A barber (from the Latinbarba, "beard") is someone whose occupation is to cut any type of hair, give shaves, and trim beards. In previous times, barbers also performed surgery and dentistry.[1] In more recent times, with the development of safety razors and the increasing rarity of beards, most barbers primarily cut hair.

Therefore, although many may still deal with facial hair when requested, the predominant difference in American and Commonwealth culture is that barbers specialize in the simple cutting of men's hair. They do not generally offer significant styling or 'fancy' haircuts when compared to hairdressers working in hair salons. In recent years, larger numbers of women have been going to a barber for their haircuts, especially when they choose to have their hair cut very short or shaved primarily due to the generally lower cost of barbershops.

The place where a barber works is generally called a barbershop (or "barber shop").

Some barbers prefer to see themselves as hairdressers or hairstylists.There is a common misbelief that barbers do not perform any service other than hair cutting and that cosmetologists perform all coloring and perms but this is untrue. Barbers can cut hair, trim beards, color, perm, provide facials and shave. They are also licensed to work with artificial hair replacement products (toupees, etc). Many working stylists are legally barbers. There is some professional rivalry between barbers and cosmetologists, both of which are licensed and regulated. At one time, both groups were allowed to cut hair, but only barbers were allowed to shave or trim beards: this required mastering the arcane technique of using a straight razor.


The barber's trade is an ancient one. Razors have been found among relics of the Bronze Age (circa 3500 BC) in Egypt, and barbering is mentioned in the Bible by Ezekiel who said "Now, son of man, take a sharp sword and use it as a barber's razor to shave your head and your beard. (NIV)"

Shaving, either of the head or face, was not always a voluntary act, for it has been enforced by law in England and elsewhere. Cleanliness and vanity were therefore not the sole reasons for a "clean shave"; the origins lie deeper. Before the Macedonian conquest brought the custom of clean shaving, the κουρευς in the Greek agora would trim and style his patrons' beards, hair, and fingernails, as gossip and debate flowed freely.

Barbering was introduced to Rome from the Greek colonies in Sicily in 296 B.C. and barber shops 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 an essential part of his coming of age ceremony.

A few Roman tonsores became wealthy and influential, running shops that were favorite loci publici of high society; most were simple tradesmen, owning small storefronts or setting up their stool in the street and offering shaves for a mere quadrans. Some had reputations as clumsy butchers who left their patrons scarred about the cheeks and chin; their dull bronze or copper (never steel) razors must share some of the blame. The better barbers offered depilatories for those customers who refused the razor.

The barbers of former times were also surgeons and dentists. As well as haircutting, hairdressing, and shaving, barbers performed surgery, blood-letting, cupping and leeching, enemas, and the extraction of teeth. Thus they were called barber surgeons and they formed their first organization in 1094.

(This text was adapted from )(GFDL)
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