fishtail braid

Photos: Ross Barna

The Fishtail Braid Made Simple

From the runways to the red carpet, the fishtail braid is having a renaissance. Also known as the herringbone or fishbone, this style looks deceptively complicated, but it’s actually quite simple. We asked New York City-based stylist Joshua Farrington of the Anthony Leonard Salon to give us his best tips for success and to walk us through it step-by-step.

First things first: Don’t be intimidated

“[The fishtail braid] is not tricky, it’s just a little more time-consuming than your average braid,” says Farrington.

Placement is key

This is not a French braid, so it shouldn’t start at the top of your head. The classic look is to position the fish braid in the center of the head, near the nape of the neck, but a more modern, trendier take is to do it off to the side.

Squeaky clean isn’t ideal

“Slightly dirty hair is easier to manipulate,” suggests Farrington, who says that hair that hasn’t been washed for a day (or two!) will hold better.

Determine texture

“Depending on the type of braid you’d like, you’ll use different products,” says Farrington. For a wispy, romantic look, he suggests using a texturizer like Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray to give your hair that matte, slightly fuzzy feel. If you want a more polished style, you’ll need smoothing products. Farrington highly recommends Kiehl’s Crème with Silk Groom.

How to Fishtail Braid, Step-by-Step:

1. Pull hair back into a ponytail. If this is your first time trying a fishtail, start by securing your hair with a disposable clear elastic or a hair bungee.

2. Divide the ponytail into two smaller, equal-sized ponytails.

3. Separate a half-inch section of hair from the outside of the left ponytail.

4. Pull this piece across the top of the left ponytail over to the right ponytail. “Don’t twist the hair as you bring it across,” says stylist Joshua Farrington.

5. Next, separate a half-inch section of hair from the outside of the right ponytail.

6. Pull this piece across the top of the right ponytail over to the left ponytail.

7. Repeat steps 3-6 until you run out of hair. “Don’t worry if it’s messy,” says Farrington. “That’s part of the charm.”

8. When you’re finished braiding, secure the ends with a second elastic.

9. If you used an elastic to start at the nape of the neck, cut it out. If you used a hair bungee, simply remove. Be sure to adjust the hair so that there’s no crease.

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