brand (one was about toothpaste, the other Green Giant Vegetables). Back then, these two post didn’t necessarily intend to start a series, but I did hope to put up future editions of "Adventures in vintage advertising" as time went on.

Well, on and on and on time went, and it wasn't until this week that a third post of this nature finally came to be, more than 3.5 years after the last one. As frequent readers of this site may know, vintage ads of all kinds are something that I have a very deeply rooted passion for. I pin them like there's no tomorrow to many of my Pinterest boards, include them often in blog posts here, and routinely look at yesteryear advertisements of all kinds for my own inspiration.
 
So what, you may be wondering, prompted me to think about another edition of Adventures in vintage advertising? Well, I was painting my nails, as many of us do on a frequent basis, and began thinking about some of the fantastic vintage nail polish ads I've seen over the years. In the mid-twentieth century, as now, there were a multitude of different brands selling nail polish (aka, nail lacquer), some of which are no longer around and others that have continued to go strong for decades now.

Though the brand (Essie) that I was painting on my tips that day is much more modern player on the polish scene, it was ads from Cutex - a brand that was established in 1911 - that were floating around in my head that day most of all. And so on this fine Sunday morning, I wanted to share a little bit of history about this classic brand, as well as some of my all-time favourite Cutex ads.

Cutex nail polishes - or, as they were known when they first hit the market, nail tints - began life nearly 100 years ago, in 1914. Three years later, in 1917, a paint that was similar to certain paints being used on automobiles of the day was introduced. Up until that time, nail polishes had usually been of a cake, powder or paste variety, having remained much the same since antiquity. Nail paint however caught on very quickly, and by the 1920s, it had largely replaced anything else on the market.

In 1928 Cutex pioneered another terrific invention, commercially manufactured nail polish remove, which, for a time, was sold right along with their polishes (in a combo pack, which you can see an example of in this etsy listing). A few years later, in 1934, Cutex launched a new polish formula that was glossier and more opaque then previous recipes, which most people would probably find relatively comparable to many nail polishes on the market nowadays.

For the next few decades Cutex reigned as one of most successful and popular nail polish brands on the market, with scores of hues being released and millions of bottles being sold to customers around the globe. However, as the twentieth century wore on and the two-thousands appeared, the popularity of Cutex's polishes dwindled (perhaps in part due to so many other competitors in the marketplace). While many of us grew up with Cutex nail polish (and/or can remember our mothers using this brand, as I certainly can), and they are still available in some countries (I believe), these days the company focuses more on nail polish removers and nail care products. Their liquid nail polish remover has always been one of my favourites, and you can almost always find a bottle of it under my bathroom sink.

Though Cutex nail polishes themselves are not as commonplace or wildly popular as they once were, I'm happy that the brand as a whole is still going strong more than a century after it was founded and really hope that it will continue to thrive for many more years to come.

In celebration of the many wonderful Cutex polishes that were a part of countless women's beauty arsenals for decades, let's take a look at several mid-century ads (spanning the 1930s through to the 50s) featuring an array of beautiful Cutex polishes.




{It strikes me as interesting that in the midst of the Great Depression, a time when a great many people had little to no money to keep in a bank, Cutex would opt to feature three banker's wives in one of their ads. I think however, they they were looking upon this title (bank's wife) as one of prestige and good social standing, and coming at things much more from that angle.}




{Featuring half-moon manicures with bare tips, this ad from 1936 features three shades that were voted most popular by the stylish women of New York.}


1930s Cutex Nail Polish ad featuring Schiaparelli
{Designer extraordinaire Elsa Schiaparelli lends her seal of approval to Cutex's products in this chic ad from 1938.}




{Polish users everywhere, take a bow with 1940's three largest selling Cutex nail polish colours in the world.}




{As with many beauty ads of the time, this Cutex advertisement from 1942 tapped into the patriotic spirit and wartime sensibility that was prevalent across America in those uncertain days.}




{Those same themes ring true in this lovely illustrated Cutex ad that appeared a year later in 1943, which encouraged users to save their nail polish bottle tops and brushes "as they may be scarce".}




{The war now over, this ad from 1946 returned to more of a focus on glamour and beauty, and implored women to put it (Cutex polish) on their "long, temptress nails".}



{Think, darling, think! Why pay high prices for nail polish and lipstick when Cutex's offerings provide all the benefits of costly brands at a fraction of the price (which in 1950, when this appeared, was only $0.10 or $0.25, depending on the size of the bottle of nail polish, and just $0.25 or $0.49 for a tube of lipstick.}





{Serene beauty radiates from this elegant French Cutex ad from 1950. It's interesting to note that here we see the whole nail painted from cuticle to tip, a look that became more common in the fifties than in decades past, though it certainly occurred (as seen in some of the earlier ads here) prior to that time as well.}



{It's new! It's sensational! It's Spillpruf! If this bottle really lived up to its claim, you have to wonder, why didn't it stick around? Who amongst us - our floors and counter tops very much included - wouldn't love a spill proof bottle of nail polish like the ones featured in this ad from 1952?}




{A rich shade of red, undoubtedly one of the most popular polish hues of all time, is in the spotlight in this alluring ad for Slightly Scarlet Cutex nail polish from 1955.}



{Without a doubt, this Cutex ad from 1958, teaming with juicy strawberry and an adorable pink summer outfit, has always been one of my very favourites from this classic cosmetics brands.}


{To learn more about a specific image, please click on it to be taken to its respective source.}



It was a lot of fun to revive this particular type of post, and you know, now that we're up to three editions, I think we can rightfully call it a series, albeit it one that won't appear quite as often as, say, Saturday Snapshot or Flickr Favourites. Instead, just as in 2009, posts of this nature will pop up when a certain product or brand, and its respective ads, waltz through my thoughts and deserve to enjoy a moment in the vintage limelight.

I'm always open to suggestions, so if there's a product that's been around since at least the 1950s that you might like to see appear in a future edition of Adventures in vintage advertising, please don't hesitate to let me know in the comments below or anytime.

As the polish I applied earlier this week is now looking a little worse for wear, I think it's high time I moozy on over to the powder room, whip it off and apply a fresh batch. Now, if only I could track down some gorgeous Hot Strawberry for today’s manicure!



33 comments:

  1. How interesting, I had no idea Cutex had been going so long. I've seen a few of the adverts from the 50s before though, so I knew it had been around a fair while. I don't think I remember ever seeing a Cutex brand nail polish, although I am definitely familiar with Cutex nail polish remover. Speaking of which, my own nail polish is starting to look a bit scrappy so I am now inspired to go and take it off and replace it with something new. These Cutex ones all have great names; I'm not sure I have anything that exciting!

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  2. My mom had a cool looking black container with plish in it and another shoe box of nail polishes. I loved pulling them about and playing with the bottles. She also kept all of her bangle bracelets in a shoe box too. I love your posts! They bring back amazing memories.

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  3. Those ads are fabulous! If you don't like nail polis, you should after seeing those ads!

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  4. Jessica I loved the vintage ads.
    Cutex is still available where I live as a nail polish remover brand.
    My grandmother refers to nail polish remover as "cutex" -

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  5. You know how much I like vintage adverts, and even more so when they are to do with nails! I love how elegant and decadent nails look in the adverts.

    I love having nice nails - I used to always have long nails being a nail technician.

    Thanks for sharing :)

    xox

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  6. I wonder if the Banker's Wives ad was targeted at letting the upper class know that it was acceptable to wear colored polish? Do you know when proper ladies started wearing nail polish in America? I assume it was similar to makeup, which was not worn by the upper class as it was by the working class girls.

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    1. Hi Kathleen, great question! I think that the 1920s ushered in the real start of nail polish's widespread popularity amongst women of all socioeconomic backgrounds. By the 30s, for sure, it was everywhere - very much including on the fingers of many a leading Hollywood starlet.

      ♥ Jessica

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  7. You know I was wondering just the other day how far back nail polish went. I love all these vintage ads...it's such a lesson in history to see how even nail polish ads trend. It's interesting now how Cutex is known more now for their nail polish remover. Love seeing all these ads. I've also seen the Schiaparelli one before, now I'll have to pay attention more when I'm looking over vintage magazines:))

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  8. Seeing that I polish nails for a living, I'm loving this post Jessica! :) I absolutely love old nail polish and make up ads!

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  9. I just adore all these fabulous old beauty ads! The collection you've gathered is lovely and diverse- I love seeing the development of the ads over time- the war time ad with your day time red nails and night time deeper colours...I'm nit sure if there was enough polish to change between two colours in one day, or energy after working all day. But it's so nice to think it's what these brave working lasses did- war work during the day and entertaining those poor soldiers at night...if only we could pop back for a bird's eye view. xx Shauna

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  10. I love it! certainly makes me want to go and paint my digits a bright scarlet red !

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  11. I love when cosmetics are described at "smart". Makes me feel good about wearing them :) I'm also loving that half moon with the french tip look! I'm not much of a nail painter myself, but I'd love to give that look a try. So chic.

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  12. I l o v e it !!!! Great post

    ciao
    :) Barbara

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    1. Grazie mille, Barbara!

      Un bacio,
      ♥ Jessica

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  13. Oh, these are fantastic! I do have very early memories of my mum painting her nails in the car on the way to church, fuming up the car with the scent of the polish, and the bottle looked a lot like some of these later ones... not that I think she saved one from 1952 but it was similar. I'd love to know how kiss-proof that lipstick really was!

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    1. Hi sweet girl, thank you very much for sharing that fun childhood memory with me (us). I can clearly recall my mom painting her nails (usually in one shade or another of pink or fuschia) when I was a little girl, too (though not in the car - though I've done that, as a passenger of course, a time or two before myself over the years).

      I agree, it would be really cool to compare that vintage kiss-proof lipstick with some of those market today who make the same claim.

      Big hugs & super happy weekend wishes,
      ♥ Jessica

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  14. Hi Jessica! I have just spent a lovely hour catching up with your latest posts! I am having a busy month for several reasons and have just caught up in one wonderful swoop! I just want to tell you I am enjoying your blog as much as ever. My highlights were the green shoes featured in your vintage fashionista post, the beautiful blue birthday dress (can't wait to see a photo of you in it!) and those gorgeous kitties. Also, the eshakti dress looks great. I thInk your love of green is well justified, it certainly suits you! Thank you for a fabulous start to the weekend. I hope your recovery is going well, now do excuse me while I go to paint my nails ;)

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  15. My dear Jessica ... I love your posts, your style, love the way you expose the history of each item ... I have left comments, but I'm always here .. kisses with love ...

    maniasdapenelope.blogspot.com.br

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  16. Oh, I loved this post in so many different ways! ♥
    Lots of hugs, sweetie!

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  17. absolutely beautiful adverts, i love pink nail polish actually even more than red! and now i´m inspired to put some new pink polish on ;) and i always adored that half moon manicure, it looks so elegant and beautiful!
    i hope you are having a wonderful weekend!
    lots of love and kiss,mary

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  18. "Hot Strawberry"? I'll take one please!!

    What a lovely selection of ads, really great to see how they changed over the decades. I am sure I have a cutex ad in one of the 1950s magazines (rather than money) I have stashed under my bed, I will have to search and see if I can find it and upload a pic if it's different from the ones you have.

    Hope you're having a fab weekend,
    P x

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  19. This was such a fun post! (I'm definitely going to have to read the other two) I love seeing how the ads changed in style over the years and getting to see the changes in fashion too.



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  20. I've really been into nail polish lately. I'm snatching up a lot of wet n wild and they have some fab colors. I have always wondered how one gets the white tips and such for their manicures back then?? They must have had a steady hand. I'm pretty good with mani/pedi's but not that good.

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  21. I love all the vintage ads!

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  22. Wow! Vintage, ads and nail polish - I'm in heaven! :) My first nail polish was a pearly white from Cutex. My mom gave it to me as a reward for stopping biting my nails when I was ten. It was fabulous and I felt very elegant. I also love vintage ads and when I scan my vintage, unfortunately in Danish, magazines there's always lots of them. They are so charming and often look like pure art. Look forward, I will soon scan a new bunch. Your next post in this series could be about Revlon lipstick. Thank you for putting together this lovely post which I truly enjoyed. :)

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    1. Hi sweet Sanne, I'd love to see more of your vintage ads - please don't worry at all that they're in Danish. I really do believe the pictures themselves speak volumes in vintage ads and that most can easily be understood no matter what language they're written in. A great ad - like a great beauty product - is timeless and a work of art unto itself.

      I love your suggestion for a future topic for this series. I'll be adding that to my list of blogging ideas for sure. Thank you, dear gal!

      ♥ Jessica

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  23. Really enjoyed looking through your blog! will definitely be visiting again. Especially when I need some inspiration!

    Authentic Alice

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  24. red nails and lips - simply perfection!

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  25. I didn't know Cutex until now, but the ads look absolutely lovely!

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  26. How those Cutex ads bring it all back. I remember Cutex bottles on my Mum's dressing tale - dark reds to start with but later I'm sure that Slightly Scarlet was her colour of choice. Once I turned 13 in 1960 it was off to Woolworth's with my pal Phyllis Rosenberg, who talked me into buying Cutex Pink Pearl - my very first polish. Afterwards came Fashion Orchid, Ginger Rose, White Pearl and a very pretty pale orange pearl. They were lovely colours for young girls and good for softening up parents. Happy days and thank you for the great posts.

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    1. It's marvelous that you got to experience some of these soft, beautiful Cutex colours firsthand (one might say "literally" there! :)) yourself, Corkycat. I wish that some (all would likely be too much to ask for) of the classic mid-century polish shades would be re-released. Revlon has done as much with lipstick before, but I've not heard of any of the polish brands that were around in the 40s-60s doing the same with their timeless colours. Hopefully one day! Then you can sport Pink Pearl again and I can give it a spin for the first time.

      Thank you very much for your wonderfully nice comment,
      ♥ Jessica

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  27. I have a 1929 "Cutex Five Minute Set" tin box . Interested in selling.

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    1. Hi Nancy, thank you very much for comment on this fun Cutex history post. It's awesome that you have a tin from this brand from the late 1920s to sell. I'm sure that there's an eager market of vintage beauty fans looking to purchase such.

      I'd highly suggest listing your item on eBay, Craig's list, Kijiji, or another local classified site in your area. If you use such, Etsy or Ruby Lane would both be viable options as well, though those do require one to set up a shop, so in that respect, eBay usually makes more sense for single items that one is looking to sell. Relevant Facebook groups that permit selling could be a good option as well.

      Best of luck to you & many happy summertime wishes coming your way,
      ♥ Jessica

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