Tips for Creating an Instagram Pic-Worthy Side Fishtail Braid

Victoria Moorhouse


Glance over any spring or summer curation of photos on Instagram, Pinterest, or a dreamy lifestyle-themed Tumblr and chances are you’ll see at least a few pics of chicks wearing a pretty, perfectly messy side fishtail braids. It’s one of the easiest braids to create, not only because it only consists of passing strands from two sections back and forth, but because the more deconstructed and loose it is, the more ethereal and free-spirited it looks. It’s a solid go-to when topped with a baseball cap for summer days at the beach where you want to look styled but, you know, not intentionally so.

We rounded up a few tips that will help you create a braid that may just be worthy of a pic on the social media platform of your choosing. We’re not all fans of the same feed, after all.

MORE: Putting an End to the Four-Strand Braid Confusion

Start With Wet or Textured Hair
Braids need grip—there’s no way around it. Silky smooth strands will slide right out of the plait. When that happens, they’ll just end up looking like random yet purposefully straightened sections sticking out of your look. That’s not the type of fly-away we’re going for. Add a light styling serum to damp hair or work through with a texture spray or braid paste to dry hair before starting the look.

Create Your Part
To get the full effect of the side fishtail braid, create a side part or a deep side part and pull the rest of your hair over your shoulder. Your hair should fall on whatever side has the larger part. By creating a side part, you’re already training your hair to lay to one side. Coincidentally, that’s the side where you’ll be braiding.

Secure Your Hair Into a Low Side Ponytail
Using a clear elastic, fasten your locks into a low side ponytail. This will just make it easier to braid and keep the top section a little tighter. After you’ve braided all the way down the ponytail, you’ll (carefully!) cut this out. As you become more skilled at the side fishtail braid, you might skip this step altogether.

Using the fishtail braid technique, braid all the way down to the end. As a refresher, all this consists of is taking tiny sections from underneath the right or left section and passing it over to the other. The smaller the section passed, the more defined the fishtail will be. Tie the braid off with a clear elastic or tie the ends in a knot and secure it by sticking a bobby pin straight up into the knot. Cut out the top elastic.

MORE: The Only Braid Glossary You’ll Need

Pancake It
Now that the braid is complete, you can get to work messing it up! Sounds counterproductive, but it’s the only way you’ll get that tousled side braid. Lightly pull the sides of the braid open with your hands. This will make the braid appear larger and a little looser. You can also rub the braid between your hands to get make it a tiny bit messier, disheveled, and windblown.

Don’t Forget the Hair at the Crown
Pull up a the strands on the crown of your head and gently tug the strands around your chin to loosen up this portion of your hair, too! If you have layers cut around your chin, these might fall out, but it’s OK because it’s all part of the look you’re going for.

Snap Your Pic!
iPhone, Polaroid, Android… that’s up to you!

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