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Barber, Hairdresser
Weeks Edwin Lord Indian Barbers Saharanpore.jpg
Edwin Lord Weeks, "The Barber"
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 men's and boys' hair or beards. A barber's place of work is known as a "barbershop" or a "barber's". Barbershops are also places of social interaction and public discourse. In some instances, barbershops are also public fora. They are 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. 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 2018-04-21-12-25-25-IMG 7258 (46219375424).jpg
A barber shop along the Ruoholahdenkatu street in Kamppi, Helsinki, Finland

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. [1]

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, the official term for a barber is hairdresser; barber is only a popular title for men's hairdressers, although not as popular now as it was in the middle of the 20th century. Most would work in a hairdressing salon.


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 B.C. with instruments they had made from oyster shells or sharpened flint. [2] In ancient Egyptian culture, barbers were highly respected individuals. Priests and men of medicine are the earliest recorded examples of barbers. [3] In addition, the art of barbering played a significant role across continents. Mayan, Aztec, Iroquois, Viking and Mongolian civilizations utilized shave art as a way to distinguish roles in society and wartime. [4] 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.

Barbering was introduced to Rome by the Greek colonies in Sicily in 296 BC, and barbershops quickly became very popular centres for daily news and gossip. A morning visit to the 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. A few Roman tonsores became wealthy and influential, running shops that were favourite public locations of high society; however, most were simple tradesmen, who owned small storefronts or worked in the streets for low prices.

"A barber getting ready to shave the face of a seated customer.", c. 1801. A barber getting ready to shave the face of a seated custome Wellcome V0019707.jpg
"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". [5] 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.

19th century

Barbershop in Bucharest [?]1842. The barbershop also provides an opportunity for social contacts. Bucharest Barbershop 1842.jpg
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." [6] 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. [7]

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. [8]

20th century and later

Big hair dryer in barbershop Blow hair dryer.jpg
Big hair dryer in barbershop
A barber shop in Essex County, Ontario, [ca. 1900], with the photographer visible in the mirror at the back. I0015263.tif
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 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 and farming business or gossip. [9] [10] They can sometimes also be used for public debates or voicing public concerns. [11]

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. Recently 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. [12]

In 2018 Arthur Rubinoff opened a museum with barber's poles and antique barber equipment in Manhattan. [13]

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 passed away. 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, [14] which sets up reading stations in barbershops to promote a culture of reading among African American boys. [15] Public health researchers have also explored barbershops as a venue for sexual health education. [16]

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. [3]

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

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 Barber Shop Pole.jpg
A red, white and blue striped pole

The barber pole, featuring red and white spiraling stripes, symbolized 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. In the United States, the blue stripe is also sometimes used to match the flag. [7]


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 behaviour 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. [18]

See also

Related Research Articles

Leg shaving

Leg shaving is the practice of removing leg hair by shaving the hair off using a razor or electric shaver. In addition, some people remove leg hair using waxing, sugaring, depilatories, epilators or other depilation devices, or lasers, but shaving remains the least expensive and one of the least painful methods.

Hair removal Temporary removal of body hair

Hair removal, also known as epilation or depilation, is the deliberate removal of body hair.

Shaving Removal of hair with a razor or other bladed implement

Shaving is the removal of hair, by using a razor or any other kind of bladed implement, to slice it down—to the level of the skin or otherwise. Shaving is most commonly practiced by men to remove their facial hair and by women to remove their leg and underarm hair. A man is called clean-shaven if he has had his beard entirely removed.

Beard Facial hair

A beard is the hair that grows on the jaw, chin, upper lip, lower lip, cheeks, and neck of humans and some non-human animals. In humans, usually pubescent or adult males are able to grow beards. Some women with hirsutism, a hormonal condition of excessive hairiness, may develop a beard.

Worshipful Company of Barbers Livery company of the City of London

The Worshipful Company of Barbers is one of the Livery Companies of the City of London, and ranks 17th in precedence.

Cosmetology is the study and application of beauty treatment. Branches of specialty include hairstyling, skin care, cosmetics, manicures/pedicures, non-permanent hair removal such as waxing and sugaring, and permanent hair removal processes such as electrology and intense pulsed light (IPL).

Razor Device to remove body hair

A razor is a bladed tool primarily used in the removal of body hair through the act of shaving. Kinds of razors include straight razors, safety razors, disposable razors, and electric razors.

Barber surgeon

The barber surgeon, one of the most common European medical practitioners of the Middle Ages, was generally charged with caring for soldiers during and after battle. In this era, surgery was seldom conducted by physicians, but instead by barbers, who, possessing razors and coordination indispensable to their trade, were called upon for numerous tasks ranging from cutting hair to amputating limbs.

Hairdresser Person whose occupation is to cut or style hair

A hairdresser is a person whose occupation is to cut or style hair in order to change or maintain a person's image. This is achieved using a combination of hair coloring, haircutting, and hair texturing techniques. Examples of professional titles in Canada include 'barber,' 'hairstylist,' 'hair colour technician,' 'hairdresser,' 'hairstylist,' and 'wig stylist.' Each professional title also has an 'apprentice' version. Canada also provides Red Seal endorsements dependent on local qualification.

Beauty salon

A beauty salon or beauty parlor, or sometimes beauty shop, is an establishment dealing with cosmetic treatments for men and women. There's a difference between a beauty salon and a beauty parlor which is that a beauty salon is a well developed space in a private location, usually having more features than a beauty parlor could have. Usually a beauty parlor concentrates on a specific treatment or beauty features such as styling either for men, women or for both. Also, a beauty parlor is a smaller and more community friendly place which is usually located at the owner's home. In some cases the owner is not only the boss, but probably the only worker, not having any other crew members. Other variations of this type of business include hair salons and spas.

Acne keloidalis nuchae Medical condition

Acne keloidalis nuchae is a destructive scarring folliculitis that occurs almost exclusively on the occipital scalp of people of African descent, primarily men.

Straight razor Knife used to remove body hair

A straight razor is a razor with a blade that can fold into its handle. They are also called open razors and cut-throat razors. The predecessors of the modern straight razors include bronze razors, with cutting edges and fixed handles, produced by craftsmen from Ancient Egypt during the New Kingdom. Solid gold and copper razors were also found in Ancient Egyptian tombs dating back to the 4th millennium BC.

Barbers pole

A barber's pole is a type of sign used by barbers to signify the place or shop where they perform their craft. The trade sign is, by a tradition dating back to the Middle Ages, a staff or pole with a helix of colored stripes. The pole may be stationary or may rotate, often with the aid of an electric motor.

Shaving brush

A shaving brush or shave brush is a small brush with a handle parallel to the bristles used to make lather from shaving soap or shaving cream and apply it to the face when shaving. Shave brushes are often decorative; antique handles are often made from materials such as ivory or even gold, though the bristle load may be composed of any number of natural or synthetic materials. The shave brush is used most often today by "wet shavers" in tandem with a single- or double-edged safety razor or a straight razor. However, this is not always the case, as shavers of all varieties may employ the tool.

Asymmetric cut

An asymmetric cut is a haircut in which the hair is cut in such a way that the hair does not have left-right symmetry and one side is cut or appears to be longer than the other. It is a versatile hairstyle with many subvariations. Usually it is a combination of two separate styles, one for each side. An extreme variation is the "side shave", in which one side of the head is totally or partially shaved close.

Shaving in Judaism

Judaism prohibits shaving with a razor on the basis of a rabbinic interpretation of Leviticus 19:27, which states, "You shall not round off the side-growth on your head, or destroy the side-growth of your beard." The Mishnah interprets this as a prohibition on using a razor on the beard. This prohibition is further expanded upon in kabbalistic literature. The halakhic prohibition applies to shaving off the pe'ot (sidelocks) and corners of the beard by means of a razor.

<i>The Barber of Seville</i> (1944 film) 1944 film by Shamus Culhane

The Barber of Seville is the tenth animated cartoon short subject in the Woody Woodpecker series. Released theatrically on April 22, 1944, the film was produced by Walter Lantz Productions and distributed by Universal Pictures.

Shanghai-style barber shops in Hong Kong

Shanghai-Style Barber Shop is a barber shop opened by a group of Shanghai barbers coming to Hong Kong mainly in the 1950s to give classical Shanghai haircuts. It is popular in Hong Kong among higher class people in the period of 1950s-1970s, offering a range of classical haircut until today. Other than hair-cutting, Shanghai style barber shops provide different unique services include trimming, massaging, nails clipping, etc. Despite the sunset of Shanghai style barber shop in Hong Kong in the modern days, it still attracts loyal customers, especially among males, and costs around HK$70 for a haircut and shave using traditional clippers.

Desairology is the state-licensed practice of caring for hair and nails of decedents in a funeral home by desairologists, who are cosmetologists or barber stylists.

Secular laws regulating hairstyles exist in various countries and institutions.


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  11. "coloradobarbers". coloradobarbers. Retrieved 2018-06-18.
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  14. "About Us – Barbershop Books". Barbershop Books. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
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  17. "Heritage Village | Snyder, Scurry County, Texas". Retrieved 2018-06-19.
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Further reading