Fishtail Braid Tutorial

The Fishtail: An Introduction

A quick peek through Pinterest boards reveals one thing: braids are enjoying ever-increasing popularity. A single page is rife with all types of braids: some for weddings and prom, others for a casual day at the beach, and still others for high-fashion photo shoots. One of the most popular braids enjoying a resurgence is the fishtail; as a simple, easy-to-master hairstyle with more of an edge and intricate-looking pattern, the fishtail is one tool every woman should have in her arsenal.

The Fishtail Versus the Plait

Traditional plaits (or braids) involve taking hair in three different strands and crisscrossing these strands to create a tight, uniform pattern. Traditional braids come in many different forms, ranging from French braids to simple ponytail braids. The fishtail is no different; it can take on many forms, including the close-to-the-head style of French braiding. For those seeking to master the art of the fishtail for the first time, however, this style is best left for later.

Where most plaits use three separate strips of hair, the fishtail only uses two. Rather than wrapping clumps around one another, however, fishtails interweave two sections to create a loose, easy pattern, highly reminiscent of (you guessed it) a fish’s tail. When you are just starting out, be sure to practice, practice, practice. Fishtail braids are beautiful, but can be difficult to hold in all day if they are not executed properly.

The How To:

First up: The Standard Fishtail

Unlike many other types of braids, fishtails are best done on longer hair (though bangs and small chunks of hair may be braided in short styles). Braiding your own strands in this style may prove tricky; if you want a straight, long braid, you may have to complete the weaving without being able to look directly at your progress, and will likely have to hold your arms up and behind you for an extended period of time. To complete a fishtail braid, follow these steps:

  • First, place hair in a low ponytail, making sure the elastic is held close to your head. If you do not want an elastic at the base of your braid, it may easily be removed later.
  • After you have done this, split the ponytail into two sections of equal value. Try to get the sections as close to identical as possible; hair may fall out quickly if there are different volumes on each side.
  • Starting on one side, separate a small sliver of hair from the outside of one section. Take this sliver, cross it over the section, and join it with the inside portion of the opposite side.
  • Repeat this step on the other side: separate a small piece from the outside of the second section of hair, and cross it over the join the inside of the opposite section.
  • Repeat this pattern all the way down to the tip of your hair, taking care to pull hair tight after it has been joined. Failing to do so will result in either an immediate unraveling of hair, or a loose, unreliable braid.
  • Finish with an elastic and cut or remove the elastic placed at the beginning of the braid (if desired).
  • Admire your handiwork.

While this seems simple enough on paper, it can be extremely challenging to complete—especially on oneself. If it takes you a few tries to get it down, don’t fret: practice makes perfect.

Next: The French Fishtail

French fishtails may be used to hold hair tightly in place, or may be pulled out to create a whimsical or bohemian flavor. While standard fishtails can be tricky, French fishtails are arguably far more difficult to master. To begin, use the steps below:

  • Beginning at the top of your head, gather the top half of your hair and separate into two sections.
  • Use the steps outlined for the standard braid to begin your fishtail. Instead of continuing down the shaft of your hair, however, gather another section beneath the half-up portion and include this in the section, still keeping your hair in two parts.
  • After scooping up another portion of hair, take the outermost portion of hair, joining it with the innermost portion of the opposite section.
  • Repeat these steps until you have reached the end of your hair, and secure with an elastic.
  • For a more structured look, keep your braid tightly held. For a whimsical look, pull on pieces of hair until the braid feels loose and relaxed.
  • Enjoy!

Finally: The Small Fishtail

For women (or men) not currently boasting long locks, there is hope; fishtails are often used to braid back bangs or other small sections of hair to create interest in an otherwise common hairstyle. To create a mini braid, follow these steps:

  • Gather either a chunk of hair from the top of your head, or gather the entirety of your bangs in your hand.
  • Use the steps outlined for the standard fishtail braid, pausing to make sure the braid is pulled tightly to prevent a frayed appearance or the loss of the braid’s structure.
  • When you have braided to the bottom of your hair, secure back with bobby pins or a decorated clip.
  • Rejoice that you, too, can partake of the fishtail craze.

Versatility: Dressing Fishtails Up or Down

Fishtails are more readily dressed up and dressed down than regular plaits, as they can be tailored to a number of different occasions. For instance:

  • Weddings/Prom: the fishtail is an excellent style to use for both weddings and proms, as it can be done carefully and with painstaking detail to create a tight, structured, and glamorous up do. To turn a fishtail into an up do, consider completing a French fishtail, before tucking or rolling the end of the braid and pinning it at the base of your head for a visually compelling, chic chignon.
  • School/Work: fishtails are excellent for school and work, as they are professional in appearance, but do not require a heavy time investment to complete. To ensure your braid looks appropriate for more professional situations, consider pinning the front of your hair back with a slight poof to create a sleek, business-casual look.
  • A Day at the Beach/A Day Out: finally, fishtails make an excellent addition to any beach/lounge outfit, as they hold hair back and protect it from tangling in ocean waves or from falling in your face while browsing through your favorite bookstore. To epitomize a casual look, employ a standard fishtail, before pulling at the braid for a loose, casual look that looks as though you’ve just rolled out of bed—effortlessly beautiful, of course.

To Close

  • While many hairstyles dotting fashion blogs and online boards are complicated or require expensive tools to complete, fishtails are relatively easy; with a little bit of practice and plenty of patience, you too can achieve the effortless, classic fishtail braid.

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