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Rise of the barber shop culture in America
Rise of the barber shop culture in America

Rise of the barber shop culture in America

Barber shops are a common sight in America. This is an around $4.5 billion industry. There are approximately 14 thousand barbers currently devoted to this field as of a report in 2020. Though, the majority of these barbers are men with a whopping 74:26 ratio. Still, a barber shop Lexington tends to hire women frequently due to their sharp sense of style and overall professionalism in the industry.

A brief history

A barber is a professional who cuts hair and beard. Originally, this term was used to refer to someone who dealt with men and women alike. But now, this term is generally used for someone who deals with the short hair of men and beards.

Barbery is an ancient profession that has been practiced since the time of ancient Egypt. There was a sudden surge in people’s interest during the First World War. Everyone wanted to look glamorous with a catchy hairstyle. After World War 2, barber shops became a common source of entertainment for many people.

History of the red-white-blue barber pole

We can usually spot the iconic tri-colored pole outside a barber shop. There is a rather gruesome history to this iconic barber shop pole. In medieval times, Barbers also performed ‘minor’ surgeries. It included pulling off of teeth and even minor amputations. There was a strange concept back then. It was a common practice to perform “bloodletting”. It was believed that having too much blood in certain parts of the body can cause fever and even plagues.

Subsequently, Pope Alexander, the third banned the practice amongst monks and priests. The barbers stepped up and started performing the bloodletting practice. They would reportedly hand out a triple-colored rod to the customer so that a vein can pop out. Other speculations are that the barber would stop the bleeding with a white cloth after the bloodletting. This cloth would then be hung outside his shop for quite some time. This is why the pole is usually red and white in most of the world. Anyhow, America added the hint of blue to give it a patriotic look to this pole. But some say the blue color represents the blue vein that was ruptured during Bloodletting. Still, having this pole is banned in many states of the U.S. unless there is a licensed barber present on the premises.

Importance of a barber shop in the African American community

The presence of a barber shop in an African American community is a staple of their livelihood. Barber shops became important to the black community during the harsh times of the civil war. They became a haven for black men to take a break from the cruelty of segregation. Men of color would take refuge in these barber shops to talk about the political situations, discrimination, and the humiliation they suffered regularly. Eventually, it became a regular stop for the men of the black community to discuss, gossip, and even play board games.

Nowadays, a barber shop is similar to a social club for people of color. it is a safe place where men can be vulnerable and discuss important issues like the BLM movement. It is a place destined for longevity. The positive vibes help bind the whole community together. It has resulted in better economical standing for many of these black business owners. The barber shop culture is also portrayed in many Hollywood movies like “Welcome to America” (1988) Starring Eddie Murphy and Malcolm X (1992) starring Denzel Washington.

The Barber shop revolution

A lot has changed since the time of barber/surgeons. This craft has evolved for the better with time. It requires a whole new level of skillset now. Although, there is no need for gore now. Barbers do not have to pop bones back in their sockets.

It is still critical for barbers to keep learning. There has been an efflux in demand for hairstylists. Hair salons have become a threat to the barber shop industry. Keeping in mind, the main difference between a salon and a barber is the length of hair. A barber usually deals with short hair and beards whereas salons deal with longer hair and specialize in styling long hair.

Barbers have started to deal smartly with this competition. Nowadays, barbers give facials and various other beauty salons treatments. This helps them stay in the game. Rebranding has helped many small business owners. Digitizing their shops has allowed better reach to the public. The term barber shop has been reduced to a minimum. Most of the barbers have chosen to portray their shops as a brand. This has helped them get more customers. Albeit, the hair cutting service is still the same.

The versatility of a barber shop

You do not see many people walking around with spikey hair. Neither do you see anyone want a spikey hairstyle? Unless of course, you’re Guy Fieri. Some haircuts are outdated now. Another example is the Mohawk. There was a time when these hairstyles were the authenticity stamp for being the coolest guy around. But now, the faded hairstyle has taken its place. This hairstyle was prominent amongst the black community but now it is opted by almost the whole world. A barber needs to master these new haircuts to stay in the race. She/he usually gets one chance to convert his random customer into a loyal one.

Pursuing a career as a barber

A barber makes over $25,000 on an average in the United States of America annually. You must enroll in a barber school to become a licensed barber. It is important to have cleared your GED or must possess a high school diploma to be eligible to apply to a barber school. The course can span for 9 to 24 months depending on which program you enroll in. It can be either a part-time or full-time program.

Education curriculum in a barber school

Barber schools are usually a part of technical colleges. Their educational curriculum introduces a wide range of topics. It starts from the basics, for instance, hair styling, beard trimming, various laws regarding a barber shop, etc. Aspiring barbers are also extensively trained in hairpiece fitting, hair dying, and beard styling. One interesting aspect of their education is that they are taught about various scalp types. This helps them learn and detect various scalp diseases. It can be a fungal infection or just simple keratin deposition namely dandruff. They are also taught various chemical treatments.

Licensure requirements and licensing exam 

Most of the states require a particular number of hours of education in terms of classes and/or practical training. Usually, it ranges from 1500 to 1800 hours. Nearly all states require a licensing exam upon completion of the accredited barber program. This exam comprises an oral and written examination. These tests cover all the angles of the barber profession. The tests analyze the applicant’s technical knowledge about the basic components of Barbery. The test covers procedures of hair-dying, hair styling, scalp treatments, safety techniques, etc. it also covers the U.S. laws regarding the said profession. A practical exam can also be conducted where your skills are put to test on a live model in front of an invigilator. Most states require the renewal of a barber’s license every two years.

In a nut shell

Running a barber shop is not child’s play. Apart from being skilled, you need to have a friendly yet compassionate attitude towards your customers. Staying aware of the pop culture trends is also a great way to stay ahead of the curve and can always come in handy. This not only keeps them loyal to your shop but is also great for the community.


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