How to Do Fishtail or Herringbone Braids Step by Step

by Anna Liesemeyer ; Updated September 28, 2017

A fishtail braid works best the day after you wash your hair.

In Honor of Design

Fishtail braids, also known as herringbone braids, can look intimidating, but this step-by-step guide breaks down the process. A great option for medium to long hair, this style works in many ways, whether you braid from the top of your head to just the nape of your neck, the nape of your neck down to the ends of your hair (as pictured), around the crown of your hair, or even just half of your hair for a middle fishtail braid.

Prep Your Sections

You can use this as your go-to style for second day hair. Brush your hair thoroughly before you begin to eliminate any tangles and distribute the natural oils evenly. There are various ways to start a fishtail braid, but this one provides a sturdy base for your braid. Start your fishtail braid just like you would start a basic braid: Divide your hair into three even sections.

Build Your Base

Cross the left section over the middle and position it between the middle and the right sections so the middle section becomes the left section; then cross the right section over the middle and position it between the middle and the left so the middle section becomes the new right section. Pull all three strands gently upwards to secure the braid. Repeat these steps once or twice to build the base of your braid.

Start Your Fishtail

Divide the middle section of your starter braid into two and join half with the left section and half with the right section, so you end with two working sections. Pull a small strand (it can be very small or up to 1/4 of the total section) of hair from the outer side of your left section and cross it up and over the top to join it with the right side. From the right segment of your hair, pull a strand of the same size from the outer side and cross it up and over the middle to join your left section of hair. Repeat this weaving process, keeping the sections the same size as you braid. The more you practice, the faster it will go.

Develop the Herringbone

The herringbone pattern starts to appear as you braid. Continue to pull both main sections upwards slightly after each time you repeat the weaving process in order to keep the braid tight. The size of the sections you pull to weave from one side to the other determines the end result of your braid. The braid can look thick and loose or more defined with a narrower silhouette. Either option results in the herringbone pattern.

Secure Your Work

Once you reach the end, secure your braid with a rubber band.

Add Some Volume

To create a fuller braid, start tugging gently on different sections of the braid. Do not pull your hair all the way out -- loosen it just enough to expand the braid. Pull sections until you achieve the look you like.

Go Forth!

A well-aimed spritz of hairspray sets your braid in place for the day. You can twist this braid into a low bun for a more formal look or go casual with a half braid. Once you feel comfortable with this fishtail braid tutorial, play around with different styles!

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About the Author

Anna Liesemeyer is the lifestyle blogger behind In Honor of Design where she gives accessible style, home, travel and general lifestyle tips and advice. She is also the founder of The Brand Market workshops. She is usually juggling at least a few creative projects in between adventures with her kids. She currently resides in the Atlanta area.