The History & Evolution of Hair Styling Chairs

Hair styling chairs are also known as beauty styling chairs, stylist chairs, salon chairs and barber’s chairs. They make it easier for stylists and barbers to cut and style all lengths of hair, and they are designed to be easy to disinfect and clean. While stools or normal household chairs were originally used by the first barbers, there are engravings and photographs dating back as far as the Civil War that depict special chairs designed for use by barbers and stylists.

Features of Hair Styling Chairs

They are adjustable, tilting chairs with a foot rest and other modern features. Some also appear to be adjusted through a foot pedal, which allows the cosmetologist to adjust the chair even while working with his or her hands. In fact, there was a patent war in the late 1800s over adjustable chairs for barber’s use, with designs that are almost identical to those frequently seen in salons and barber shops today.

As it turns out, the basic design of salon chairs have remained unchanged for over a century. The primary difference in the chairs used during the turn of the 20th century and those being used during the 21st are in the technology that is used to adjust the top-of-the-line chairs.

In the past, sprockets, springs and screws were used to build mechanisms that made the chairs adjustable. Today, the most expensive stylist chairs use electric hydraulic lifts. Others rely only on manual hydraulic lifts. Swivel chairs, which are manual and do not include hydraulics, are still available as a budget option for salons.

Electric Hydraulic Salon Styling Chairs

Electric hydraulic salon styling chairs are the most expensive of the three, but they’re also the most technologically advanced and require the least amount of work on the part of the stylist. They enable the stylist to automatically raise and lower the chair with the simple push of a button or a foot pedal. Pressing the button or pedal and holding it down moves the chair, and the button is released when the chair is at the correct height. Some chairs even have “memory” settings to save several heights that are used frequently.

Manual Hydraulic Salon Chairs

Most like the chairs depicted in the Civil War-era images, manual hydraulic chairs are usually controlled by a foot pedal that is pumped until the desired height is reached. Pressing the pedal and holding it results in the chair lowering until the pedal is released. These chairs often have levers to tilt the seat back, as well. They require no electricity, but do require some work on the part of the stylist to pump the pedal manually.

The most basic stylist chairs on the market today are swivel chairs. These chairs are simple in design, and usually offer the most minimalist look for a salon. They also occupy less space, and have fewer moving parts to break or malfunction. To adjust a swivel chair, the stylist simply turns the chair. As it is turned, the seat moves along a long threaded post rising from the base of the chair, moving it up or down.

Evergreen Beauty College believes it is important for cosmetologists to understand the tools of the trade, in addition to the techniques. If you are interested in a career in cosmetology, call us at (425) 643-0270 for more details.

Frank Trieu
Vice President of Business Development & Industry Relations

Frank Trieu is a cosmetology industry leader, and despite his accomplishments and accolades, he still prioritizes students on the Evergreen campus. Through building relationships within the community and local salons, retail stores, and spas, he helps facilitate job placements for aspiring beauty professionals using his expansive network.

Happy Evergreen Beauty College Students


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