Would You Wear a French Pedicure?

Leandra Medine | April 22, 2016

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French pedicures are like Donald Trump in that either you love them (and probably don’t live in New York City) or you hate them.

Unlike Donald Trump, however, there is a very quiet resurgence in progress that the MR office thinks has been largely in my head but I’m pretty sure it’s not.

It started like this: A few weeks ago, I had breakfast with Pernille Teisbaek, who is a Scandinavian editor who makes everything look cool (truly — if she wore Crocs, I would whip mine back out, too). While we were sitting next to each other on a couch in a hotel lobby, appraising the similar striped shirts we were wearing and gold coin necklaces dangling from our necks, I noticed her toes inside a pair of snake print Céline wedge sandals, which were painted the French way. I jerked my head up abruptly like I’d just caught sight of a cockroach and didn’t want to make a big deal about it, but then, as I slowly looked back down, I guess I realized it was actually a butterfly? And that I wanted to touch it?

I don’t know.

So on Tuesday, I went to Ten Over Ten, which is a nail salon in New York that I am pretty sure would have a Michelin star if the rating system covered nail facilities and asked for a French pedicure. Everyone looked at me like I was an alien. “You sure?” The technician asked. “Maybe we heard wrong,” the woman behind the iPad cash register suggested.

No, no. White tips, please. White tips and nude beds.

Now look, I would be lying if I told you I didn’t feel somewhat embarrassed as I was reading my book (The Power of Now), having these facades painted on to my toes that made me feel like a full-time masseuse who lives in the South of France. They certainly took some getting used to; for the first 24 hours they were painted French, I laughed pretty hysterically every time I looked down. Almost as if to say, “I’m in on the joke, too.”

But the thing is, I wasn’t. Wednesday morning was weird because I kept trying on and taking off open toe shoes — they didn’t look right with lady feet. Obviously this signaled that I did not like my pedicure. Until, that is, I put on the right shoes to compliment them — not a feminine pair of quiet sandals, but an open-toe gold flat that resembles a brogue coupled with green jeans. As with all things (related to style and otherwise), the key is mindfulness. Good styling takes thought.

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Thought and practice.

On Thursday I wore flat lace-up sandals with a pair of denim shorts and by then I was sure that I’m supporting a return which now makes me feel much more comfortable turning Man Repeller into a beauty forum that requires you to weigh in. I feel like most internet threads about French manicures and pedicures are correlated to weddings but this is a much more general question that simply wants to know: would you get a French pedicure? Do you see its redeeming qualities? When’s the last time you had one, if ever? Is this it — have you finally decided you’ll never read Man Repeller again?

Pedicure by TenOverTen, shoes by Chanel, Gucci and Gianvito Rossi; photographed by Krista Anna Lewis.

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  • Jen

    I am fully on board Leandra!! I’ve never been a colorful nail sort of gal so this makes me happy.

  • Jennifer Robyn

    I love a French pedi. It’s elegant and clean and never clashes with anything you are wearing. It looks good when you step out of the shower…even better if you have a little tan (unlike me-My ancestors were white and leopard-spotted exiles from the British isles..) Here’s the thing…make sure your bed-to-tip ratio doesn’t get too out of control. At the salon where I get my manicures my nail tech always shakes her head at me and says “Why you cut so short?”. There is a certain faction that likes to celebrate their toenails with a throwback tribute to tree-climbing lemurs. Nobody wants to look down and be reminded that they need to clip. Keep’em trimmed and slim and you’ll be good.

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  • Sarah McCarron

    I love the colors of a french pedicure, but personally, I don’t like anything that makes my toenails look longer. At a glance, it looks like one’s toenails need a trim.

    • KMRH

      Agree completely!

  • krissiathaiane

    A well executed French pedi still looks good in my humble opinion.

    With that said, I absolutely hate getting pedicures and haven’t had one in 3 months. So maybe don’t listen to me?

  • AME

    It’s been many years since my last french pedi (I switched to OPI’s Samoan Sand) but I’m pretty sure I would welcome its return. I don’t love the look of the french, but at the same time it’s very flattering.

  • haha! No way! They make me think of my Mom’s friends who have been rocking the look for 20 years straight. Just can’t do it!! 🙂

  • Yvonne Dunlevie

    One time my mom asked my dad if he knew what a French pedicure was and my Dad said, “you get it done while wearing a beret?”

  • Julie Meowmeows

    I think I’ll pass on this one. I haven’t seen a French pedicure in the wild since about 1998.

  • soniadelvalle

    I never really got what the aversion towards the french mani/pedi was about. My POV is just that it went the way of the crimped hair and Von Dutch hats, so obvi you’d never find me sporting french tips again (I think), specially since the Kylie/Coffin nail has taken over my hands until further notice. I guess I’m not as brave (read: unwaveringly stylish) as you, L!

  • Mariana

    Not prepared yet for that comeback. The modern equivalent of french mani/pedi, in terms of looking good with any outfit/jewelry, is nude and I think I am going to stick with that for a while.

  • Rachel Jones

    I’m all for it. I would also support the revival of the french manicure too….. is that embarrassing? probably. Am I stuck in the early 2000s? most definitely.

  • Beatrice

    A French pedicure always reminds me of Samantha Jones and her swanky shoulder pads. That’s both a good and bad thing.

    • Beatrice

      OK I GOT A FRENCH PEDI and I love it

  • ValiantlyVarnished

    I haven’t done a French pedi in years but they are pretty popular here in Chicago during the Spring and Summer months. They are basically for the girl who doesn’t want to paint her toes coral or bright pink lol! For me french pedis are a lot like French manis – I like them. In THEORY. But actually on my hands or toes? Not so much.

  • starryhye

    To me, the whole point of a French manicure was to make your nails look longer. So why on Earth would I want to make my toenails look longer??? This is a solid nope from me.

  • Jolie

    I grew up in Westchester so French pedicures have always been the epitome of class at a nail salon for me.

  • Michaela Williams

    I am now feeling extra guilty for silently judging the girl next to me at the nail salon last week for getting a French pedi. She was a dead ringer for Zosia Mamet, so technically that is my excuse for glancing over at her repeatedly, not the pedi. I’m a dark-polish-pedicure kind of girl, but sure loved a French pedicure in college.

  • annie holland

    I think it looks good. Who gives a shit what anyone thinks anyway? If you like it, own it.

  • Leslie

    French pedis were on trend among my peer group in the early 2000s, presumably to match the white-tipped acrylic fingernails everyone got for prom? I’m just not ready to revisit that time. Ask me in another decade.

    • 808kate

      ^ this. I refuse to return to the early 2000s, and for me white tips are buried in the past with extra low-cut jeans and puka shells. Plus, french pedis remind me of little pigs wearing hats.

      • Jessica Peterson

        puka shells!!!

  • As a Jersey girl, my heart will always have a soft spot for french pedis!

  • Since French nails was a trend, it never got out of style here at Egypt, it shows how you look so put together and neat, so you can see it at weddings and at every place and season. Unlike me I don’t even remember the last time I wore it, now that you mention it I could think about it and how the clean look it give could clash with a colorful pair of slides and cropped flare pants at summer– kind of the paradoxes I live for, I don’t know.

    http://www.fashionparadoxes.com/

  • LalaN

    No. Nope. Nah. I think bare and buffed is beautiful, but I will never paint white tips on my toenails or fingernails.

  • Kelly

    They remind me of all the girls who sported them for our debutante ball, even though you could not possibly see them beneath those gowns, it was definitely the cool thing to do.
    I’m not against a french pedi, but I think I’ll stick to my ox-blood polish.

  • mary

    if ever,? got news for ya sweetie….it never left…just cause many pack hunters chose rainbow colors or vampire pointy nails….many love the clean but polished look.

  • Olivia

    I don’t judge the French mani however the French mani bugs me. That said it looks nice on you Leandra.

  • CT

    where can i get a pair of those gold shoes? Just gorgeous

  • Kelly’s Gross-o

    finger feet -_____-

  • Katherine Sargeant

    Power of Now is the best 99 cent used Amazon book I’ve ever bought. Also huge fan of French pedicure

  • in a word: RATIO. The critical component of the French paint job is the ratio of white tip to nude base. A narrow tip is the only way to go. Approach the 30:70 point and you may as well change your name from Brittany to Britney.

  • Andrea Raymer

    I saw a girl yesterday with the daintiest french manicure, short nails and a super thin line of white at the tip worn with denim on denim on denim and high top chucks. there was something about it that made me immediately want to paint my nails that way. And I also immediately thought of this article, so i know I must share.

  • Silvia Barcellos

    I think it’s cute, but not for me. My toenails are too small… Like kid’s toenails. ?

  • Shawnie

    my last pedi was not french but american..its like french but its color is off white more of a natural creme color..i like it but i think i will get my favorite color tiki punch the next time.

  • Hannah Ford

    The title of this article caught me right away! My mom always suggest I get a French pedi but I wouldn’t dare. And haven’t since pre 2005. That being said, seeing you “open up” about this topic makes me very, very interested in going French next time I’m in the pedicure chair!

  • perfect mayhem

    I think they look nice but overall I am not a fan of something that feels like it is passing for real if that makes sense. Too perfect/fake I guess you could say. I might go for this but then do the tips in an unexpected color.

  • Ceci

    I think they suck. Longer toenails? Bah ???

  • Joy A.

    Carmela Soprano was a QWEEN

  • Athena Politou

    Where I come from people think of a french pedi something really classy but for me, it’s always been a MAJOR faux pas. Something about it just feels cheap and dated.

  • Lisa Marie

    Well I come from it from a different perspective I guess because my boyfriend has a foot fetish and he thinks french pedicures are the single greatest thing a woman can do to beautify herself. So I’m always sporting one (hell, he pays for my pedis…AND most of my cute open-toed shoes…I’m telling you girls, along with the long foot massages after work….you literally will not find a better boyfriend than one with a foot fetish!) But regardless, even if I wasn’t dating him, french pedis would be in regular rotation on my toenails. (Just not ALL THE TIME, like it is now.)

  • aaardvark

    I have a French Mani and pedi. Its just easier. I have 4 kids and no time. That being said, I get more compliments from men AND women when I have flip flops or sandals on than I can keep track of.

  • Lexxi Ann

    I don’t know why this is so controversial. French pedis are just so clean, classy, and feminine. Yes, just like below, I get complimented -so much- from women much younger than me to the cougar set. For this 30-something busy mother of 3 energetic kiddos…it’s a no-brainer. Luckily I live in SoCal so I’m open toed year around, which allows me to wear my toenails on the longer side. Girls I’m telling you I get more double and triple takes from men sneaking peaks at my high-gloss french pedicure walking thru Target than at my booty or cleavage! Use that precious resource…get your toes did!

  • Happy2BHere

    Oh, non, non, non…. I see this look on hands or feet (especially feet… who wants their toenails to look longer…ick!) and think tic tacky. I love your articles and your writing style, but there is no way in hell I would go with this look. It it what I see on uncool, middle aged suburbanites around Houston. No can do…