The History of Barber Shops
If you are old enough to remember a barber’s pole in Denver, you may be old enough to know what the pole—and more accurately the colors on the pole—signify. To some, the red, white and blue swirling colors represent the U.S. flag, but the other explanation for these colors is a bit more gruesome. Several hundred years ago, that barber you visited for a haircut could also perform other services, including tooth extraction, certain surgeries, and bloodletting. The barber’s pole outside his shop let others know that the barber could perform bloodletting services and the colors on the pole—red for blood, blue for blood in the veins, and white for bandages.
Bloodletting was used to relieve ailments such as fevers and body pains and the barber played a dual role in his part in the community. Speculation states that the barber would take a bloodied bandage and wrap it around the pole outside; other theories state the barber would just place the used bandages outside and that the wind wrapped them about the pole. Either way, this was a signal to others that this barber was also a bloodletter.
The rest of the history surrounding barbers and barbershops in Denver isn’t nearly as graphics. A little over a hundred years ago, barbershops were in their heyday. Men would gather around the shop, chat about their lives and have a thorough shave and a haircut. Oftentimes, men would come in just for the social aspect of their day, to read the newspaper and to visit with other men.
The profession of barber really took a turn in 1893, when the first barber school opened in Chicago. The instruction soon took off, and schools for barbers cropped up in many major cities. Barbers were taught haircuts, shaving, and facial treatments and many of these practices are still used today.
When barbershops first came into fashion, they were segregated shops. African American shops were set up but did not have the amenities that their white counterparts had. While the black barbers were allowed to take care of white customers, they had to have their own barbershops to service black customers. The barbershop, as depicted in movies like “Barbershop” became a means of social interaction. Even on TV shows like “The Andy Griffith Show” the barbershop was a haven for men to mingle.
The appeal of barbershops took a downturn with the widespread use of a new product: Gillette’s safety razor. Gentlemen who relied on the barber to give them a close shave could now do so in the comfort of their own home. The safety razor was less expensive than a barbershop shave, and a lot faster, too. The advertisements accentuated the clean, close save while being a time-saver and more economical, and they soon caught on. When World War I started, enlisted men were issued a safety razor by the United States government, making them the norm, and soon the barbershops were wholly abandoned. Men went to the shop for a special occasion, when they wanted some pampering and a steamed towel, as opposed to a quick shave in their own bathroom.
Soon other factors played a part in the decline of the neighborhood barbershop, including moms cutting their own kids hair to save time and money. To add insult to injury, hairstyles began to change, and in the 1960’s men began to grow their hair, much like the popular Beatles. This made trips to the barber even more infrequent, including here in Denver.
As the yuppie phase took over, men’s hairstyles became shorter, but by then, men were enjoying the salon experience that women had embraced. These unisex salons catered to men who were interested in more than the standard “shave and a haircut”—highlights, creative styles and 80’s looks ruled the day. This ushered in the era of “quick” haircuts—mini-salons that served both men and women and that are still popular today. These haircut stores still provide the fast trim and basic services and are the norm for many folks on the fly.
The basic barbershop did not die; instead, barbershops around the country are experiencing a resurgence in popularity. Men have discovered the old-fashioned time and attention delivered by a professional barber, and they are enjoying the service their grandfathers once did. There are several factors in this newfound attention to barber shops, other than the personal attention. Men have learned that barbers are specially trained to cut men’s hair, especially the complicated and often elaborate haircuts featured by men. Barbers rely on clippers to cut a man’s hair and can use this tool to fashion some very funky haircuts, something not found in a salon or haircutting store.
Men have also come to embrace the camaraderie of the old school barbershop. Back in the day, all the men would engage in conversation with one another; the same is true today. Men in the chair speak with men waiting for service and with the barbers themselves. It’s a true opportunity for all to feel included.
In addition to the social aspect, let’s face it—men go to Denver barbershops for a skilled, close shave. The warm lather, the hot towel, the astringents, and creams—men like to feel pampered, too! A relaxing shave can have the same effect as a massage, and the client emerges feeling clean and renewed.
Today, fathers and sons are again relishing the trip to the barbershop. Young men are visiting barbers to get slick haircuts and kids are being introduced to the barber shop as the place to have your hair cut. Older men longing for simpler times are spending their time getting an old-fashioned shave by skilled professional barbers, just like their fathers and grandfathers before them. It is becoming a rite of passage in some families and a true bonding experience.
Lastly, men visit barbershops today to listen to the barbers regale tales of yesteryear. Many of barbers have been in the business for years, and many had fathers who were barbers. The stories alone are enough to entertain clients for years to come!
Next time you are in downtown Denver swing by Frank’s for a cut and a cocktail.
Notable Denver Blogs We Wanted To Give A Shout To
• Prom is around the corner fellas, get that haircut and get ready for a good time. If you are looking for something to do after Prom check this out. http://www.funproductions.com/blog/after-prom-planning-and-helpful-how-to-s-part-5
• For any of you needing some Sunday service and are unsure where to go, check out First Baptist Church of Denver. http://www.fbcdenver.org/blog/weekly-words-8-24-17
• I think hardwood flooring gives old-school barbershops that vintage look. If your home or office is located in Denver and you need wood flooring check these guys out. https://www.palodurohardwoods.com/blog/5280-sustainability-in-action
• Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. Check it out and sign up. http://www.denversbdc.org/blog
• If you are looking for a good place to eat while in Denver check out Tables. http://tablesonkearney.com/
• Need a staffing agency in Denver, check these guys out. http://www.conetstaff.com/blog/denver-staffing-agencies-their-role-in-colorado-s-tight-employment-market
• Nothing is more relaxing than having a drink and getting your wig trimmed. But acupuncture might be the next best thing. http://acudenver.com/_blog/Acupuncture_Denver_Blog/post/upcoming-events-at-acupuncture-denver/
• Learn more about real estate in Denver. http://www.toddregroup.com/todd-re-group-blog/what-is-going-on-with-denver-home-inventory-and-prices
• Colorado Small Business Development Center, this is a useful resource for any small business, trust me I know. http://www.larimersbdc.org/blog/colorado-creates-grant-guidelines-and-application-now-available
• I have heard great things about this restaurant. If you check it out let us know how it is. http://www.castlepinesconnection.com/news-2017/new-downtown-restaurant-features-tastes-of-colorado
• Did Mary Jane make Colorado a safer place? https://www.nlcannabis.com/how-marijuana-made-colorado-a-safer-place/