A Little History Lesson -Guest Post by Standish Salon Goods

Here’s something pretty cool, the folks at Standish Salon Goods wrote up an article on the history of barbering and the barber chair and I’m sharing it here on my blog. It’s a really interesting read with lots of stuff I didn’t know that I probably should have knows about before… cause I’m a barber… It’s like the President not knowing his way around the Oval Office.

Enjoy the read!

Shave and a haircut (wait for it)… two bits! That famous melody is closely associated with barber shops and their iconic barber’s pole. While today the barber shop is a place men go for their grooming needs it wasn’t always this way.

Way back in the day, barbers were considered surgeons who were experts on bloodletting and tooth extractions. The barber’s pole represented bloody rags wrapped around a white pole, with a brass basin on top to carry leeches and another brass basin on the bottom to catch the blood. This kind of barbershop trivia is great to bring up right after a close shave.

While the mid-nineteenth century was the Golden Age of the barber shop, across the world there is a resurgence in the popularity of the barbershop. Men want the same quality and personalized treatment as women get at the salon, and the barbershop offers that type of experience. Barbershops are places of community and tradition, where the culture doesn’t change with the times.

The shops and barbers offer the same quality service they did when your dad (and his dad) got his hair cut. It’s a straightforward experience, a great shave and haircut tailored specifically for men. Just great haircuts and great conversation. A barbershop is a manly place, for manly conversation and manly products. Hair products for men, aftershave and shampoo tailored for men.

For most people the two things that comes to mind when they hear ‘Barbershop’ is the classic striped spinning pole and the emblematic barber chair. Thankfully the piece we find ourselves sitting on, the barbershop chair, is comfortable and built for the job. The fine upholstery, an elevated seat, and head and foot rests help make visiting a barber a luxurious experience. Barbershop chairs are made to fit the person sitting in them.

These chairs can be elevated with a foot pump or a hand lever, but most importantly properly reclined back for close shaves. Barber chairs have not changed that much since the Civil War era, where engravings from that time period show the classic high seating, upholstery and footrests. Most barber chairs are made from metal and leather, which make these chairs very heavy and sturdy.

The first factory-made barber chair came out around 1850, while the first one-piece reclining barber chair debuted in 1878 by the Archer Company of St. Louis. The popularity and design of the barber chair quickly escalated after then with the Paragon, developed by Eugene Berninghaus of Cincinnati, a barber chair with both reclining and revolving capabilities. In 1900,

Ernest Koken created the hydraulic-operated barber chair, along with  the “joystick” side lever, which allowed a barber to control all the mechanical functions. This design of barbershop chairs has withstood the test of time and we see this classic design in barbershops around Canada and the US.

A barbershop is traditionally a place where men go to get great haircuts and shaves with the classic single-blade razor. Once you’re inside a shop the barber chair is the iconic piece that often tells you that you are indeed in a barbershop and not a salon. The barbershop chair stands alone from all other salon-style chairs, with its specific reclining abilities and comfortable footrest.

Barbershop chairs are designed to withstand years of use, with high-quality parts and plush features. These aren’t your run of the mill salon chairs where the backs of your legs get stuck to. Some of the best chairs in the business boast names like Mr. Withers, whose pinstripes may cause you to hum “Hello, Ma Baby,” or the Lincoln that stands tall and dark, like the historical president.

A barbershop chair adds a unique and old-fashioned flair to barbershops. There’s a trend for going back to the “good old days” where men can escape from the duties and stresses of life. The barbershop is the place to go for men to swap stories, share some laughs, and chew the fat.

A barbershop has a different atmosphere than a salon, one that is tailored towards men. With barbershop’s commonly offering only ‘neck up’ services, whether it be only a haircut or a full shave and groom they know how to get any man back to that crisp look.

-Standish Salon Goods


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