Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Where do barber poles come from?

Barber poles date back to medieval times when barbers not only performed hair cutting services but tooth extraction and bloodletting as well. In the process of bloodletting, a patient would hold and squeeze a red pole to increase blood circulation (and to hide blood stains). After bloodletting, the patient would receive bandages to heal. The white on the barber pole represents these bandages. In order to advertise their services to the public, barbers would wrap a red bloodletting pole with white bandages and put it outside of their shop.

In some places, like England, legislation dictated that surgeons needed to be distinguished from one-trade barbers, so barbers were required to advertise with blue on their pole while surgeons would use red. Some barber poles in the United States have red, white, and blue colors rather than the traditional red and white. This phenomenon is thought to be an expression of the country's national colors. Alternatively and in conjunction with the bloodletting theme, the blue could represent deoxygenated venous blood while the red represents oxygenated arterial blood. Today, barbers shops around the world continue to place barber poles (although commercialized and plastic) outside of their shops to advertise their services.

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