Barber Poles

What’s the deal with all (or most) barbers having the candy striped pole outside their shop? Are their any legends or supersitions to this? Is it only in the US or do all barbers have this world wide?

People change not because they see the light but because they feel the heat.

IIRC, it is because barbers in the Middle Ages used to be the local doctors as well (in that they would bleed you). Since most people couldn’t read back then having a sign saying “Joe the Barber” would be silly, so instead they had the white and red pole. White I guess for the same reason why doctors wear white now, and red for blood.

Just a comment - I rarely see the striped barber pole anymore. The type of barbershop I like to frequent (no shampoo and set, no reek of hair dye or “permanent” in the air) is the kind that used to display the friendly, no nonsense pole. Alas, they are rapidly becoming extinct and I’m sad.

Barbers weren’t "doctors’ (physicians) they were ‘surgeons’ which back then usually involved whacking off limbs.It was butal purely mechanical work,hence the bloody rags. Barbers were not learned enough to be physicians,what with all the specialized knpwledge of humours,and the 4 elements,and astrology and all.Americans added a blue stripe out of patriatism. In the 60’s it was discovered that if the pole was motorized and spun, stoned out hippies would become mesmorized at the sightand could be dragged in shorn and bathed… In olden tymes the barber shop was where you went to get a bath too.

Signitorily yours, Mr John
" Pardon me while I have a strange interlude."-Marx

Sly leaps in and with one swoop of does it all. Disagree with the links idea about the blue though,UN I mean non-Americans what say you? And i think the advertisment idea came after the fact, on a battle field, the barber would poke his staff into the ground,hanging the cloths on it got them out of the way, but convinient for the next use.

The bloody-pole trick was later reinstituted by a famous (or infamous) Benjaman Barker. Which one of you Dopers wants to tell that gruesome tale?

I think we should keep that besween our selves,Babar.

Signitorily yours, Mr John
" Pardon me while I have a strange interlude."-Marx

My God, I almost didn’t get that, John. banging head on keyboardddddddddddddddd

Well, considering the expertise we acquired in pursuing screw threads (in that other screwy thread), don’t you think we should determine whether barber poles generally follow the righthand rule, whether they screw oppositely in the northern and southern hemisphere, and if so or not or how accordingly, whether this is due to the Coriolis effect or the preference of electric motors following the righthand rule? Hey, and maybe we could invite a certain “Strainger” over here to lecture us on the subject. ;-)))

Ray (pole troll)

I can figure it out nano, i am taking math lessons by email.
I AM proud of THAT one babar.Even if it is toddally immature. Don’t think i ever hid one IN a word before.

Yikes…Mr. J I didn’t get it untill you mentioned it was in the word…


‘They couldn’t hit an Elephant from this dist…!’

Last words of General John Sedgwick

Mr. John, you’re a genious…teach me!

Aside from the medieval sign suggesting a barber’s blood-streaked towel: The barber pole in America has blue stripes to conform it to the colors in the American flag. (This according to scholoarly writer George Stimpson.) I live in Los Angeles County and–unless a fellow Angeleno can successfully contradict this–county/municipal law in this area REQUIRES that a barber shop display the pole.
Actually, some of those picture-sings would be good to have now–multilingualism being what it is, and the dangers associated with trying to read a lettered sign while driving.

As has been noted earlier, until a few centuries ago, nearly all surgery in Europe was performed by barbers, not by doctors. Rememeber that, until the advent of antiseptics and anaesthetics, surgery was a messy, gruesome, painful and (more often than not) fatal business. A highly educated medical school graduate didn’t want to sully his hands with such stuff. Surgery was considered beneath the dignity of a REAL doctor, and so doctors left it to blue-collar tradesman: barbers. As was mentioned earlier, the red and white pole was an allusion to the blood that was part and parcel of a barber-surgeon’s business.

An interesting side note: TODAY, of course, surgeons are medical doctors, highly paid, highly skilled, highly educated, well respected doctors at that. But the old belief that surgery was a blue-collar trade and not REAL medicine persisted in Europe for quite some time. For that very reason, even TODAY, if you go to the finest, most modern hospitals in London, you will find that their top neurosurgeons and heart surgeons are addressed as “Mister,” not as “Doctor.”

It all goes back to the days when surgery was done by barbers, not by doctors.