Why are Barber Poles Red, White and Blue? [Barber Pole History]

Barber Poles

Do you ever look at the barber pole and wonder about its origins of it? The simple-looking rod has a richer history than you might think. It is not as straightforward. The universally recognized symbol of barbers dates back to the middle ages and has a story to tell.

Keep reading as we answer some of the most asked questions regarding the barber pole why is it always red, blue and white, what purpose does it serve, and what are its origins of it? You might discover that your friendly neighbourhood barber has a history of more than thousands of years. 

The History of Barbers

For a layperson, barbers might seem like someone with scissors and trimmers who help you groom and get in style. However, it is more complicated than it might seem. Undoubtedly, in today’s world barber is someone who cuts, dresses and shaves. But historically speaking, they are more than that.

Barbershops pole was the earliest form of social interaction and public hangout places. People would come to them to learn more about the area, discuss politics, and discuss life. They are the places where issues regarding the public were concerned, and everyone had an opinion to present. 

The barbers are known for the sharp items they hold in hand, known as razors. The birth of the Razor dates back to Bronze Age, 3500 BC in Egypt. It is even discussed in the Bible as people were asked to cut their hair and trim beards. 

One of the earliest barbering services was performed in 5000 BC by the Egyptians. They would use instruments made from oyster shells. Moreover, they were known to be among the most respected individuals because they served humanity. They would hold a razor against your neck and be respected for it. 

Barbers have evolved from priests and men of medicine, were known as barber surgeons. Also, hair and trimmed nails were essential among warriors across the continent. The style of hair and beard played a crucial role in distinguishing the part of a man in society. Even today, someone with a nice haircut and beard is thought higher than someone with uneven hair.

So next time you see an outdoor barber pole, remember its significant association with warriors and fighters. Moreover, some barbers use the rotating barber pole to attract more customers.

The Barber’s Pole as a Symbol of Barber Trade

Today, barbers are known for cutting hair and trimming your beard to make you look fresh and dapper. However, this was only sometimes the case for them. Hundreds of years ago, they cut hair and were dentists and surgeons. And even crazier were also physicians for people who couldn’t afford a proper physician. 

If you had pain in the tooth or felt some illness, going to a barber could be your only option. The medical industry was not mature as today, and everything included risk. And barbers were said to be champions of it. Being a barber in those times was way more fun than today.

As of now, things have changed, and restrictions are made upon barbers. Only some places allow them to hang their piece of history outside their salons. However, one should be happy that their barber is now just cutting their hair rather than helping them with diseases by drawing blood.

The Barber-Surgeons History

The history goes back to 334 B.C. when Alexander the Great ruled the world with his mind and competitive fighting strategies. One such method used by him was to get his soldiers regularly shaved. It gave them an advantage over their enemies, as they became tougher to grab by the beard. It helped them get better at fighting and increased their chances of winning.

In earlier and simpler times, many physicians would only perform limited surgeries. And the barbers were known to perform surgeries on the wounds. They would stop the blood bath, cupping, leeching and extracting teeth. It made them more than just haircutters and trimmers; they were given the honorary name of barber surgeons. They even formed their organization that was formed in France in 1094.

The barber surgeons formed a guild 30 years later after the initial formation. Then the two companies were united by Henry VIII in 1540 and gave birth to United Barber Surgeon’s Company. It made sure that the barbers were restricted from performing significant surgeries. They were only allowed to bloodletting and pulling teeth. At the same time, surgeons were restricted from shaving or trimming the hair of their clients. 

Louis XV, in 1743 made things even more straightforward and prohibited barbers from practising surgeries. Another committee called “Masters, Governors and Commonalty of the Honourable Society of the Surgeons of London” was now looking at the matters between surgeons and barbers. However, it was short-lived, as Royall College of Surgeons replaced it. It happened in 1800 during the mighty reign of George III.

Why are Barber’s Pole Red, White and Blue?

As for the most common question, why is the pole always painted red, blue and white? The answer is due to a practice called bloodletting. As the name suggests, barbers were known for drawing blood, not in the sense of Dracula but for treatment measures. They would draw blood to cure diseases and infections. Thanks to years of advancements in medical science, we are assured of one thing. Drawing blood from a diseased person was not the best option. However, in older times, this was common to treat any illness.

As for the colours, the bloody bandages inspired the colour red and white stripes. The barber shop pole was an instrument the barbers used to perform this activity. People would be gripped by pole-looking tools that helped them encourage blood flow.

By placing these small barber poles outside their shops, barbers would let the world know they meant business and were open to drawing your blood. The pole’s blue colour comes from the American flag’s colours. Whereas, in Europe, the blue colour was used to differentiate between the barbers and the doctors. Although, we don’t see any more barbers doing all the nasty stuff anymore. But the barbershop spiral pole has become an iconic symbol in the world of barbers and helped them gain an identity of themselves. 

As of today, we see various forms of outdoor barber poles. There are some futuristic LED barber poles and old-school black-and-white barber poles. However, the red and white barber pole must be the most common option. 

Barber schools

The art of cutting hair requires serious education and certification before you can start cutting up hair. In 1893, the birth of the first professional school of barbers A.B. Moler of Chicago was seen. It was one of a kind and has helped some of the greatest artists of hair. Soon the model was copied all over the globe, and we see various schools in work today. 

You will be surprised to know, in the starting, the schools were made for medical purposes only. It helped in scientific treatments regarding hair, skin and scalp. However, in 1920, things started to change as work became a professional option.

Today, an excellent barbering school’s education may cost up to a couple of thousands of dollars. Also, it requires minimum training hours for you to get started. The training hours and requirements may differ from state to state. 

Now, barbering has evolved from just cutting hair to various schemes. Barbers know to help in the treatment of hair, bleach them, dye them and much more. Hair stylists have become the one-stop solution for all your hair and scalp issues. People love getting custom shaves and trims to make them stand out from the competition.

Final Words

Lucky for us, we no longer need to go to the barbers for surgeries and toothaches. We have specialized surgeons to make that happen. However, getting your hair cut or shaved beard might have been cool while someone helped you.

With the advancements in medical science, we have limitations on the activities that can be performed by a barber now. But the vintage barber pole stands as a symbol of all the heroic actions that the scissor man once performed.

We hope this article helped you understand the legacy of the barber, why the traditional barber pole shop is red, blue and white and helped you understand why your hair cutter is a hero.

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