Barbers - one of most ancient arts

2018-06-14 06:01
The traditional red and white spiral pole outside a barber shop dates back to Ancient Rome. It was placed in front of a barber shop to be easily identified by travellers and the weary as to where they can have recourse. Photo: SUPPLIED

The traditional red and white spiral pole outside a barber shop dates back to Ancient Rome. It was placed in front of a barber shop to be easily identified by travellers and the weary as to where they can have recourse. Photo: SUPPLIED

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THE art of hair and beard cutting, grooming and trimming undoubtedly is one of the most ancient arts in the history of mankind.

The word “barber” comes from the Latin word “barba”, meaning beard. In the early societies barbers were the more distinguished and respected persons, often with the highest authority among the social classes. In those days it was believed that into the hair dwelled the people’s soul, thus to cut hair or beard was a way to remove accumulated evil essence and to renew energies.

In Ancient Greece the first barber shops were meeting places, like clubs where men enjoyed long conversations about philosophy and communal matters. Apart from cutting, trimming and grooming, barbers also perfumed hair and beards with natural oils and scents.

As barbers during the early centuries were the most cultivated and educated persons, some started to practise dental extractions and minor surgical interventions. In curing ills, bloodlettting was a popular method, also performed at barber shops.

By the 18th century barbers were restricted to do only hair and beard care. This resulted in a loss of prestige in the profession, but at the end of the 19th century barbers recovered their social prestige and the profession had a glorious rebirth.

Barber’s red & white spiral pole

The traditional red and white spiral pole was placed in front of a barber shop to be easily identified by travellers and the weary as to where they could have recourse.

As barbers in the early days performed minor surgeries, it is said that the spiral white ribbon around the pole represents a bandage or healing whilst the red resembles blood.

In later years, blue was added as a third colour to the barber spiral poles. One theory holds that blue is symbolic of the veins cut during bloodletting, while another interpretation suggests blue was initially added to barber poles in the United States of America as a show of patriotism and a nod to the nation’s flag.

To date some professional barbers make use of this tradition of having a spiral pole at their barber businesses.Source: The Barber’s History

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