Curiosity is a hallmark of wise men. Our goal is to pass on the knowledge that make us love what we do, hoping to kindle the interest in barbering in clients and barbers alike.
Quench your thirst for grooming knowledge in the pages of our gazette and learn how barbering came to be one of the most valued and respected trades worldwide. Discover how to preserve your charm day after day by taking care of your skin, hair and beard.
THE ORIGINS OF BARBERING
The Barber’s Ancestor: The Tonsor
The tradition of Barbering dates back since the Greeks and Romans’ time, when both kings, emperors, soldiers and peasants enjoyed daily shaves and facial treatments in private villas, public baths and squares. Back then, shaving was no easy task: razors were rudimental, difficult to handle and even harder to sharpen. The Barbers who mastered the art of shaving enjoyed the fame and recognition of nowadays’ rock stars.
At the birth of the Roman Empire, men from all classes use to keep very ungroomed looks, with long beards and hair; but around 300 B.C. the classy Greeks started influencing the local culture and brought the fashion of shaving to the spotlight. Clean, more dapper looks gained traction among societies, along with the demand for good Barbers.
Part blacksmiths, part doctors, part estheticians, ancient Barbers were called Tonsors: they represented a familiar figure in the routine of the Romans, who absolutely loved to take care of their body, hair and skin. Tonsors roamed the streets, taverns and baths of the capital looking for clients: they shaved them in the open or brought them to the Tonstrina, the very first organized barber shop where they could receive a full treatment – from haircuts to shavings, coloring, manicure, pedicure, depilation and massages.
Barber shops became important places of reunion among men, visited not just to receive a service, but like a modern member’s club, to meet peers and discuss politics, philosophy, entrepreneurial ideas and common matters.
Shaving became so important in the Roman culture that in barber shops, families celebrated their sons’ first shave – fittingly name Beard’s Deposit – as a ritual of passage from youth to manhood.
It must have not been a very pleasant experience though, as creams and badger brushes didn’t really exist back then. Barbers better had to be good at sharpening their blades because the only moisturizer they used was a splash of water. That’s why the ones who left their clients with smooth cheeks and necks received public accolades and everlasting fame.
THE TRUE STORY OF THE BARBER POLE
The True, Grueling Story of The Barber Pole
Many theories surround the birth of the barber pole, the colored sign exposed outside Barber Shops around the world, but very few tell exactly how the pole came to be and the meaning of its seemingly cheerful colors. To learn the true story of this iconic symbol and its graphic evolution over the centuries, we need to take a little trip back to a dark time of barbarians, clergymen and kings and see how barbers adjusted their craft to remain relevant, gain popularity and prestige.
During the Roman Empire, the fashion prevailed for all men to keep clean shaves and short hair, to look proper and dapper at all times; this was the golden age for barbers, profusely hired and acclaimed. But from around 450 AD, as the Empire crumbled due to the Barbarians’ attacks from Northern Europe, the populations started blending with the newcomers, accepting and welcoming their costumes.
The uber-hipster Vikings and Barbarians were coming from cold, wind-swept lands and naturally kept their beards and hair long, often braided and decorated with jewels and accessories. Romans started taking note and gradually changed their looks to accommodate longer hairstyles and less visits to barbers, who suffered from discontinued business and had to incorporate into their services more and more dental and small surgical operations.
So why is the barber pole a pole? And why is it white, red and blue?
As the centuries went by, Barbers hired in monasteries kept helping the clergymen – who were the only literate people of the time – to understand the human body, perform operations and pass the knowledge along. In the darkest Middle Age around 1200 AD, when diseases spread through Europe like wildfires due to lack of hygiene and superstition, priests were too precious of a commodity to be left risking contagion at the bedside of the sick, so a series of Papal edicts definitively prohibited them to come in contact with open wounds from then on.
With priests prevented from actively curing people, Barbers’ business was booming once again! Thanks to the knowledge learned from the monks, Barbers could now perform all sorts of procedures to help reinvigorate the needy, from haircuts to dental extractions and bloodlettings. The first documented proof of the barber pole dates from 1658 and is precisely a drawing of a bloodletting.
The barber’s client lays on the chair and rests his arm holding a wooden pole wrapped in white bandages. Under the barber’s supervision, his blood comes out, supposedly freeing him from the disease. The crimson blood slowly drips along the pole, drenching the twisted bandages in red stains, thus creating the iconic succession of red and white.
And so it is, that since the Renaissance the swirling red and white icon was taken as one of the very first multicultural, international symbols representing not just a place for grooming and aesthetic improvement but a harbor for the sick and the needy of cures.
What about the blue?
Some say that as the trade made its way to the United States, many barbers started adding the blu shade to the traditional bi-colored pole to represent the bluish venous blood stream in contrast with the red arterial one, or simply as a patriotic gesture. We will never know when or who started this trend, but we do know that for the better part of two millennia barber shops represented friendly places where to find indulgence and solace.
BARBERING AND MIXOLOGY
Barbering and Mixology: two trades, one intent
Nowadays hairdressing and shaving options are becoming very sophisticated: men ask for a Undercut Pompadour winking at their favorite barber as if they were ordering the usual Single Malt Old Fashion, with Maraschino cherry. Like consumed bartenders, our barbers have become acquainted with a plethora of different haircuts, shaves, treatments and stylings, each with a different name, and know how to flawlessly deliver.
Barbering and Mixology have often been practiced side by side in the oldest salons, as a way to wholly reinvigorate and refresh the looks, as well as the taste buds of patrons that came in. The better looking, creative, proportionate cuts have become as famous as the most delicious cocktails and liquid refreshments – but where do the names come from?
In the best tradition of Mixology, the cocktails that made the cut into the Unforgettables List and to this day enjoy worldwide fame were born out of the imagination and practice of savvy bartenders, legends of the shaker, endlessly crafting and tweaking concoctions behind the counters of prestigious establishments while receiving feedback from local aficionados.
Some cocktails were named after their ingredients, some because of a specific event, others were baptized directly from customers. In the case of hairstyles, inspiration usually came from movies, historical periods, music bands and public icons who pioneered them.
Barbering is kind of like Mixology, their shared intent is making people happy and yes, confident!
Master barbers around the world cut thousands of heads every day taking inspiration from their customers, local culture and fads. It’s thanks to this combination of constant practice and publicity that the most loved cuts and hairstyles are spread among the public, reach higher demand and are finally given a name.
It’s never just about hair, it’s about confidence. Whether a Quiff with Taper Cut or Slick Back Comb Over your hairstyle is a hallmark of your personality, your mood, your values. And best of all, you can change it over time.
BARBERING AND TATTOING
The love story between ink and pomade
Tattoo parlors as we know them today are an invention of the late 1950s, born out of the increasing demand from people of all social classes to imprint graphics and texts on their skin for the most various reasons. But the cultural habit of getting tattooed certainly dates back much earlier in time: the first modern evidences of tattooing come from tribes living remote islands of the Pacific Ocean, in the American and French Polynesia, discovered by European explorers in the Eighteen century.
Over there, the elders used and still use rudimentary tools made of bone and wood to mark youngsters’ arms, thighs and faces in a rite of passage from youth to adulthood, coding in their designs personal and ancestral meanings. The very word Tattoo comes from the Samoan “tatau”, which stands for the repetitive sound of wooden sticks beaten together to pierce the skin: ta-ta-ta… Yeah, not exactly a walk in the park.
The trade of tattooing evolved over time to a true form or art, increasingly sophisticated in the techniques and equipment utilized, as well as in the graphic styles offered by the artists. Not many people know though, that it’s also thanks to Barbers if this evolution and widespread acceptance was made possible.
In the 1930s barber shops started spreading mostly around harbors where sailors and tradesmen came back from their trips with long hair and beards in badly need of grooming. In these bustling environments, many travelers brought with them tales and souvenirs of faraway places and the will to permanently capture their essence before memory faded.
That’s when ink and pomade started mingling together, appearing closer and closer on Barbers’ counters before finally becoming an inseparable duo that perfectly complemented a reinvigorating grooming service.
Barbers crafted more and more precise tattooing machines modifying their clippers and marked patrons’ skin with figures of exotic islands, animals and symbols from different cultures, satisfying their wish to treasure them forever before they left for the next adventure at sea.
Nowadays, Barbers and tattoo artist are found working separately in most parts of the world due to sanitary reasons; while each has specialized in his own trade, it’s not uncommon to find the former with fully tattooed arms while the latter with perfectly groomed beards and fashionable hairstyles. The love story between ink and pomade lives on stronger than ever.