Many economists like to keep a watchful eye on popular fashion-related developments, including fabric and color choices, hemline lengths, and appearance-enhancing acccessories, to try and get a read on where things stand on Main Street and Wall Street.
According to a report in the Los Angeles Loyolan, "Nail Polish: This Recession's Lipstick," one modern day indicator continues to flash major warning signs about the state of the economy (despite reassurances from the usual clowns crowd that we're on the road to recovery):
Leonard Lauder, the chairman emeritus of cosmetics company Estée Lauder explained: “We have long observed the concept of small luxuries, things that can get you through hard times and good ones. And they become more important during harder times. The biggest surge in movie attendance came during the 1930s during the Depression,” he told Roya Wolverson in a Sept. 14, 2011 TIME Magazine story titled “What lipstick tells us about the economy.”
Historically, lipstick sales increased as our country’s economic health decreased, and Lauder coined this phenomenon (as he observed it in the makeup industry) the “Lipstick Index.”
The phrase was definitely better suited for the ’90s, when lip liner and a deep burgundy hue was the difference between Marge Simpson and Carrie Bradshaw, and according to Adam Davidson from NPR’s (National Public Radio) “Planet Money,” “For reasons nobody quite understands, the lipstick indicator doesn’t hold up anymore, though nail polish sales now seem to reflect the economy very clearly (albeit inversely). A rise in nail polish sales indicates that we’re searching for bargain luxuries as the economy craters - and sales of nail polish are way up right now.”
A quick trip to the nearest nail salon or Target displays the growing popularity of wild nail polish abundantly clear. The decision is no longer between shiny red polish or a French manicure; there’s magnetic lacquer, gel shellac, crackle and instant dry. Hands are a rainbow of colors with color block splashes. Essie and OPI bottles have names like “Midnight in Moscow” (a deepy reddish black sparkly hue) and “My Boyfriend Scales Walls” (a white color that is part of OPI’s Spider-Man themed collection). Even men are getting in on the action: Amazon is currently selling a brown hued nail polish made by ManGlaze called “Santorum.” It promises to be “Formulated for ugliness.”
Though our wild nails might not save the economy, they can definitely tell us a lot about it.