History of the Barber Pole

Americana, Featured Article, History, Traditions
on January 15, 2013

Barber poles descend from medieval times when barbers performed surgical procedures such as bloodletting. Patrons gripped a wooden pole, sometimes with a brass basin at the top containing blood-sucking leeches. The bandages—both blood-stained and clean—that barbers hung outside their shops came to represent the twirling red and white stripes on the modern-day pole. When a patriotic blue stripe was added to barber poles in the United States, they became emblems for shops offering men’s haircuts and shaves.