These Basic Nail Colors Look Good on Everyone

There's no denying that nail art is fun. Cute manis with sprinklings of glitter and hand-drawn flowers are as pretty as a picture, and negative-space nails earn instant cool-girl points, but there's something effortlessly stylish about basic nail colors. Reds, nudes, and navy blues might seem like obvious choices when you're faced with a rainbow of options at the nail salon, but let's face it: They're classic shades for a reason. (And that's because they look good on everyone and are always on trend.) We caught up with some nail experts to find out what specific shades of nail polish remain popular year after year, and why certain colors manage to stand the test of time.


If I were forced to commit to one nail polish shade for the rest of my life (which would be very difficult, as I'm something of a nail polish philanderer), I'd probably opt for red. And I'm not alone: "Red nails are one of those all-time classic looks," Townhouse founder Juanita Huber-Millet told me. "Like a little black dress or a white shirt with jeans, it's a look that will never go out of fashion and is always a popular request at Townhouse." Red doesn't have to mean London-bus red either (even though that's my personal favorite). Maroons and clarets look beautiful in winter, whilst fiery oranges and rosy red work well in the summer.

Coral-red nails pair perfectly with a red lip.

Julia Roberts keeps it classic with a true pillar box–red mani.

A deep tomato shade is a classic way to wear red.


Nude nails are different for everyone. For some, it might be a mushroom-taupe shade, and for others, it might be an opalescent pink. "Pale, natural colors are always a popular choice," Huber-Millet said. "They subtly bring out the natural nail color, making the nail look healthy and bright." Similarly, Nails Inc. told me it's the nude shades that are always highly requested at nail bars, with Porchester Square ranking as one of the brand's most popular nail polish colors.

Beyoncé's pink-toned nude nails let the rest of her outfit do the talking.

Victoria Beckham keeps things classic with a barely there nude mani.

Sheeny, nude nails look chic on Alexa Chung.

Related: The 5 Basics Everyone Should Own, According to Anna Wintour

Black & Navy 

Let me tell you something: 16-year-old me loved black nail polish. I don't even know how many bottles of Rimmel London's Black Cab I went through. So I'm delighted that black remains top of the basic-nail-color leaderboard for an instantly chic mani option. "Dark navy and black have been very popular over the winter, projecting a cool New York vibe," Huber-Millet told us.

It's true that deep nails seem to be popular among celebs. Kerry Washington and Meghan Markle, for example, have both stepped out in sultry shades. If black feels a little too harsh for you, don't worry. Most brands offer deep navy blues, forest greens, and wine reds, so you can get a similar effect without feeling too goth.

Kerry Washington steps out in a sparkling all-black ensemble and matching mani.

ASOS Kicki's feathered Bardot top and black mani are monochromatic goals.

Meghan Markle keeps things classic with a basic black mani and LBD.


To me, pink is red's playful sister. It's always going to be around, but I tend to opt for it when I want a color that feels a bit more exciting. Celebs like Rosie Huntington-Whiteley are regularly seen with petal-pink nails on the red carpet, and I think it makes a great alternative to a nude nail if you're not sure that's your thing. Pink clearly remains a basic nail color that looks good on everyone. The team at Barry M informed me that Acai Smoothie (an orchid-tinged pink) and Pink Luxe (a metallic petal pink) are two of the brand's most popular polish shades.

Jorja Smith goes for bubblegum-pink nails.

Rosie Huntington-Whiteley keeps things classic in petal pink.

This post originally appeared on Who What Wear UK. Next up, the skincare brands you should try if you like Drunk Elephant

Mica Ricketts