Skip to main content
The M Dash

Live with purpose.

Does Your Nail Polish Need to Match Your Outfit?

When you’re ready to dip your toes (or fingers) into some fun new colors, it’s only natural to have some questions.

By Caitlin Abber

It used to be the case that “professional” women only wore neutral or clear nail polish: think pearlescent beige, soft pinks, or mauve if we were feeling adventurous. But as we interrogate so many of the social norms we attributed to “professional women,” we’re also able to see that biases against nail art—the length, colors, and accessorizing of our nails—is often rooted in both misogyny and racism and therefore not a rule we should live by. In 2021, your nails are another way for you to express yourself, not something that should hold you back. (That said, you should take into account and have respect for the cultures that have made nail art so aspirational). 

And when you’re ready to dip your toes (or fingers) into some fun new colors, you might have a few questions, like what color nail polish should you wear with a blue sweater? Do you have to change your nail polish if it clashes with your outfit? Is green nail polish just inherently weird?

There’s no one-shade-fits-all answer. Nail art is all about your own take on self-expression, but just as we use color theory as a guide for putting together outfit combinations, we can also use it to determine whether our nail polish matches our outfit in a cool way, or if we should maybe switch it up.

Below, we matched 8 shades of nail polish from our incredibly talented friends at Paintbox Nails (make sure to RSVP to our virtual nail art event with them on January 13th!), to three M.M. favorites.

Like French

Like French is a classic dark red. Deep, romantic, and reminiscent of a bold glass of wine, it’s the color you wear when you want to feel your best. Regardless of whether you’re chilling at home or going out, you can stay in the mood by pairing it with other red tones, like the cashmere Judith hoodie in Chianti or the sophisticated Porter Jacket in red multi. Or, go full razzle-dazzle with the Lisey top in Sahara (because red nails and animal print are one of the best pairings of all time).

Like Velvet

The Paintbox team says that Like Velvet is their “chicest neutral yet,” but we think it’s more special than that. Like Velvet is both warm and cool, like a pretty stone in the afternoon sun. It pairs well with everything, but greens and grays accentuate what’s so great about it. We recommend wearing it with the Elizabeth sweater in pale gray, the Shae hoodie in deep juniper, and the Anna jacket in hemlock.

Like Camel

Like Camel isn’t your usual light-brown neutral shade. It’s bolder, a bit tawnier, and pops on all skin-tones. It’s a fun color to play with, so go ahead and have some fun with it. Why not try it with an unexpected dark green-blue, like the Para in deep sea? Or lean into the orangeness with the Sophie sweater in curry? As a base, the Curie pants in saddle offer a neutral but complementary shade that pulls the whole outfit together.

Like Midnight

Blue nail polish used to be reserved for moody teenagers, but now it’s totally acceptable for moody adults, too. Like Midnight is a true navy, which means it pairs well with everything. As you might know, we love combining navy and black, so why not try it with the ultra-hip vegan leather Chloe dress? Or maybe go for a crisp but cozy sweater, like the Snyder in ivory. Another great option is a cool tone, like the Owen T-shirt in minty green.

Like Flora

Even if you’re not ready for a bold nail color, you can play a little by pairing a neutral shade with a top in a vibrant hue. Take Like Flora, for example. According to Paintbox, this peachy color was inspired by Honolulu in the 70s, so you know it’s gorgeous. Make it pop by combining it with a bold orange-red, like the Tyler sweatshirt in canyon, or a chocolatey brown, like the Owen T-shirt in carob. Want to stick with the Hawaii theme? Take it surfing in the Mia top in deep sea.

Like Blush

Sometimes a pale pink really is the best choice. It’s light, it’s pretty, and just feels nice. Plus, it really is so versatile. Like Blush looks lovely with a deeper red, like the Kristin pullover in huckleberry. But for a little edge, try pairing this baby pink polish with a darker shade, like the Delaney jogger in cool charcoal or the Dylan dress in a khaki-green safari.


Like Desire

Like Desire is the super flirty, candy apple red that beach vacation dreams are made of. It pops no matter what you wear with it, which is why it’s fun to pair it with more subtle tones, like the Dae top in pale gray or the Marnie sweater in oat. But the best way to wear it is with a matching lipstick and the James dress in black. Just trust us on this one.

Like Lush

Ready to go all the way? Like Lush is a chartreuse-y, olive-y, funky green that you might be skeptical about, but we think you can definitely pull off. Make a statement by wearing it with the hazy Elsa dress, or pair it with the Axam top in martini and the Colby joggers in olive for a subtle, monotone ensemble. 

Written By

Caitlin Abber

Caitlin Abber is the Brand Editor at M.M. LaFleur, and an award-winning writer and content creator. Over the last decade she has held senior editorial positions at MTV, Women's Health, Public Radio International, and Bustle, and has bylines at InStyle and

See more of Caitlin's articles

Read on.

Back to Top