Hot take: Fishtail braids look way, way more complicated than they actually are. If you're someone who can do a ponytail just fine, but freak at the idea of trying to keep track of a third, fourth, and even fifth section of hair while attempting an intricate braid, consider a fishtail your gateway braid.
Basically, as long as you can hold a piece of hair in each hand, you can master the simple fishtail braid—I promise. But if you're not exactly sure where to start or which tutorials to trust, I've rounded up the best and easiest how-to videos from YouTube, below, whether you're a newbie, you're looking for a challenge, or you're a total braid expert.
FOR BEGINNER BRAIDERS
How to Do a Regular Fishtail Braid
Grab the section of hair you want to fishtail and split it in half, holding one section in each hand. Grab a tiny subsection of hair (the smaller the sliver, the more fishtail-like your braid will be) from the outside of the ponytail in your right hand, cross it over top, and join it together with the section in your left hand. Then, cross a small sliver of hair from the left section and add it to the right side. Continue grabbing tiny sections of hair, crossing them over and joining them to the other half until you've reached the bottom of your strands. Use a small hair tie to secure the ends.
How to Easily Do a Fishtail Braid on Yourself
If you've tried the above technique but always end up with a weirdly loose, floppy braid, try the hair-elastic trick: Before you begin splitting or braiding, tie it off into a ponytail to prevent your braid from unraveling during the process. Once your hair is secure, split the tail evenly in half and follow the usual fishtail steps. After your braid is finished, carefully cut or remove the rubber band at the base of your ponytail for a perfectly fishtailed braid with no wonky or loose strands.
FOR INTERMEDIATE BRAIDERS
How to Do an Inverted or Reverse Fishtail Braid
It might take a few tries to train your brain and hands to work in the opposite direction, but if you can do a regs fishtail braid, you can absolutely master a reverse one. Instead of crossing the sections over the front, pull them around the back when you join them with the other section.
For this perfectly loose yet still secure fishtail braid, try adding some grit to your hair before braiding (this YouTuber rakes a bit of pomade through her hair first). Seems like an ~extra~ step, but it actually helps prevent the braid from unraveling when you gently tug on it to fatten it up at the end—plus, it adds a bit of shine, too.
How to Do a Ponytail Fishtail Braid
Once you've conquered the fishtail braid, start incorporating additional braids or hairstyling elements to mix up the look and make it your own. For this style, YouTuber Ebony Bradley flat-twists the front of her hair into a high ponytail, then splits the tail into two sections and begins tightly fishtail-braiding it (refresher: Pull small slivers from the outside of the section and cross them over to join the opposite half). Once finished, she ties off the end of the braid to secure it, curls the very ends of her hair, then applies edge control to complete the look.
How to Do a Double Fishtail Braid
If you've got your fishtail braid down to a fine art, throw a second one in there to challenge yourself. For these fishtail pigtail (so many animal tails, can't keep up) braids, YouTuber Tashie Tinks starts the braid by twisting the top section of hair down and securing the hair into two low pigtails.
Then, she fishtail-braids the tails down to the very end and ties them off before gently tugging on the braided sections to fatten them up. Note: Depending on how much you shape or pancake your braids, you might need to remove the hair elastic and re-secure the ends to finish.