Today, You're Finally Going To Learn How To Do A Fishtail Braid

If you’ve admired Legolas’s hair but thought only elves had the fine motor skills necessary to replicate it, don’t fear!
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If you’ve admired Legolas’s hair but thought only elves had the fine motor skills necessary to replicate it, don’t fear!

The first time I heard someone talk about “fishtails” in relation to hair, I was utterly confused. Was this a barrette in the shape of the tail of a fish? Fish-scented hair gel? A weirdly shaped hair bun? 

Fortunately, I was rapidly disillusioned and introduced to the plait sweeping wedding inspiration boards everywhere.

The braid’s fancier and more intricate-looking cousin, a fishtail can be used anywhere you could put a braid with similar but more impressive results. But how do you do it? 

This is my “intimidated by Pinterest” face.

This is my “intimidated by Pinterest” face.

If you’ve admired Legolas’s hair but thought only elves had the fine motor skills necessary to replicate it, don’t fear! Fishtailing is actually pretty easy and I’ll walk you through it. We’ll start with the basic, and then finish with a few hairstyles that incorporate a fishtail. We may never know why all fantasy creatures, Vikings and Medieval cosplayers require fishtailed hair, but at least we can fit in at the local Renaissance fair. I mean faire. 

Let’s just get to it.

I have very thick hair, so to demonstrate the technique I’ll be splitting my hair in two and making twin braids. If you’ve never done a fishtail before, I recommend you start with a manageable amount of hair and hold it in front of your shoulders. A single fishtail down your back isn’t hard once you have the hang of it, but make it as easy as possible on yourself to start. 

Some general fishtailing notes: ideally, you want to grab your small section from the far side of the lump of hair. So when passing from the left section to the right, take it from the leftmost side of the section, preferably from the underside. The pattern of the fishtail comes from the small section of hair wrapping around its parent clump as it’s passed over.

Also, fishtails look different based on the size of strand that’s passed between the halves. If you take tiny sections, the finished plait will look more intricate but it’ll take longer to do. Taking larger sections gives a less meticulous result, but it’s easier and faster. Overall, the plait will look great no matter what size the sections are, and the most important thing is to be consistent with the sizing.

So how can you wear it? First of all, with those two fishtail braids, you can do anything you could do with pigtail braids--including a fishtail headband or a twisted fishtail bun.

One great way to wear a fishtail is to make one thick, messy plait pulled to one side of your neck. 

Another thing I like to do with fishtails is make a small one near the top of my head and pin it into my hair.

Once you get the hang of the fishtail, it’s a really useful hair trick. Anywhere you’d use a braid, you can use a fishtail instead, which makes the possibilities nearly endless!