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A Brief History of Barbering

A Brief History of Barbering

If we look back in history, barbering has been a revered profession. Barbering was always a top-tier choice of profession in society, and we consider it to still be one today! We can look back all the way to the time of ancient Egyptians and pyramids! It was commonly believed back then that evil spirits could enter a person's body through their hair—weird and wild! Regular haircuts were needed as a way to rid the body of these evil spirits. So, not only were barbers cutting hair, they were essentially shamans easting people of their worries. Nobody wants to be taken over by evil spirits, so, you got to shave it all off!

Then come the Middle Ages where barbers were performing more services than just beautification and evil-spirit prevention; they were performing surgeries, pulling teeth (and other sketchy dentistry services), leeching and bloodletting, fire cupping, enemas (laugh-out-loud), and using lancing to take care of boils and cysts. There are even records of spinal adjustments being done as well. Maybe barbers were the first chiropractors? This insane and wild list of talents left barbers not only professional groomers, but medical jack-of-all-trades if you will. This led them to receiving some fat paychecks, and prestige in their communities.

The barber pole is somewhat of an icon nowadays. Who doesn't know what it is, or what it means? It screams “come get your haircut” to even the most lackadaisical guy! This has been the key advertising component for generations of barbers. There are many legends surrounding the origins of the iconic tri-colored pole. The most popular ones are typically related to medical bloodletting. Blue represented the color of veins, red is obviously for blood, and the white represented the bandages used after the procedure. This explanation does make sense, and even if untrue, cool as hell, right?

In 1540 the red, white, and blue were split up by English Parliament when the Fellowship of Surgeons legally merged with the Barbers' Company to form the Company of Barbers and Surgeons. The act of parliament specified that no surgeon could cut hair or shave another, and that no barber could practice surgery. They did leave intact the common act of extracting teeth though! This law also required barbers to advertise their services using a blue and white pole, while surgeons were left with the color red. This was essentially to avoid public confusion surrounding the lawful changes.

But! When barbers came across the Atlantic and settled in America, they reclaimed the red, white, and blue in truly American style! They were put back together in all their glory! Whatever the truth of the barber pole is, they have survived for a long time as what is basically a universal symbol.

We all know that barbers are well known in social circles of the well-groomed gentleman. Historically they have played different roles, but too this day “confidant” and “trusted-advisor” do come to mind! Barbershops have been social forums of a certain kind, a gathering place for a variety of individuals to come together and discuss the pressing issues of the day—sports, food, business wheeling and dealing, politics, and many others, even some considered taboo in other places! The barbershop is to some a sanctuary! A place to escape the mundane, day-to-day wandering on through life. The patrons come to us in the barbershops to maybe escape the demands of womenfolk or their partners for a few hours of carefree, masculine, first-class company.

Legendary gambler, and crime boss, Arnold Rothstein, would use his local barbershop to rip people off in gambling rackets. Al Capone's own father was a barber!

There was a period of time where many men fledged the barbershop for the shiny polished surfaces of the salons. Hairdressing was the cool thing, with Afros and long hair, perms and the like. Well, times have changed once again, and over the past decade the resurgence of the classical barbershop has shown that old-time grooming, and the classic barbershop feel has its teeth back in many a gentleman! As people flock back to the barbershop to enjoy taking a load off, and getting that good old-fashioned shave and top-notch snip.

We stand by the fact that the barbershop is an institution! One which must remain, and very likely will, considering how long it has been around! Make sure that this holiday season you visit your barber or stylist and get taken care of. Keep up the well-groomed look and maybe grandma and grand-pop proud when you walk through those doors on the holiday!