How To Do A Fishtail Braid: A Step-By-Step Guide To Elegance

Your crash course to master the skill of fishtail braiding to recreate the mermaid look.

Written by , BSc Reshma Latif BSc Experience: 5 years
Edited by , BTech Anjali Sayee BTech Experience: 7 years
Fact-checked by , MA (Mass Communication & Journalism) Joyce Joyson MA (Mass Communication & Journalism)

In the ever-changing world of hair trends, the ethereal fishtail braid always seems to remain in the spotlight! This timeless and classic braid look not only looks mythical but is also super-easy to try. A fishtail braid is actually a very simple hairstyle that does not require any complex tools. It is an easy and stylish hairdo suitable for various occasions.

A classic fishtail braid is an intricate woven plaiting style with overlapping stitches that resemble fish scales. It can be used to style half-up and half-down, boho, or updo hairdos. So, if you have ever wanted to look like a Greek goddess with these braids, you are at the right place. Continue reading to learn how to weave a chic fishtail braid in a few simple steps.

protip_icon Before You Get Started
  • Slightly damp hair is easier to braid and retains its shape. Spritz some water to your hair before you begin.
  • Detangle the hair before braiding to prevent uneven sections.
  • Use clear hair elastic or in color matching the hair color to lay the focus on the hairstyle.
  • Pulling in thicker sections for braiding will give a romantic look, and smaller ones will provide a polished look.
  • While learning to do the fishtail braid, try to do it on a side ponytail in front of the mirror so that you can adjust the sections accordingly.

A Step-By-Step Guide On How To Do A Fishtail Braid

The beauty of the fishtail braid is that it looks stunning on any type. Here is a guided tutorial to help you learn how to master the fishtail braid:

1. Prep Your Hair

Prepping the hair by combing it
Image: YouTube

Start by combing and detangling your hair. Since curly and wavy hair are naturally textured, you can style this braid on clean or a day old hair. If you have straight hair, it is recommended to do this hairstyle on unwashed second- or third-day hair for better grip. Unwashed hair is less likely to slip while braiding and there is a reduced risk of the braid falling apart or loosening over time. Use a styling gel or dry shampoo to add extra grip to the hair, making it more workable for braiding.

protip_icon Trivia
The hairstyle dates back to 430 BCE when maidens of ancient Athens wore thick fishtail braids. These maidens, known as Caryatids, wore the fishtail braid down the back with braided wraps that created a crown.

Alice, a beauty blogger, explains her experience of learning to do the classic fishtail braid. The braid accentuated her ombre hair color. She wrote in her blog, “I first washed my hair which was a bit of a bad move but I didn’t want to do this with second day hair as at the front it is quite relaxed so I wanted to have nice shiny clean hair! Unfortunately due to the length and type of my hair it gets extremely knotty so I used a detangling spray (i)”.

2. Bring The Hair To The Side

Long haired woman holding hair towards the side
Image: YouTube

Fishtail braids look great as a side braid as it falls over your shoulder to give a romantic look. You can do a side parting of the hair or comb all the hair to one side. For beginners, a side-swept braid will make it easier to work and see the result in a mirror.

Note: For beginners, you can tie the hair into a side ponytail close to the scalp. This will give better control over braiding.

3. Divide Your Ponytail

Stylist dividing hair into two sections
Image: YouTube

Divide the ponytail into two equal sections, then brush each section to remove any tangles. The regular braid has three sections, while the fishtail braid has only 2 sections, making it easier to navigate through the braiding. Hold the sections with each hand separately.

4. Start The Cross-Over

Starting the fishtail braid
Image: YouTube

The crisscrossing is the main part of the braiding technique. Take a small section of hair from the outside of one section and place it into the inside part of the other, incorporating it into the other section. Re-grip the hair and tighten the plait. Now, take a portion of similar thickness from the outside part of the second section and place it into the inside, joining it with the first half. This crisscrossing technique may seem tough initially, but you will be up and running in a few tries.

5. Keep Crisscrossing Down The Braid

Fishtail braiding by hairdresser
Image: YouTube

Continue pushing the hair strands from the outer of one section to the inner of the other section till you reach the end of the hair. Ensure you always have the X at the center created by the crisscrossing hair sections.

Note: If you have a layered or feathered hairstyle, it may look messy. Embrace the messiness, as messy fishtail braids have a unique texture and feel. If you want a neater look, apply some mousse or gel first and then braid your locks.

protip_icon Pro Tip
Tightly curled or coiled hair may get tangled during the crossing-over braiding process. Use a leave-in conditioner to make the hair more manageable.

6. Secure The Hair With Elastic

Securing fishtail braid with elastic
Image: YouTube

Leave a little hair at the end and secure the finished braid using a clear, snag-free hair tie. Keep at least a third of the hair length at the end with enough space to loosen the braid.

7. Finish The Fishtail Braid

Pancaking the braid
Image: YouTube

Pull at the braid strands for a relaxed and fuller look, starting at the bottom. Pancake by gently pulling and pinching up small sections of hair from the outside of the braid. You may also create texture at the top of the hair by gently pulling a few pieces for a tousled braid hairdo. When done, spritz the finishing spray.

The fishtail braid is often confused with the French braid. Let us take a quick look at how the fishtail braiding technique differs from the classic French braid.

Fishtail Braid Vs. French Braid

Difference between Fishtail braid and French braid
Image: Shutterstock

The French braid differs from a fishtail braid, even though they may look similar at first glance.

  • French braids are done with three sections of hair, almost similar to a classic braid, while the fishtail braid consists of two main sections.
  • A classic fishtail braid begins at the nape of the neck and can be done to the side or at the center. A French braid usually begins at the crown.
  • In a fishtail braid you gather all the hair to be included in the braid right at the start. In a French braid, you begin with three sections of hair and progressively add hair from the rest of your head to the side sections of the braid.
  • Even though French braids have a tightly woven appearance, they have thicker sections. Fishtail braids, on the other hand, usually create a messy style with thin, overlapping hair sections.
  • French braids have that classic three-strand braid stitch look, whereas fishtail braids have a chic X at the center of the braid.

The fishtail braid is a classic hairstyle that looks deceptively complicated. But, with practice and the right technique, you can conquer this braid style easily. Keep practicing the above given steps to weave a fishtail braid like a pro. Once you master this braiding style you can play around with it to create your own various elaborate boho hairstyles. You can also convert your fishtail braid to an updo by twisting the finished braid into a bun and securing it with bobby pins. Try accessorizing this romantic hairstyle with ribbon, hair accessories, or flowers to take it to the next level.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are fishtail braids hard to do?

Fishtail braids are not hard but may be time-consuming as they require the braiding of small pieces of hair. The technique is similar to a regular plait and easy to master, but requires practice.

Do fishtail braids damage hair?

Fishtail braids are mostly done gently in a tousled style and is considered a protective hairstyle that does not damage the hair. Avoid weaving the braid too tight to prevent hair damage at the roots.

What is another name for a fishtail braid?

It is also known as a fishbone or herringbone braid. This is due to the weaving pattern resembling a fish skeleton. It was also known as a Grecian braid during the 19th century.

How do you make a fishtail braid look thicker?

You can make the braid look thicker by a technique known as pancaking. In this technique, the braid is loosened and flattened by pinching and pulling up the hair strands. Braid thickness can also be increased by using hair extensions, a volumizing spray, or backcombing your locks.

What makes a fishtail braid different from other braids?

The weaving pattern of the fishtail braid makes it different from other braids in appearance. The thin sections make it look intricate and looser than other braiding styles like the Dutch braid.

Can a fishtail braid be created on layered hair?

Maintaining a fishtail braid on layered hair can be annoying as it tends to loosen throughout the day. You can use a styling gel or texturizing spray to hold better and take larger sections while braiding layered hair. While pancaking your braid, you can tuck in any untidy ends and adjust the braid.

Are there styling options or accessories that complement a fishtail braid?

Various accessories and styling options can enhance your fishtail braid. Floral accessories can enhance the romantic and bohemian look of the plait. You can also style using a scarf, bandana, ribbons, or hair wraps. You can also convert your fishtail braid to a braided crown for a Greek goddess look or twist it into an updo.

Can I fishtail braid wet hair?

Yes, you can braid wet hair. Damp towel-dried hair is more pliable and easier to braid. Use a wide tooth detangling comb to prevent hair damage. When hair is wet, it is best to handle it gently. Rather than pulling at it, braid it loosely to make it easier to dry.

Can I do a fishtail braid on short hair?

The French fishtail braid is more suitable for short hair than the original braid. This hairstyle involves plaiting the hair from the top of the head, which results in a beautiful fishtail braid even with less hair after the nape of the neck.

Key Takeaways

  • Those acquainted with the classic three-partition braid will find it easier to learn the fishtail braid.
  • It is easier to do the fishtail braid on unwashed hair. You can add texture by adding curls or waves using a styling tool. Texturizing spray or styling products may also be of help.
  • Fishtail braids look best in a relaxed style. Backcombing, teasing, and pancaking techniques can increase the braid volume and give it a messy look.
  • French braids may look similar to fishtail braids, but they are done using different plaiting techniques.

Are you intrigued by the intricate fishtail braiding technique? With an easy-to-follow video tutorial, even beginners can master this chic braiding technique. Watch this video and try the simple steps to create a stylish fishtail braid.

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Reshma Latif

Reshma LatifBeauty & Lifestyle Writer

Reshma is a content writer with a penchant for writing articles on relationships, makeup, and beauty. She started her writing career in 2007, soon after graduating from Mahatma Gandhi University. What began as a love for blogging bloomed into several freelancing opportunities over the years. Reshma held on to her passion for her career despite several career breaks, role shifts, full bio

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