Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Why barbers use this pole? What does it really mean?

Bloodletting History

The history of barber poles dates back to the 7th or 8th century in Europe. Today we think of barbers and doctors as being in completely separate professions, but in medieval Europe, hair cutting and treatment of injuries were done by barber surgeons, who employed some crude medical techniques that would have many of us fleeing in terror today

In the Middle Ages, barber surgeons frequently performedbloodlettings on patients, believing that draining excess blood from a sick person would help them recover. This seemingly shocking treatment was recommended by physicians, but usually carried out by barber surgeons: The patient would squeeze a pole to make the veins in their arm dilate. The barber surgeon would slit the patient’s wrist, and blood would flow down the pole and to be collected in a dish. It is believed that in order make the blood not so noticeable, the poles were painted red. Another theory is that white and blood-stained bandages would be put on the pole and hung outside the shop to dry, and get twisted around the pole by the wind, creating a spiral pattern.
Although bloodletting treatments ended in the 19th century, barber poles remain as a symbol of this gruesome past.

Business Separation

By the way, both barber surgeons and surgeons used the poles to mark their places of business, making them indistinguishable. In 1745, however, the surgeons formerly split from the barbers, after which laws required that surgeons used red and white poles, andbarbers used blue and white ones. There are lots of theories on what the blue colour represents, including that the colour combination was based on the French flag or the American stars and stripes. Another theory is that they represent blue veins.

Antique Barber Poles

What a homely atmo! An old and very nice Japanese barber shop, with a barber pole just as old (or even older) out front.

Barber poles in very antique styles can be found around Japan, but actually they first arrived here when the country opened up to the West during the Meiji period, after the mechanism and design of barber poles had already been fully developed.

Another cute barber pole on a stand made in an antique style…

… and a new barber pole in old-school style.