The History Of Barbering: More Than A Cut & Shave

The art of cutting or grooming hair is one of the most ancient arts in the history of mankind. It’s something that every human being has and it could be carried out without technology in ancient years.

In this weeks edition of #BarberTalk by New York Barbers, we take a step back in time and have a look at the long, ancient history of the barber.

Where did the name for a “Barber” Come From?

The word "barber" comes from the Latin word "barba". The meaning of "barba" is "beard".

The First Barbers

Archeologists have found razor blades from as early as 3500 B.C, but the first known barbering services are said to be performed by Egyptians in 5000 B.C with instruments they had made from oyster shells and sharpened flint (much different to what we use now!)

Some sources also indicate barbering started as early as 296 B.C after the Greek Colonies passed it on to Rome.

In the ancient Egyptian culture, barbers were very highly regarded and respected individuals. Priests were actually some of the earliest recorded examples of barbers, who would not only carry out their priest-duties but also be the go-to person for barber services!

Not just a haircut…

Starting in the Middle Ages, barbers didn’t just offer haircuts and shaves. They also served as surgeons and dentists. Barbers performed minor surgery such as bloodletting, leeching, fire cupping, enemas and extracting teeth!

Blood-Letting Tools 

Some say Barbers performed amputations and the resetting of broken bones as well!

From this they became known as "barber surgeons"

Imagine if barbers still offered these services nowadays?

Eventually in 1745 barbers were separated from surgeons and they were no longer allowed to perform surgical procedures In addition to hair cutting and shaving.

The Barber Pole

You will see the famous barber pole out the front of most barbershops these days. It signifies a barbershop and anyone walking past knows it is a place where they can get their haircut. However, there is actually a meaning behind the barber pole and its distinct red, white and blue colours that signifies with barbering’s long history. 

The pole itself is said to symbolise the pole barbers would give a customer to grip firmly in order to make their veins more prominent for a blood-letting procedure.

The Red and White Colours on a barber pole represent the blood-stained towels and the Blue represents the veins (the Blue on barber poles is also said to be a form of patriotism in the US)


Thanks For Reading This Edition of #BarberTalk by New York Barbers. We hope you found the vast and ancient history of barbering interesting!

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