Skip to main content

Barber History: A Surprising Look at the Origins of Barbering

barber history
Barber history dates all the way back to ancient Egypt. Archeologists have uncovered razor blades from as early as 3500 BC. In the Middle Ages, barbers were trusted with much more than just cutting hair. In Egypt, Barbers often doubled as religious priests. This arose out of the belief that evil could enter the body through the hair and had to be removed by cutting the hair. Because of their ‘paranormal powers’, barbers often performed religious ceremonies such as weddings and baptisms.

Barbers also conducted medical surgeries and became known for things like pulling teeth and setting broken bones. In addition, they also performed an ancient practice known as “bloodletting,” where patients would be cut to supposedly bleed out illnesses in the body. During this time, they earned the name “barber surgeons.” Barbers would go so far as to place bowls of patients’ blood in the window to advertise their services.

It wasn’t until the late 18th century that the first barber school opened in Chicago, IL. So, just imagine, your barber performing life threatening procedures with far less training than is required of barbers today.

Barber History: The Barber Pole

Ever wonder where the barber pole originated? It was back in the Middle Ages, when people visited their barber for a haircut, shave, teeth pulling, and maybe some bloodletting (what an afternoon!). In 1307, it became illegal to place blood in the window. So, since it was rather common to be illiterate during this time, barbers needed a new way to advertise their ’medical’ services. And so, the classic barber pole was born. The red signified bloodletting, the white represented medical bandages, and the blue was said to stand for non-oxygenated blood. Even the downward spiral had meaning, it signified the aortic flow of blood as it flows down through the body.

barber pole history

It wasn’t until 1745 that a bill passed banning barbers from surgical procedures. The pole didn’t disappear. Instead, it came to represent grooming services performed by barbers.

barber history straight bladeBarber Tools: The Straight Razor

Barbers are still highly trusted to this day. Men of all ages seek out the classic old school straight shave despite the risks that come with it. Straight blades were just about the only way to go back in the day, and more than a few good men died of wounds caused by the slip of a sharp blade. It’s easier than you might think to hit a major blood vessel in the neck and bleed out. In the US, a straight shave is only to be performed by a licensed barber.

Barber History Meets the Future of Barbering

In 1880, it was around $20 to buy all the equipment to outfit a barber shop. Barbers used one towel for every 10-12 customers! Customers were charged around 3 cents for a shave, and 5-12 cents for a haircut—oh, the good old days! It costs a lot more to get a haircut and shave now, and you certainly can’t get any teeth pulled by your barber. Still, despite major industry changes, barber history continues to play a role in the future of barbering.

Are You Interested in Becoming a Barber?

A growing number of men and women are going into the field of barbering. This industry was once dominated by men, but today, around half of all barbers are female according to the National Barber Museum. New technologies and techniques continue to evolve. Barber school offers a solid foundation based on both the history and future of barbering.

Contact us today to learn more about our flexible programs for busy schedules.