Nowadays in our quick and hectic days we rarely take a minute of our time to think about the most simple things which had become and integral part of our lives. Lets take the simple activity of shaving. Most men take no more than 10 minutes a day of their time “sacrificing” time and sometimes even blood on the altar of good looks. We don’t even think how these things started.
Razors were first invented in Ancient Egypt. There barbers were important figures and served as priests and doctors. The Romans took the habit of shaving from the Greek colonies that dotted the Italian coast. There going to the barbershop was part of their daily life and as important as going to the bar for us. One of the most important trials of passage in the life of a young Roman was his first shave, this was an integral part of the coming of age ceremony. Some of the barbers became wealthy and influential people owning barber shops on important locations and serving the high society. Actually the word barber comes from Latin: barba – beard.
In the Middle Ages barbers would often serve as surgeons and tooth extractors. From that period originates the now famous and iconic barber’s pole. In the Medieval Europe, people believed that diseases and sickness were cause by bad blood. So the practice of bloodletting and leeching started. And the red and white pole is the historic representation of bloody bandages wrapped around a pole. The first such signs appeared in France and from there spread around Europe. In the US the poles have red, white and blue as a patriotic sign.
The British navy first changed the notion that barbers and surgeons were the same though in the beginning the only thing that could qualify you as a surgeon was owning a sharp blade. The barbers have gone a long way from there. The started only making men’s haircut and shaving. And from working right on the streets in front of a crowd that had come to see a tooth extraction now there are barbershops. Although in many places in the world barbers still do their job directly on the street, with the help only of a razor, scissors and a comb.
So next time when you are walking in New York and go by a upper east side barber thing about how things have progressed. From priests, socialites and surgeons to owners of posh places when a man goes for a haircut and a talk.