Hair Tutorial: How to Do a Loose, Messy Fishtail Braid

Step 9: How to Do a Fishtail Braid

Truly, Anh Co Tran is nothing short of a hair god. He can create romantic, brushed-out waves one minute and then turn around and nail a model-off-duty–style fishtail braid the next. In fact, that’s exactly what he did when we got him in the Byrdie studios. But we know what you’re thinking (because we thought it too): Of course, a professional hairstylist can whip up stunning looks in an instant, but what about us non-pros? Well, there’s a reason we invited Tran into our studios. The man can do (duh), but he also can teach.

The fishtail has always been one of those braids that simply escapes me, personally. After having Tran break it down, however, I can confidently say I can fishtail braid. I may not be as speedy as I would like to be, but you don’t have to be fast to do this tutorial.

Braid novices and braid pros alike, this is how you fishtail—scroll through for the step-by-step tutorial!

How to Do a Fishtail Braid


Start with your hair however you’d like—natural texture, blown out, curled—it all works. Although, Tran pointed out this look works best with second-day (or third-day) dirty hair.

how to make a fishtail

Gather Hair

Part your hair to one side and gather it into a ponytail.

fishtail braids


Take your ponytail and split it into two equal sections. You can secure your pony with a hair tie first if you need more control. We want this braid slightly disheveled, so we’re going hair-tie free.

cute fishtail braids

Fishtail Braid

Take a piece from the left side and pass it over to the right side. Then, take a new piece from the outside of the right side and pass it back to the left side.

Each piece will fall into the center (the break between the two sections of hair), and then you’ll grab it, taking it over to one side.

making a fishtail braid

Continue Braiding

Repeat this motion all the way down the braid. (Yes, it is a bit tedious, but it’ll be worth it in the end.) Don’t worry if it gets messy—in fact, embrace the messiness.

You can make the sections as big or small as you please. Tran prefers the look of small pieces. You’ll get a tight fishtail that you can muss up when you’re done braiding.

easy fishtail braids


Hold the tail of your braid with one hand. With the other hand, use a fine-tooth comb to brush up the braid. Start at the bottom, ratting the tail, and then lightly brush up the length of the braid in a few short strokes.



Tie off your braid with small, clear elastic. The Blax Clear Snag-Free Hair Elastics ($7) are a hairstylist favorite.

how to fishtail braid your own hair


Now it’s time to make your perfect fishtail braid less perfect. Lightly pull on each side of the braid to fatten it up. Pull out a few pieces at the top to create the ultimate falling-out fishtail à la Ciara.

easy fishtail braid for beginners


Give it a spritz of finishing spray (we love Aterna’s Caviar Anti-Aging Perfect Texture Finishing Spray, $28) for added hold and texture, and that’s it.

FYI: These are the hair vitamins stylists actually take themselves.

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