Barber Poles – a Little Tale

While getting in my daily exercise, I often start re-looking at places I have been before. For example, on this walk, I noticed that along 2nd Avenue there seemed to be an unusual amount of barber shops. You could hardly miss the white, red and blue poles outside. It hit me that the barber pole tells you what goes on inside – in fact a few shops had no sign at all.

When I got home, I wondered how many other shapes and images convey meaning so fast – they are more meaningful than words. Some are easy to understand and their universal meaning makes them as useful today as they were over the years of existence.

I plan on adding some on another blog post.

Warning stop here if you would rather not know.

Red, white, and blue barber poles look patriotic, but there’s a blood-soaked meaning behind their design.

Those rotating red, white, and blue poles outside barbershops have become an icon. At first glance, you’d probably assume barber pole designs have a patriotic background. But the reality is pretty gruesome.

Not too late to stop.

Barbers have been cutting hair for centuries, but they used to have a longer job description. In medieval times, the professionals were known as barber-surgeons, which is just what it sounds like. They weren’t just there to give customers a trim—they’d also perform minor surgery, pull teeth, and amputate limbs and one procedure—bloodletting—led to the barbershop poles you see today.

At the time, people thought having too much blood in a certain area could cause diseases like fevers or the plague so barbers started offering the service instead.

Last chance to leave.

During the treatment, barber-surgeons would give patients poles to hold, the original barber poles. Even back then, people knew there was a limit to bloodletting, so barbers would stop the bleeding with a white cloth. They’d then tie those towels to the poles and hang them outside their shops. Some towels stayed blood-stained even after they were washed, so it was common to see a pole with white and red swirling around in the breeze.

These days, barbers leave the medical treatment to doctors, but their poles are a nod to their bloody past.

Now, that you have joined me this far it is up to you to decide.

Just SCARY STORY OR THE TRUTH ?

Do you recognize any of these?

Author: thom bradley

I am an educator who has worked in Woodstock NY, Rhinebeck NY, Salisbury CT and who has lived in Rhinebeck, Wilmington NC and New York City. I have been interested in photography since the '60s. I enjoy walking as a hobby and have taken quite a few pictures during these strolls. I share some of these adventures on thombradley.org or www.thombradley.wordpress.com. In addition, I share photographs from my collection on thombradley.org or www.thombradley.wordpress.com

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s