November 22, 2022
The art of barbering dates all the way back to ancient Egypt and the Middle Ages. Back in the day, barbers wore several hats and offered a wide range of services outside of cutting and styling hair. Throughout history, barbers were known for performing religious ceremonies and providing medical and dentistry procedures to their communities. Learn more about this interesting history, where it all came from, and how it has evolved today among our own communities.
In ancient Egypt, It was believed that evil spirits could possess those with longer hair and have an easier way to enter the body. Barbers were highly respected and believed to have the power to cast out evil spirits by cutting hair. They performed religious ceremonies and some were even religious priests. Their high status allowed them to also perform marriages and baptisms.
Barbering During the Middle Ages
Believe it or not, but during the Middle Ages, barbers served as your local surgeon and dentist. From pulling teeth to amputating limbs, barbers were expected to do more than just cut hair. Not only were these services considered as medical, but as cultural, and religious ceremonies as well.
Some barbers practiced bloodletting, which was an ancient practice of allowing clients to bleed out any type of illnesses they had. People believed bloodletting prevented anything such as anxiety, lack of sleep, headaches, sharpened memory, and even helped people to sing better. Other barbers even performed tooth extractions and other types of dentistry procedures.
It was believed that barbers were skilled in performing any type of treatment that had to do with cutting skin, because they had the right tools in doing so and were some of the only people who knew how to use them.
Here are some of the few other strange practices that barbers offered during Medieval times:
Boiling Oil & Gunshot Wounds
During medieval times, barbers believed that pouring boiling hot oil into gunshot wounds was the best type of remedy for stopping the bleeding or preventing wounds from becoming infected.
Performing Procedures in Public for Advertising
Barbers didn’t have the luxury of digital advertising and had to get creative with it. Back then, they traveled to different towns to advertise themselves removing their clients kidney stones in public. People gathered around to watch this procedure.
Not Your Typical Shampoo
Human urine was considered by the Romans as a miracle cleaner. Soap was expensive and more of a luxury, so urine was commonly used to remove stains out of clothes and for brushing or whitening teeth. Barbers typically used urine to shampoo and wash their client’s hair.
Where did the Barber Pole Come From?
When you walk past a barber shop, do you ever wonder what the blue, white, and red barber pole represents? Barbers used to place bowls of blood from bloodletting procedures in the window. They believed this was another effective way of advertising. Eventually townspeople complained and advertising a bowl of blood became illegal in 1307. Barbers came up with a solution to their advertising by creating a pole to symbolize their bloodletting services.
Here is what each part of the barber pole represented:
- Downward Spiral – Blood flow through the body
- Red- Bloodletting
- White – Medical bandages
- Blue – Non-oxygenated blood
Bandages were washed and hung up on the pole to dry. Barbers wrapped bandages around these poles and placed them outside of their shops. Later in 1540, these poles were used as a way to represent who performed what. Surgeons used red and white poles, while barbers used blue and white.
As science became more advanced, barbers were no longer able to perform surgery and dentistry type procedures. Today, barbers focus on grooming, hair styling, and facial shaves. Barbershops are known to be places of social interaction and appreciation, especially for men and have become an important part of the economy and local communities. Many barbers strive to create positive relationships between their clients. There are a wide range of benefits in becoming a barber and it is a rewarding career to consider.
Here are some of the benefits:
- Creative freedom
- Meet and interact with new people
- Give back to the community
- Variety of career opportunities
- Flexible schedules
- Be your own boss
- Job satisfaction
Learn More About the Art of Barbering at Premier Barber Institute
If you are someone who is interested in joining the world of barbering, then Premier Barber Institute in Norristown, Pennsylvania could be a great place to start your future. Our goal is to help students learn how they can begin a successful career as licensed barbers. We are located 6 miles from the Philadelphia city limits and offer three types of programs.