How did a twirling brightly colored RWB Pole become symbol for a barber?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Joseph Howard, Jul 23, 2002.

  1. Joseph Howard

    Joseph Howard Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 1997
    Messages:
    227
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Anyone know?

    I got a haircut the other day and asked my barber
    why the twirling red, white, and blue pole was the
    symbol (in US?) for a barber shop. He did not know.

    Anyone?
     
  2. Michael*K

    Michael*K Screenwriter

    Joined:
    May 24, 2001
    Messages:
    1,806
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
  3. Joseph Howard

    Joseph Howard Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 1997
    Messages:
    227
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Ain't the internet great. Found part of the answer
    in only 30 seconds.



    Dear Straight Dope:

    A few days ago while stuck in traffic I happened to look over at a row of storefronts and I notced a little barbershop and I was at once overcome with the urge to increase my repertoire of little known facts. When did the striped barber pole first come into popular use as the symbol for barbershops and why?

    SDSTAFF slythe replies:

    Back in the 17th century, doctors were forbidden by the Catholic church to perform surgery. Their reasoning was that the human body was sacred, and men of God shouldn't touch the "shameful parts". At the time almost all the major medical schools were located at church-controlled universities, and most doctors were actually clergymen.

    The slack was taken up by barbers, who conveniently had the sharp blades already on hand. Thus was born the surgeon-barber (insert your own "close shave" joke here).

    Later, surgeons decided to distance themselves from the lowly barber. The Barber-Surgeon Company (guild) of England split up in 1745. The guild symbol was a red-and-white striped pole, meant to represent bloody rags hung out to dry. This was topped by a brass bowl or basin which was used to catch the blood from bloodletting, a common "cure" at the time. Patients used to grab this self-same pole to make their veins swell for easier puncturing.

    After much debate over who would get this symbol when the barbers and surgeons split, it was decided that the barbers got to keep the pole.
     

Share This Page