Why Are Barber Poles Red, White and Blue?
You see a spinning red and white (here in the UK) or red, white and blue (in the US and Australia) pole outside a building and you know what that building is.
The barber pole symbol is so well known to us. Children are fascinated by them and we all know that it indicates a barbershop.
But do you know why the barber pole came to be used like this?
The story is a fascinating albeit gory one, so maybe don't read this on your lunch break!
What is a Barber Pole?
A barber pole is a spinning, cylindrical pole that is traditionally affixed to the outside of a barbershop. Though these days they are just as likely to be found inside the barber shop as outside but, whether in or out, they remain a staple of barbershop decor.
History of the Barber Pole
To look into the history of the barber pole we must delve into the history of barbers.
Barbering is one of the oldest professions and is thought to have begun in ancient Rome over 2000 years ago. However, our barber poles are not quite that ancient.
Instead, they came from around 1000 years after that when barbers not only cut beards and hair but were also known as barber surgeons.
Barber surgeons would treat everything from pulling teeth to amputating limbs. Often the barber chair would be nothing more than an upturned bucket and the barbershop a simple back alley.
The red and white of the blood-stained bandages became the symbol of the barber surgeons.
The pole itself came from a different service these barber-surgeons would provide; bloodletting.
Bloodletting was the process of deliberately cutting the skin usually in the forearm, or using leeches to remove blood from the body that was thought to contain 'humours', disease, and cure any number of distempers or illnesses. Once a cut was made the patient was given a staff to hold to encourage the flow of blood. This staff or pole is what became known as the barbers' pole.
The Meaning Behind the Colours
The red and white on barber poles represents the blood and bandages associated with the barber-surgeons of the past.
The blue has been included in barber poles across the USA and Australia to replicate the colours on those nations' flags.
Barber Pole as a Branding Marker
There's no doubt that the right positioning of a barber pole either outside the barbershop helps to build your brand.
It's simply iconic and lets everybody know what it is that you do even before they have looked inside and seen your barber units and mirrors, your sinks and scissors.
Once Customers are In, What Keeps Them Coming Back?
Your barber pole has done the job of attracting customers into your barbershop.
To keep them coming back make sure you have only the best barbershop furniture and fittings.