The History Of The Barber Pole! - Cyclops Brand

The History Of The Barber Pole!

barber pole outside of a barbershop

The Barber pole is an iconic symbol in the haircutting industry. Serving as a reminder of the darker history of the profession. White represents the cloth bandages used in bloodletting, Red was for the blood-stained clothes, while Blue was for traditional haircutting services. The pole itself represents the wooden stick they would squeeze to increase blood flow during surgery.

The History Of The Barber Pole

The barber pole is a staple for barbershops both small and large.

We’ve seen them all across the united states and even other countries, hanging by the entrance door.

But why does the barber pole look the way it does?

Lately, there has been a resurgence of old-fashioned barbershops, including the vintage hair and beard styles coming back to the forefront of our society.

But do people know the meaning behind the barber pole itself?

Many people think that the red, white, and blue relate to the American flag; although similar in color, that’s not the truth.

Still, there is a much bloodier history a lot of people are unaware of; In this article, you will learn everything there is to know about the history of the barber pole.

three men dressed like medieval times

What Did Barbers Use To Do?

Barbers during medieval times weren’t restricted to cutting hair; they also performed dental work like; extracting teeth and surgeries such as blood-letting, leeching, lancing abscesses, cutting out gallstones, removing hangnails, and more!

The Barber pole represents the wooden stick they would give to the patients for them to squeeze. 

To promote blood flow and take their minds off the pain.

Blood-letting was the most popular service.

Bloodletting is also one of the oldest medical practices that trace back to ancient Egypt.

The belief was that having too much blood in one area of the body resulted in bad health; blood-letting was done to reduce cardiac stresses and restore the patient’s general health.

Primarily for treating a diverse set of ailments: the plague, migraines, epilepsy, smallpox, and gout, to name a few.

Barbers During The Early renaissance.

By the 14th and 17th centuries, Renaissance barbers would paint colored stripes on the poles.

The red stripe indicated that they could bleed patients, white was for extracting teeth, and blue meant they would do traditional haircutting services. 

a barber pole attached to a building overlooking the city

How Was The Barber Pole Made?

If we jump ahead to 1850 in America, William Marvy started manufacturing the first barber poles.

Cowboys would come into towns after cattle drives in the old West, looking for a barbershop for a haircut and shave.

Because many of these men were uneducated, they could not read. 

So, the red, white, and blue barber pole solved that issue to identify the barbershop. 

Marvy continued to produce barber poles, and his company is still the only manufacturer of barber poles in the United States. 

They have since sold over 82,000+ Barber poles.

barber pole spinning

The Spinning Barber Pole 

In 1935, experimental psychologist Hans Wallach conducted experiments on the traditional barber pole by creating a pole that spins to catch a person’s attention.

The spiral lines on the pole rotate on the vertical access, giving the illusion that the barber poles stripes are moving upward.

Later, it became a massive success for advertising barbershops. 

These poles were put on the outside of the Barbershop to draw in passers-by.

barber pole hanging outside the barbershop

The Controversy Behind The Pole

In the United States, there has been controversy with the barber pole. 

Certainly, barbers still put them outside their shops

But what about hairdressers? 

Some hairdressers believe they should be allowed to display the barber pole. 

After all, they can cut a man’s hair the same as a barber. 

While Barbers agree to an extent, they want to hold on to the history of the barber pole.

After all, the word barber comes from the Latin word for “Barba,” which translates to “Beard.”

Especially today, barbers are spending a lot of time working on beards. 

They believe that the barber pole signifies a different place than a hairdresser’s salon. 

The issue has made it to court and legislatures. 

Many states now restrict the use of the barber pole to “traditional” barbershops and exclude hairdressers. 

This frustrates hairdressers, who believe they offer the same services (and sometimes more if you include services like manicures and pedicures). 

In other cases, the push for this restriction has stalled and was never passed into law.

barber pole by entrance of barbershop

Did you Know?

A Barber pole was used as a disguise to hide prostitution in South Korea?

Barbershops and brothels or 이발소 (ibalso) or 미용실 (miyongsil),  to be exact.

often two poles would be stationed next to one another, spinning in opposite directions.

Barbershops or 미용실 (miyongsil)  would paint an image of a woman with long flowing hair to avoid confusion that the establishment wasn’t a brothel, but for cutting hair. 


So, the next time you walk into a barbershop, take a look at that spinning pole.

Remember that at one time, the barber did far more (and far bloodier) services.

Sit down in the chair and take a look at your barber.

He does a great job at cutting your hair…

But would you really want him to pull a tooth?


Cyclops Brand Is a World-Class Barbering Website Dedicated to Educating our Readers with Informative Articles related to the Barbering Industry. Bringing High-Quality Supplies & Apparel to Professional Barbers All Around The World. We want to Thank You For Reading Our Blog Posts & We Hope to Bring you value as a Tonsorial Artist! - Cyclops

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