The Evolution of Iconic Barber Chair

Iconic chairs are not just living room designer chairs: the barber chair has its own tale to tell. Many have seen these in American films in barber shops, although they have made a comeback in Europe thanks to hipsters who want to have long, well-kept beards. But the history of shaving, as well as the barbering trade and the working methods used, have more ancient origins.

One of the oldest occupations of which written evidence exists is that of the barber, who has changed and developed over the course of centuries. In Ancient Greece and Rome, barbers were popular and much respected, and barber shops were places where men might meet to discuss politics or philosophy, or everyday subjects.

The dexterity with which blades and razors were used by barbers meant that barbers frequently conducted surgery such as bloodletting and teeth extraction, seating customers on simple chairs or stools; this was when the iconic barber pole was made, with white and red stripes reminiscent of the bloodstained cloths needed for these surgical procedures, which were then hanging outside.

For the barbering profession, the era from the second half of the 18th century to the end of the 19th century reflects a significant phase of change that was stripped of the surgical part of its work, which moved to medicine at that time, and thus barbers became less regular.

The new bourgeois took care of their beard and moustache, with several companies creating their own brands, the items available for shaving increased, and a new type of barber shop was produced in the US with turning barber chairs and large mirrors. The traditional barber shops seen in American films are these. The chair was designed to help the barber do his work, but also make the customer more comfortable.

The design of the barber chair has achieved higher quality standards over the course of decades, with models that provide every detail, and are desired by antiquarians and other enthusiasts. But the charm of a retro barber chair goes beyond this: it evokes a timeless tradition, a “men’s only” sanctuary where they can relax and kick back, talk as though they had always met their barber, feeling like a king.

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