An intricately woven look with a major "wow" factor, the fishtail braid appears to be one of those advanced-level braided looks that only a hairstylist can pull off. But those who've learned how to fishtail braid know you can get it done in a matter of minutes.
Celebrity hairstylist Justine Marjan, a bicoastal celebrity hairstylist with an A-list celebrity clientele, counts herself as a big fan of the fishtail. "I love fishtail braids," she tells Byrdie. "I feel like this is a great look for spring, going to an outdoor music festival—something casual and fun."
Marjan stopped by Byrdie's studio to walk us through exactly how she styles this modern boho look.
Scroll on for the step-by-step breakdown on how to create a textured fishtail braid.
Learn to Do a Fishtail Braid with Justine Marjan
Start With Unwashed Hair
Start with second- or third-day hair, which is easier to grip and style than freshly washed hair. And if your hair is naturally wavy or curly, so much the better.
"It's easier if your hair has a little texture or wave to it," says Marjan. "If not, you might want to add a wave first." Straight-haired types can add texture with a curling iron like Drybar The Mixologist Interchangeable Styling Iron ($199).
Smooth Hair Into a Side Ponytail
To create a single fishtail braid, part your hair to one side and gather it into a ponytail. This will allow the fishtail braid to drape over your shoulder in a romantic bohemian way, once it's complete. (A bonus is that working on the side of your head allows you to see your handiwork in a mirror).
Split the Ponytail Into Two Equal Sections
For maximum control, secure your pony with a hair tie close to your scalp. This is helpful while you learn the ropes of the style. For a messier-looking braid, skip the hair tie. Then, split your ponytail into two equal sections.
Cross Small Pieces of Hair Over the Center
"Take a small piece from the outside of one section and add it to the inside of your other section," says Marjan. "Then take a small piece from the outside of the other section; add it to the inside of your other section."
Each piece will fall into the center (the break between the two sections of hair), then you’ll grab it and take it over to one side. The smaller the pieces you grab from the outside of your ponies, the tighter and more elaborate your finished braid will look.
Keep Crisscrossing Down the Braid
Continue the pattern down the length of the hair. (Yes, it's a bit tedious, but worth it in the end). And don’t worry if it looks imperfect—embrace a certain level of messiness. "I think messy fishtail braids look better when there's a little bit of fuzzy texture," Marjan says.
For Texture, Brush Up the Braid With a Fine-Toothed Comb
Although you've finished the braiding part, you're not done yet; this style isn't complete without some tweaks for texture and volume.
Hold the tail of your braid in one hand, and with the other hand, use a fine-toothed comb to brush up the braid. Start at the bottom, ratting the tail, then lightly brush up the length of the braid in short strokes.
Tie the End With a Clear Elastic
For the most modern look, don't braid to the ends of your hair. "I suggest leaving about a third of the length of the hair at the end, so you have room to pull it apart once you're done," Marjan says.
Once you've decided how much room to leave, secure your fishtail braid with a small, clear elastic to keep the focus on your style. BLAX Clear Snag-Free Hair Elastics ($6) is a hairstylist favorite.
For a Relaxed Look, Pull To Loosen the Braid
"[Use your] fingers and gently pull it apart from the bottom up," says Marjan. "Grab a little bit of hair from the outside of the braid...gently pinching and pulling it up."
If some pieces of hair have escaped your fishtail braid during this process, leave them free. For an ultra-textured finish, you may pull a few pieces at the top.
Finish With Hairspray
Set it with a spritz of finishing spray—Marjan uses TRESemme Compressed Micro Mist Hairspray ($19)—and your textured fishtail braid is good to go.