If a middle school sleepover was the last time you braided your hair, it's time for a refresher. Especially since braiding has moved beyond adolescence and well into adulthood with celebs like Jennifer Aniston and Blake Lively sporting the look at numerous red-carpet affairs while runways boast nearly every braid style imaginable. The style is simple enough for everyday wear and versatile enough to extend into an evening look.
“A plain ponytail just doesn’t cut it these days," says stylist Scott Fontana, co-owner of Cristophe Salon Newport Beach.
Scott recommends adding a plait or two to hair as a quick fix for a luncheon, day at the beach or shopping trip. The secret to nailing the trend and avoiding a major '90s don’t, he says, is embracing your hair’s natural texture and encouraging a little imperfection. After all, the style is celebrated for its no-fuss charm. Scott urges clients to adopt the fishtail braid as the hottest style of the season, which may be worn alone or incorporated into another braid.
To prep hair, Cristophe Salon co-owner and colorist Jennifer Fontana recommends applying a shine spray and brushing your hair to increase luster while adding a dab of pomade to hands for better control of strands.
“It will manifest that polished smoothness every woman wants,” she says.
Building the fishtail braid while your hair is wet will give you a firmer grip and create a more precise braid. If you'd rather have a rougher, bed-head look rather than a sleek one, salt sprays and dry shampoo can be used on dry hair to enhance texture.
Begin styling by parting your hair down the middle and gathering it into two individual sections: right and left. Start by holding the right section with your right hand. Then, using your left hand, pull a thin chunk of hair from the outside of the left section and cross it over to the inside of the right section. Simply put, the strand of hair has gone over the first section and finishes under the second section. Repeat this process on the other side by holding the left section in your left hand. With the right hand, take a thin chunk of hair from the outer right section and cross it over to the inside of the left section.
Continue by passing the second piece back to the first, braiding the entire length of hair. Keep in mind using skinnier strands makes for the most taut and precise style. It’s best to maintain the same amount of thickness for each strand (half an inch is standard).
Once mastered, the fishtail can be adapted and applied to a variety of styles. For that carefree look, pinch small, random strands of hair from the sections and loosen the braid by gently pulling these sections apart. Jennifer suggests leaving out a few wispy pieces in the front to frame the face.
To hold the style, consider tucking away a bobby pin or wrapping the hair around the pin rather than ending with an elastic band for a casual option modeled on the runway.
“If you're looking for a little pizzazz, try adding a pastel colored hair extension to your braid to funk it up,” says Jennifer.