Why is the barber pole red, white and blue?

You can see the iconic barber pole, with it’s circulating red, white and blue stripes, from quite a distance and know you’re entering a barber shop. But why those colors?

Before the barber pole

In the distant past (middle ages and before), barbers used to also be surgeons and dentists. To advertise their services to anyone who could not read, they displayed a bowl of blood in the shop window to indicate their trade.

The colors and symbolism

Over time, barbers replaced the bowl of blood with a long pole with red, white and blue stripes. The red symbolized blood, the white symbolized bandages and the blue symbolized veins.

In the 18th century, the medical trade was separated from the barber trade and the pole became the exclusive symbol of barbers.

How barber poles are used today

Many barber shops have a mounted barber pole outside their window. Some are electromechanical with a rotating drum and even a light affixed to the top. Others are made of solid wood and stand right by the front door. The purpose is the same though. If you’re looking for a barber shop, simply look for the red, white and blue.

Our history with barber poles

The story of our pole is quite interesting. When we first opened the shop, Goldwyn & Sons, we never made any mention we were a barbershop. And for one year, no one knew who we were.

At the same time, when we were buying salon furniture, I told the owner my story of how I wanted to create a business to honor my family’s past. So he gave me a giant barber pole for my shop for free. I never used it, and kept it in the box.

About a year later, we decided we needed a pole so that others could know we were a barber shop. So, my brother and I decided to buy a barber pole and place it in the front (even though we had a free one at home). It was small, because we were afraid someone would hit their head. But it was the highest quality one we could afford, because we thought it would affect people’s perception of our shop.

And it worked!

Or so we thought. The barber pole only brought in moderate business and then suddenly, it broke. So much for quality.

Shortly after Ben joined our shop, he told us that the barber pole we mounted was too small, that no one could see it from a distance. And that was true. Many clients said so. So, we went back, dug up the unused pole and replaced the small one outside.

That summer, people came to our door and said, “Oh wow! When did you guys open!?” I could say with disbelief, “3 years ago…” That’s the power of a barber pole.

Categorized as Hair

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *