Why Is A Barbershop Pole Red, White, And Blue?

Today, most barbers have a barbershop pole outside the business. In very early times, people who cut hair were regarded as part of the highest class in society. Many believed that the hair was a symbol of the human soul.  Cutting away hair was a way to get rid of evil spirits and revive new energy.

The first barbershops began in Ancient Greece. At this time, a barbershop was a place for gathering.  Here men would sit and discuss certain matters while enjoying a shave or a trim. Here is a closer look at the profession of barbering and the poles that are found outside of these shops.

Barbers, Bloodletting and the Barbershop Pole

During the Dark Ages, barbers did more than just cut hair. A barber also practiced different medical and dental procedures.  The ancient people believed that disease could be cured if a balance was restored in the body. A barber would make a patient hold onto a rod until the veins became prominent.  Then the barber would cut the arm and release blood until the person fainted.

In later times, leaches were applied to the veins instead. After the process was finished, the barber would wash the bandages and hang them outside the shop onto a pole for drying. It was also a means to advertise the success of the special offering. The bandages would blow in the wind and wrap around the pole in a spiral design. This pole was made of wood and had a brass basin. Eventually this basin was replaced by a ball with a painted pole.

The Significance Of Red, White And Blue

There are various meanings behind each of these colors:

Red

Represents the blood from the patients.

White

Represents the bandages that were used.

Blue

This color is mostly limited to the United States and is probably meant to pay reverence to the colors of the country.

Spiral Pattern

Bandages wrapped around the arm that is bleeding. Poles often spin to represent the blood flowing down the arm.

Barbering Today

For most of the 20th century, barbershops serviced only men.  However as styles changed, barbers began extending services to both men and women. Today there are very few true barbershops in existence. Most men and women get hair styled at a unisex “salon”.

There is a great history behind the barbering profession as well as the barbershop pole. It is interesting to get a sense of how the job has evolved over the centuries. Today, barbers are only known to cut hair. In the past, they practiced medical procedures along with these deeds. The barbershop pole is a staple outside of each shop and represents the blood and bandages from the past.

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