On main street and the runway, nail art is the new lipstick

Story highlights

Mainstream America follows Europe and Asia in embracing outlandish forms of nail decor

Nail art popular because it's cheap, temporary and accessible for all body types

Funky nails part of runway look at Fashion Week, highlighting nail art's expanding role in pop culture

Social media sites generate online communities where "nail porn" is shared

CNN  — 

The patrons of Poochiez Pawz Nail Salon are more than clients – they’re followers of a team of nail technicians revered for their skill in creating wearable works of art.

Many of those customers followed Tashina “Poochie” Green when she left a salon in Atlanta’s West End Mall and started beautifying nails with colorful, intricate designs in a barbershop. They donated money to help her open a salon in southwest Atlanta in 2005, four years after she left her hometown of Savannah to pursue a career in the big city.

Sandwiched between an abandoned food market and a religious bookstore that has yet to remove the “China Soul Cafeteria” sign of its previous owner, the strip mall salon has a steady stream of customers. They come in as blank canvases without any specific demands, except for nail art that will earn compliments from friends and strangers on the street.

“We don’t ask no questions, we just sit in the chair and shut up,” said Shauna Homer, a 42-year-old mental health care provider who has been seeing Poochie for six years. “I’m moving to New York in a few months and I’m sick already thinking about my nails because no one else can do what she does.”

Poochie’s reputation for creating hot nails has drawn customers and fellow nail techs from across the United States and the Caribbean at a time when mainstream America is catching up with Europe and Asia in embracing elaborate forms of nail decor.

From the runway to main street, nail art has emerged as a democratic form of self-expression in which anyone can participate. Spurred in part by the recession, it’s a relatively cheap – nail work at Poochiez Pawz starts at $30 – temporary way to feel stylish and make a statement. Plus, it doesn’t require a mirror to bear witness to its awesomeness.

It’s no longer just about bold solid colors or eye-catching metallics. Inspired by celebrities and do-it-yourself guides in fashion blogs and magazines, enthusiasts are embracing all manner of experimentation: intricate floral patterns and cartoon characters, glittery mosaics, 3-D motifs emblazoned with lace, gems, charms, foils, even magnets. The shapes of nails are even changing, from traditional round and square to diagonal and borderline-threatening almonds and pointy stilettos.

You don’t need fake nails or tips to enjoy the trend. Within the exploding DIY community, Zooey Deschanel-inspired tuxedos or