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.


Do you recognize any of these?

NYC – Barber Shops, Chairs and Memories

NYC – Barber Shops, Chairs and Memories

While the City has always had its share of classic, old-time, businesses I have always enjoyed going by old barber shops.  It is like looking into the past when people had more time, less work pressure.

In most old barber shops, the barber chairs stand out – front and center, Are they original? You often can tell by looking at the worn metal foot rests.

Well, what got me to write this blog? This past weekend, on west 56th Street, I came across a store display of Barber Chairs.

As you can see in the photo above, it is easy to walk past and not know what is inside. Also, these are newer models but they got me thinking:

Since my youngest recollections of going to the barber, the chair(s) seemed like they were always there. I am sure that many of you who went to beauty parlors may have a similar experience. When things like this happen, I wonder why this is a first time experience for me to even think about where one would get a chair,  Of course, new barber shops and beauty salons open frequently. Like me, did you just think that the chairs were there already?.

For me, finding this store, had me thinking about  events from the past. Memories you thought they were long forgotten.


It got me thinking of my first haircut and sitting in those big barber-chairs. [I remember when the barber would put the “child’s seat’ on the arms of the chair]. The one above is certainly more fancy than the one I sat on!

Hoping that this blog brings with it memories for you, too!

I have put together a few photos of NYC barber shops that I took from the internet and one that I have passed on my walks.


In an earlier blog I wrote about a Barbershop Museum. here

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