Most men visit barbershops on a regular basis, but many do not know the history of the "American" barber trade itself, nor do they know how it came here to America. Long before the Europeans passage across the Atlantic into the new land known today as the United States, the role of a barber was one that consisted of more than just merely cutting hair or shaving ones face. In fact, dating back to ancient times, barbers were highly respected tradesmen. While barbershops were often, as they are today, the sanctuaries for men seeking an escape from everyday stress, they could also converse with fellow men, joke, laugh and talk freely with one another without self-consciousness.
The trade of a barber traces back to some of the oldest proven artifacts of mankind's existence. Ancient Mesopotamian, Sumerian and Egyptian relics that have been unearthed have depicted barber's tools such as razors and carvings of items such as today's modern day scissors, used for cutting or shaving mens hair and beards. In ancient Greece, patrons would visit an agora, which is what would be considered an original type of barbershop where men gathered to have their beards trimmed, shaved, hair cut or finger nails trimmed while associating with one another and listening to local gossip. In Ancient Rome, a daily visit to the tonsor was what all men did for a clean shave. It was even considered a "rite of passage" or coming of age experience for a young boy to have his first visit to the tonsor. Asia had it's own form of barbers who shaved their heads into certain hairstyles for their culture. India also had it's own barbers who sat on the street where they trimmed their patron's hair. History proves that even in the Middle Ages, barbers served as also dentists and surgeons, thus earning them the names "barber surgeons."
the very origin of the barber pole posted outside of nearly every barbershop which features the red and white spiraling stripes, dates back to Europe. Another one of the gruesome services a barber-surgeon would offer was the extracting of teeth. Whether he was applying leeches to a customer, delousing a lice infested patron, or performing bloodletting, once he was finished he would wrap the bloody bandages around the customer and later wash out the bandages and hang them on the white pole that sat outside his place of business. The wind would cause the bandages to wrap around the pole, leaving bloodied red stains. During the centuries up until 1300s, the a barber would take the blood from his customer and place it in a bowl on an outside window so that passersby could see, hoping it would draw attention and attract more customers for bloodletting. By 1307, a law passed prohibiting the displaying of blood in the window, and forcing the barber's to dispose of it in the river for cleanliness issues. Eventually sometime around the 1500's the poles outside were painted red and white to signify the older practice of the barber-surgeons bloody bandage hanging. It is often thought that the addition of the stripe of blue, most commonly found on an American Barbershop pole, is because of the colors of "Red, White and Blue" from the USA Flag.
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