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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Barber, Hairdresser
NamesBarber, hairdresser
Occupation type
Fields of
Barbershops, hair salons, hairdressing salons

A barber is a person whose occupation is mainly to cut, dress, groom, style and shave hair or beards. A barber's place of work is known as a barbershop or the barber's. Barbershops have been noted places of social interaction and public discourse since at least classical antiquity. In some instances, barbershops were also public forums. They were the locations of open debates, voicing public concerns, and engaging citizens in discussions about contemporary issues.

In previous times, barbers (known as barber surgeons) also performed surgery and dentistry.[1] With the development of safety razors and the decreasing prevalence of beards in Anglophonic cultures, most barbers now specialize in cutting men's scalp hair as opposed to facial hair.


A barber shop along the Ruoholahdenkatu street in Kamppi, Helsinki, Finland
A barber practicing a haircut in Tokyo, Japan

In modern times, the term "barber" is used both as a professional title and to refer to hairdressers who specialize in men's hair. Historically, all hairdressers were considered barbers. In the 20th century, the profession of cosmetology branched off from barbering, and today hairdressers may be licensed as either barbers or cosmetologists. Barbers differ with respect to where they work, which services they are licensed to provide, and what name they use to refer to themselves. Part of this terminology difference depends on the regulations in a given location.

In the early 1900s, an alternative word for barber, "chirotonsor", came into use in the U.S.[2]

Different states in the US vary on their labor and licensing laws. For example, in Maryland and Pennsylvania, a cosmetologist cannot use a straight razor, strictly reserved for barbers. In contrast, in New Jersey both are regulated by the State Board of Cosmetology and there is no longer a legal difference in barbers and cosmetologists, as they are issued the same license and can practice both the art of straight razor shaving, coloring, other chemical work and haircutting if they choose.[citation needed]

In Australia, during the mid to late 20th century, the official term for a barber was men's hairdresser; barber was only a popular title for men's hairdressers. During this time, most would work in either a barbershop or hairdressing salon.


Boiotian Greek painted terracotta figure dating between c. 500 and c. 475 BCE, currently held in the Museum of Fine Arts, showing a barber cutting a man's hair



The barber's trade has a long history: razors have been found among relics of the Bronze Age (around 3500 BC) in Egypt. The first barbering services were performed by Egyptians in 5000 BC with instruments they had made from oyster shells or sharpened flint.[3] In ancient Egyptian culture, barbers were highly respected individuals. Priests and men of medicine are the earliest recorded examples of barbers.[4] In addition, the art of barbering played a significant role across continents. Mayan, Aztec, Iroquois, Norse and Mongolian cultures utilized shave art as a way to distinguish roles in society and wartime.[5] Men in Ancient Greece would have their beards, hair, and fingernails trimmed and styled by the κουρεύς (cureus), in an agora (market place) which also served as a social gathering for debates and gossip. The barbers used a rough cloth (ὠμόλινον) on their shoulders to keep the hairs off their dresses. There were also female barbers (κουρεύτριαι).[6]

Barbering was introduced to Rome by the Greek colonies in Sicily in 296 BC,[citation needed] and barbershops (Latin: tonstrīna, lit. "clipperies") quickly became very popular centers for daily news and gossip.[7] A morning visit to the barber (tonsor) became a part of the daily routine, as important as the visit to the public baths, and a young man's first shave (tonsura) was considered an essential part of his coming of age ceremony.[citation needed] Roman barbers employed rudimentary mirrors and wielded combs, razors, scissors, curling irons, specialized tools for beard removal and pomata to remove unwanted hair elsewhere.[7] A few Roman barbers became wealthy and influential, running shops that were favorite public locations of high society. Most, however, were simple tradesmen who owned small storefronts or worked in the streets for low prices.

Middle Ages

"A barber getting ready to shave the face of a seated customer.", c. 1801.

Starting from the Middle Ages, barbers often served as surgeons and dentists. In addition to haircutting, hairdressing, and shaving, barbers performed surgery, bloodletting and leeching, fire cupping, enemas, and the extraction of teeth; earning them the name "barber surgeons".[8] Barber-surgeons began to form powerful guilds such as the Worshipful Company of Barbers in London. Barbers received higher pay than surgeons until surgeons were entered into British warships during naval wars. Some of the duties of the barber included neck manipulation, cleansing of ears and scalp, draining of boils, fistula and lancing of cysts with wicks.


Barbershop in Bucharest ≈1842. The barbershop also provides an opportunity for social contacts.

Barbershops were influential at the turn of the 19th century in the United States as African American businesses that helped to develop African American culture and economy. According to Trudier Harris, "In addition to its status as a gathering place, the black barbershop also functioned as a complicated and often contradictory microcosm of the larger world. It is an environment that can bolster egos and be supportive as well as a place where phony men can be destroyed, or at least highly shamed, from participation in verbal contests and other contests of skill. It is a retreat, a haven, an escape from nagging wives and the cares of the world. It is a place where men can be men. It is a place, in contrast to Gordone's bar, to be somebody."[9] Barbershops from black barbers at first mostly served wealthy Caucasians. In the later part of the century they opened barbershops in black communities for serving black people.[10]

The average shop cost $20 to equip in 1880. It was about ten by twelve feet. A hair cut in 1880 would cost five or ten cents and shaving cost three cents.[11]

A hair dryer in barbershop
A barber shop in Essex County, Ontario, [ca. 1900], with the photographer visible in the mirror at the back.

In the late 19th and early 20th century, barbershops became a common business in the United States where people would go to have their hair cut by a professional barber with good equipment. People would also play board games, talk about recent events, or gossip.[12][13] They have also occasionally been used for public debates or voicing public concerns.[14]

Most modern barbershops have special barber chairs, and special equipment for rinsing and washing hair. In some barbershops, people can read magazines or watch TV while the barber works.

Despite the economic recession in 2008, the barbershop industry has seen continued positive growth. In 2018 there was a trial that had barbers check high blood pressure in barbershops and have a pharmacist meet and treat the patient in the barbershop, with positive results.[15]

In 2018, Arthur Rubinoff opened a museum with barber poles and antique barber equipment in Manhattan.[16]

The barber Sam Mature, whose interview with Studs Terkel was published in Terkel's 1974 book Working, says "A man used to get a haircut every couple weeks. Now he waits a month or two, some of 'em even longer than that. A lot of people would get manicured and fixed up every week. Most of these people retired, moved away, or died. It's all on account of long hair. You take old-timers, they wanted to look neat, to be presentable. Now people don't seem to care too much."

Given their importance as social hubs in certain cultures, barbershops have been used in educational campaigns. These include the U.S. literacy project Barbershop Books,[17] which sets up reading stations in barbershops to promote a culture of reading among African American boys.[18] Public health researchers have also explored barbershops as a venue for sexual health education.[19]

Barber schools


In 1893, A. B. Moler of Chicago established a school for barbers. This was the first institution of its kind in the world, and its success was apparent from its very start. It stood for higher education in the ranks, and the parent school was rapidly followed by branches in nearly every principal city of the United States. In the beginning of barber schools, only the practical work of shaving, hair-cutting, facial treatments, etc., was taught as neither the public nor the profession was ready to accept scientific treatments of hair, skin and scalp. Not until about 1920 was much effort made to professionalize the work.[4]

Training to be a barber is achieved through various means around the world. In the US, barber training is carried out at "barber schools".[citation needed]

Cost – Many states require a barber license in order to practice barbering professionally. The cost of barber school varies from state to state, and also from metro area to metro area. Schools in larger metropolitan areas tend to cost more than those located in more rural towns. Brand names can also affect the cost of barber school. Most barber schools cost between $6,500 and $10,000 to complete. Because each state has different minimums for training hours, the length and cost of the program can vary accordingly. Some schools tuition includes supplies and textbooks, whereas others do not. Barber license exam fees typically range from $50 to $150.[citation needed]

Length – Most states require the same amount of training hours for barbers as they do for cosmetologists. The number of hours required ranges from 800 to 2,000 training hours, depending on the state's licensing requirements. Most programs can be completed in 15 months or fewer.[citation needed]

Curriculum – The barber school curriculum consists of hair cutting, coloring and styling for men's hair and women's short hair. Chemical processes such as bleaching, dyeing, lightening and relaxing hair may also be taught. All cosmetology disciplines learn safety and sanitation best practices. Barber students can expect to learn some elements of anatomy, physiology, bacteriology and some small elements of pharmacology. It also teaches facial hair techniques, including traditional and modern shaves. Generally barber programs touch on scalp massage and treatments. Advanced barber training may include custom shave designs. It is more common in barbering schools than other cosmetology disciplines to get some business and ethics education, since entrepreneurship is especially common in the barbering trade with many professionals choosing to open their own barbershops. All the skills learned in barber school will be tested at the board exams, which typically feature a written and practical exam.[citation needed]

Barber's pole

A red, white and blue striped pole

The barber pole, featuring blue, red and white spiraling stripes which symbolizes different aspects of the craft. It is a symbol from the time when barbers used to perform medical procedures. The white and red stripes represent bandages and blood while the blue stripes represent veins. The pole may be stationary or may rotate, often with the aid of an electric motor.[21][22] A spinning barber pole creates a visual illusion, in which the stripes appear to be traveling up or down the length of the pole,[23] rather than around it.[24][25]

In the United States, the blue stripe is also sometimes used to match the flag.[10][26][27] In South Korea, barber's poles are used both for actual barbershops and for brothels.[28][29] In Forest Grove, Oregon, the "World's Tallest Barber Shop Pole" measures 72 feet (22 m).[30]

Because of its bright bands and colors, the redbanded rockfish Sebastes babcocki is referred to as "barber pole". Other pseudonyms include bandit, convict, canary, Hollywood, and Spanish flag.[31]

The phrase barber pole is derisive jargon in craps, and refers to the commingling of "gaming cheques of different denominations". Wagers that combine different denominations are "supposed to be stacked with the highest denomination at the bottom".[32][33]



The market for barber supplies is estimated to have revenue of around twenty billion dollars. The industry in the U.S. market is expected to grow by around 3% per year between 2017 and 2022.[citation needed]



The term "barbering" when applied to laboratory mice is a behavior where mice will use their teeth to pluck out hairs from the face of cage mates when they groom each other. It is practised by both male and female mice. The "barber" plucks the vibrissae of the recipient. The behavior is probably related to social dominance.[34]

See also



  1. ^ Küskü, Elif Aslan (2022-01-01). "Examination of Scientific Revolution Medicine on the Human Body / Bilimsel Devrim Tıbbını İnsan Bedeni Üzerinden İncelemek". The Legends Journal of European History Studies.
  2. ^ "On this day in Florida history - June 21, 1926 - Miami barbers don't want to be called 'chirotonsors'". Florida History Network. Retrieved 2020-12-07.
  3. ^ "Barbering Timeline - National Barber Museum". www.nationalbarbermuseum.org. Retrieved 2018-06-17.
  4. ^ a b Moler, A.B.. "The barbers' manual." Internet Archive: Digital Library of Free Books, Movies, Music & Wayback Machine. The National Education Council of the Associated Master Barbers of America, 1 January 1928. Web. 19 March 2012. https://archive.org/stream/barbersmanual00mole#page/n29/mode/2up.
  5. ^ Kuiper, A.C. "The Hair Etching Pen Guide, 14 April 2018. Web. 14 April 2018. https://www.royaletch.com/hair-etching-pen-guide/.
  6. ^ Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities (1898), Tonsor
  7. ^ a b Chrisman, Oscar (1920), The Historical Child, Boston: Richard G. Badger, p. 235.
  8. ^ "Surgeons and Surgical Spaces #The Barber's Shop". sciencemuseum.org.uk. Retrieved 2020-05-05.
  9. ^ Harris, Trudier (Autumn 1979). "The Barbershop in Black Literature". Black American Literature Forum. 13 (3): 112–118. doi:10.2307/3041528. JSTOR 3041528.
  10. ^ a b "A Quick History Of Barbering | Austin, TX Barbershop". eighteeneight.com. 2017-10-16. Archived from the original on 2021-03-08. Retrieved 2018-06-18.
  11. ^ "Barbering Timeline - National Barber Museum". www.nationalbarbermuseum.org. Retrieved 2018-06-18.
  12. ^ Bliss, Jessica (2018-01-12). "Oprah for president? The buzz at Winfrey's barbershop in Nashville". The Tennessean. Retrieved 2018-06-17.
  13. ^ "History Of Barbers". beardtrimandgroom.com. 27 September 2014. Archived from the original on 2021-07-11. Retrieved 2018-06-18.
  14. ^ "coloradobarbers". coloradobarbers. Archived from the original on 2021-07-11. Retrieved 2018-06-18.
  15. ^ Caroll, Aaron E. (2018-05-21). "What Barbershops Can Teach About Delivering Health Care". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-06-18.
  16. ^ Kilgannon, Corey (2018-05-04). "Barbering Is an Art". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-06-18.
  17. ^ "About Us – Barbershop Books". Barbershop Books. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
  18. ^ Ro, Christine (2018-06-13). "Barbershop Books". Poets & Writers.
  19. ^ Randolph, Schenita D.; Pleasants, Terrence; Gonzalez-Guarda, Rosa M. (November 2017). "Barber-led sexual health education intervention for Black male adolescents and their fathers". Public Health Nursing. 34 (6): 555–560. doi:10.1111/phn.12350. ISSN 1525-1446. PMID 28812306. S2CID 11564832.
  20. ^ "Heritage Village | Snyder, Scurry County, Texas". historicscurrycounty.com. Retrieved 2018-06-19.
  21. ^ "Barber Pole". Webster's New World College Dictionary. Cleveland: Wiley Publishing. 2010. Retrieved 14 November 2010.
  22. ^ Smith, Kate. "Why Barber Poles are Red and White". Sensational Color. Archived from the original on 29 November 2010. Retrieved 14 November 2010.
  23. ^ "Barber Pole Illusion". sandlotscience.com. Archived from the original on 28 November 2010. Retrieved 14 November 2010.
  24. ^ Massaro, Dominic W., ed. (Spring 2007). "Book Reviews: What Are Musical Paradox and Illusion?" (PDF). American Journal of Psychology. 120 (1). University of California, Santa Cruz: 123–170, 124, 132. doi:10.2307/20445384. JSTOR 20445384.
  25. ^ Carrella, Stefano; Iswandy, Kuncup; Lutz, Kai; King, Andreas (18–19 May 2010). "3D-Localization of Low-Power Wireless Sensor Nodes Based on AMR-Sensors in Industrial and AmI Applications" (CD-ROM). Sensoren und Messsysteme 2010. Vorträge der 15. ITG/GMA-Fachtagung. Nuremberg: Berlin Offenbach. ISBN 978-3-8007-3260-9. Retrieved 14 November 2010.
  26. ^ Burke, Joan (February 2005). "Management of Barber Pole Worm in Sheep and Goats in the Southern U.S" (PDF). Small Farms Research Update. Booneville, Arkansas: U.S. Department of Agriculture Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 March 2009. Retrieved 4 March 2010.
  27. ^ Schoenian, Susan (15 February 2005). "Diseases: Worms". Sheep 101.
  28. ^ Moon, Katharine Hyung-Sun (1997). Sex Among Allies: Military Prostitution in U.S.–Korea Relations. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 45. ISBN 978-0-231-10642-9. Retrieved 14 November 2010.
  29. ^ Trecker, Jamie (2007). Love and Blood: At the World Cup with the Footballers, Fans, and Freaks. Orlando: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 13. ISBN 978-0-15-603098-4. Retrieved 14 November 2010. prostitution barber.
  30. ^ Kirby, Doug; Smith, Ken; Wilkins, Mike (2010). "Forest Grove, Oregon: World's Tallest Barber Shop Pole". Novato, California: Roadside America. Retrieved 14 November 2010.
  31. ^ "Redbanded rockfish". Alaska Fisheries Science Center. National Marine Fisheries Service National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 14 December 2010.
  32. ^ Cameron, Scott (2010). "Craps Lingo". CasinoDealers. Retrieved 14 November 2010.
  33. ^ "Crap Dictionary". World Casino Directory. 2010. Retrieved 14 November 2010.
  34. ^ Sarna, JR; Dyck, RH; Whishaw, IQ (February 2000). "The Dalila effect: C57BL6 mice barber whiskers by plucking". Behavioural Brain Research. 108 (1): 39–45. CiteSeerX doi:10.1016/S0166-4328(99)00137-0. PMID 10680755. S2CID 18334770.

Further reading