Ah, the elusive fishtail braid. A wild, intricate-looking beast, the fishtail braid is most native to the heads of festival-fashion girls, hidden under twine and glitter, and more recently seen on everyone from your 6-year-old sister to your 76-year-old aunt. And somehow, despite your many decades of existing, you’ve yet to master the fishtail braid with your own hands, chalking it up to another “I’m bad at braiding” loss.
But alas! We think that excuse is total bullshit, because anyone — and we really do mean anyone — can learn how to braid as long as they have a really excellent tutorial and at least a few levels of patience. So we asked hairstylist Jasmine Santiago to show us exactly how to create a simple, no-frills fishtail braid for even the most basic of beginners. (Hey! That’s you!) And to make it even easier, we did the whole tutorial in GIFs, because the world is a better, happier place with GIFs in it. Scroll through to see the how-to, and get ready to finally catch your Bigfoot.
OK, deep breaths — we promise this isn’t as difficult as it looks. The fishtail braid is just like a normal three-strand braid, where you’re constantly pulling outside pieces inward, toward the middle of the braid. But instead of three sections, you’ve got two. To start, divide your hair in half, gripping both sections in each hand. Then, with your index finger, pull a half-inch piece of hair from the outside of the left section and cross it over, nestling it on the inside of the right section. Repeat on the other side, pulling a piece of hair from the outside of the right section and crossing it over to the inside of the left section.
Step 2: Keep on braiding
Continue the pulling and crossing (it’s OK if it gets a bit messy — you’re going to muss it up soon anyway) until you reach the final few inches of hair, then tie off the braid with a clear elastic.
Step 3: Fatten it up
To take your fishtail from elementary school playground to holy-wow-your-hair-looks-hot, blast the entire braid with texturizing spray (less isn’t more, here), then gently tug at the edges of the braid from bottom to top until it’s loose and full of volume.