The History of the Barber Pole

You see them, hanging on the exterior of a building, or maybe through a picture window of a store. The red white and blue stripes lit up, spinning and seen from blocks away. The Barber Pole.

Naturally when we see them, only one thing usually comes to mind, and that would be, it's time for a haircut. Today there are many different types and styles of The Barber Pole, some are wood, plastic, metal or even porcelain and glass. Now depending on the shop's services at the time, The Barber Pole could have red/white stripes, or blue/white stripes. Have you ever wondered why, how or when this became the universal sign of the Barber?

Around 5000 BC, the Egyptians began the profession of barbering, using oyster shells and/or sharpened flint. This trade became popular amongst the Nobel at that time, and if you were one of them, you held a highly respected and sought after career.

The respected job as a barber did not end with the Egyptians. Fast forward to 900 AD and you'll find that the Barber expanded their services to include dressing wounds, pulling teeth and surgical operations, one of which was bloodletting to go alongside the haircut and shave. With these newly added services came along new equipment.

A long wooden pole for the patient to hold on to, a basin fixed to the top of it with another at the bottom. This was used when performing bloodletting. The patient would grab onto the pole, the top basin would be filled with water to clean the towels used during surgery, and the bottom was for the collection of blood from a surgery or bloodletting. Because of this added work skill set, a new job title was born, the profession was referred to as a Barber Surgeon. The Barber Surgeon was tasked in the middle ages to care for the soldiers on and off the field of battle.

In 1745, a bill was passed separating barbers from surgeons. In part, it said that no-one practicing barbering could practice surgery & vice versa. This is what answers our original question. When the barbers & surgeons went on their own paths, the barbers took the Barber Pole and created the display that still to this day tells us where to pull in when we're in need of a shave and a haircut 💈

The red/white stripes representing the white bandages hanging while the red blood from surgery was being cleaned from them. Now depending on who you ask, the color blue was added either to represent the veins used in bloodletting, or to bring a degree of patriotism when the Barber Pole began to spread out across America.

So the next time you see a Barber Pole, on the exterior wall of the local Barber Shop, in a movie, or right here in our store, remember the Egyptians in 5000 BC cutting hair and shaving with sharpened oyster shells  or sharpened flint. Also, remember the Barber Surgeon during the middle ages and what they did in order to create the one symbol, that even to this day, is recognized the world over, "The Barber Pole "



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