Barber Chairs - A Short History of the Trim
By Patrick Slater

The history of the barber chair is a long and interesting one. They have been the site of political decisions and style changes. Although barber shops have been seen as the domain of men, women are increasing using their services for their haircuts.

A barber is defined as someone who cuts hair, trims beards, and shaves men's faces. With the advances in disposable and electric razors, barbers tend to focus on cutting hair in modern times. Barbershops tend to focus on simple haircuts, although many stylists in hair salons are master barbers as well.

Evidence suggests that barbers were present in ancient times. Barbering even has a mention in the Old Testament of the Bible. In 296 B.C., barbershops were introduced to Rome where they quickly became a center for gossip and talk. People came to sit in the barber chair and talk to others. Many individuals would stop in each day to get the latest news.

In past times, barbers not only cut hair and shaved beards, but they also acted as doctors and dentists. They extracted teeth, performed blood letting, and conducted surgery on wounds. The barber's pole originated with the blood letting service, symbolizing the clean and bloody cloths used in the process. Barber surgeons formed their first organization in 1094.

In 1492, barbers formed their own guild in England. They were helped along in their business by laws that taxed individuals who wore beards. Most individuals choose to have their faces shaved on a regular basis by a barber rather than pay the tax. Other rulers of the time, such as Peter the Great in Russia, liked the laws and extended them in their own countries. This helped keep the barber chairs full.

By the late 1700s, the professions of barbers and surgeons had separated. Barbers concentrated on cutting hair and shaving beards, although their shops remained places of gossip and daily news. In many places, a boy's first haircut and shave was an important event in their life and signaled their march toward manhood.

Today, barbershops generally offer simpler haircuts than beauty salons or spas. Increasing, women are choosing to utilize barbershops for short or simple haircuts because they cost much less than the same cut at a salon. In small towns, the barber can still be the place to go for town gossip and political discussion.

Many important topics have been covered in barber chairs and the shops have been an important place in many locations from ancient times to today. Although these shops may not be as prominent today, barber chairs are in no danger of disappearing from the landscape. Many people still prefer getting their hair cut done in a barbershop.

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