We Tried To DIY A Trendy Flannel Manicure, And The Difficulty Was Worth The Outcome

If there's one thing we've learned from fashion and nail trends of 2023, it's that nostalgia is a never ending well of inspiration. From 1970s-inspired dirty martini green polish, to bling-heavy jewelry manicures calling back to Y2k metallics, there's been no shortage of ideas for elevating your nail game, all thanks to the trends of the past.

Now, just in time for autumn, the latest nail craze taking the internet by storm borrows from the edgier pop-punk aesthetics that ruled the early aughts, while still keeping things nice and cozy. We're talking about flannel nails. But wait, isn't flannel just plaid? No, it's not. As Next Luxury puts it, plaid refers to a pattern, while flannel is a type of fabric. Since a lot of flannel shirts and shackets come with plaid designs, it's easy to see why both terms tend to be used interchangeably, especially in fashion. Keep in mind, buffalo check and gingham patterns may be called flannel, too. However, with a manicure, the key to differentiating the plaid nail trend from flannel nails is through the color selection. Plaid nails may feature more of a traditional autumnal palette like forest green, gold, and orange, while flannel is going to be grungier — dark reds, blacks, purples, and browns. 

As big fans of the pop punk aesthetic, we couldn't resist trying out this newer, edgier version of plaid nails. And so, we decided to gather up our polish, find a tutorial, and see how well we could DIY a flannel manicure ourselves. 

Flannel nails call for multiple polish colors

Although there are certainly beige — and pastel-dominant — flannel pieces on the market, a pop-punk-themed mani calls for moodier hues. What we tried? A dusty, warm purple paired with onyx black. (What can we say? We really like Olivia Rodrigo and we really dig "Guts.") After applying a base coat, we painted the nails on our ring, middle, and pointer fingers using the Zoya polish shade "Moki," a medium purple color. We then painted our pinky and thumb nails using the Zoya shade "Willa," a deep black. 

On our first attempt at the flannel pattern, we went for a gingham look, drawing three thick, black horizontal stripes and two vertical ones over our purple nails. Although photos of flannel nails online show the stripes don't have to be the same width, we found they looked best when they were proportional in size and relatively parallel to each other. However, since we were working with shorter nails and didn't have much room to space our stripes, it was challenging to keep the colors from bleeding. 

Once the first set of stripes dried, we took things a step further. Following JauntyJuli's DIY YouTube tutorial, we used a fine-tipped paintbrush to add tiny purple stripes within the existing black ones. This made it so some of the squares where the black stripes intersect would be layered with purple, mimicking the patches of blended colors that flannel shirts are known for. 

Getting the final look was a challenge, but we loved the end result

After painting on the purple and black gingham stripes, we still felt that the overall look was too dark, especially under dim lighting. To give the pattern more definition, we drew thin lines inside each stripe using the sparkly gold Zoya shade "Moki" with a fine-tipped paintbrush. The result was surprisingly elegant, despite our slightly crooked and inconsistent lines, a testament to the pattern's stunning simplicity. We also believed it lifted the too-somber purple-and-black combo. After cleaning up stray polish as much as we could with nail polish remover, we sealed everything in with a top coat.

Honestly, we did not find DIY flannel nails to be beginner-friendly. Along with requiring a ton of patience, they can get quite messy, especially when drawing the black horizontal stripes. It can also be difficult to determine exactly how much polish to use if you're not an experienced nail artist. We found using too little made the pattern indiscernible, while too much muddied the look. Color choice is a crucial consideration, too. In our case, going with a darker purple, gray, or even white for our stripes rather than black might have made our manicure more photogenic. Having longer nails would have also made the pattern look less crowded. 

Still, flaws and messy application aside, we liked our DIY flannel manicure. It's also surprisingly forgiving of imperfections as long as we don't look too closely at it. Plus, we worked hard on it. We'd definitely try it again with different hues. Now, excuse us as we look for a dark matte lipstick to match our nails.