Red was one of the first nail varnish colours ever to be produced. It was hot in the 30s, and it’s still iconic now, but how do two modern polishes perform?

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In the ring: Dior Vernis Rouge 999 vs Cheeky American Hot Nail Paint

The vital stats:

Dior Vernis , £19, Shade Rouge 999, 10 ml

Press release promise: “Couture colour, gel shine, long wear nail lacquer. Discover the new-generation Dior Vernis and its ingenious formula that plays up the gel effect.”

Cheeky Nail Paint , £7, Shade American Hot, 10 ml

Press release promise: “Our collection of Chat Me Up nail paints are designed to add that extra spark to any look with playful names that reflect their major colours. Get creative with our range of nail polish and express yourself! All nail paints feature an extra wide brush for an easy DIY application."

The battle:

Supposedly the favoured nail shade of Cleopatra, Nefertiti, the Celts and members of the Ming Dynasty (for more nuggets of nail polish history,  see Lisa Eldridge’s Facepaint ), red talons are eternally chic and associated with some of the most powerful hands across history, but chipped polish, not so much. We doubt Cleo and crew would have suffered cracked varnish gladly, so frankly, why should we?

I commenced a 21st century red polish inquest by pitting a high end nail paint against a high street varnish. Fight club has nothing on this.

In the left corner/ on left hand: Cheeky Nail Paint

In the right corner/ on right hand: Dior Vernis

So my hands didn’t exactly fight one another, but pre-battle prep was identical for each. Same basecoat, same topcoat, same application time. I’m nothing if not scientific. I even roped in a lovely manicurist to ensure precise, even application, with no dodgy left hand paint jobs as is pretty much inevitable when I’m going DIY. The only caveat was that obviously one hand dominates (right in this case), but as I’m not blessed with ambidextrous aptitude we’ll have to let that fly.

First round: Fight night was Tuesday evening, and shades were near indiscernible from afar with Cheeky’s American Hot slightly bolder and brighter, and Dior Vernis 999 deeper and darker. Both were equally glossy, but Cheeky brightened up my pale skintone slightly more. Dior is very grown up however; essentially American Hot is a summer red, and 999 a winter crimson. Both applied in a smooth, controlled manner, with very little ‘painting outside the lines’ if you see what I mean. It’s pretty much neck and neck here, but we’re in it for the long haul...

Second round: T-minus two days. Still glossy, still bold, but Dior (right hand) has chipped slightly at the tip of two fingers. Can possibly blame smartphone, but given that handheld devices are a pretty much non-negotiable feature of modern life, present-day polishes need to toughen up, especially at steep price points.

Third round: It’s been almost a week since these two came to blows, and both have performed very professionally indeed, but Cheeky American Hot stayed strong throughout. When the cracks set in for Dior 999, a call to that very number was almost made; I have a feeling there’s no saving the index finger, but unless you look closely middle and ring look almost flawless. Cheeky hand is in much better shape, with thumb and finger as polished (quite literally) as they were at the beginning of the match.

The winner: I’ve got to hand it to the lightweight (wallet wise) in this case; Cheeky Nail Paint in American Hot delivered the sucker punch, sustaining its strength and sheen to the end.

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