History of Barber Shops

Among the numerous places for social interaction, the barbershop is one of the most important ones, particularly for men. One can get their hair done as well as engage with others and communicate on various social issues too. However, historically, the barbershops have been quite different from what we see nowadays. 

First Barbering Services

Since tools like scissors and razors were not invented earlier, the concept of haircutting was based on oyster shells and sharpened flint. This began from the Egyptian Culture in about 5000 B.C. Although there were no particular barbershops, there was a concept of barbering services where barbers were considered the highly respected individuals from the society. In fact, there were specific barbers rather the priests and men with knowledge of medicine were inquired for the purpose of haircut. 

The ancient Greek culture had their hair done in certain markets known as agoras. These markets had people who were experts in trimming and styling head hair as well as beard and mustache. Around 3500 BC, the first razors were found in the bronze age. However, these razors completely shaved off the hair rather than trimming it. Therefore, the concept of cutting was not as efficient and people could not get their desired hairstyles, unlike today. 

Roman Culture of Barber Shops

In the Roman culture, barbershops gained popularity in 296 BC mainly because, in 300 BC, scissors were invented. These barbershops were named Tonsors. There was a significant improvement in the design of razors. Barbershops at this time became a point of meetup for men. Men used to gather here and engage in gossip and news as well. 

In addition to that, Tonsors were considered essential for men to declare that they are now all grown up. A young man used to have his first shave at the Tonsors. Even if people did not want to get a haircut, they would still visit the Tonsor every morning. As a result of this, the barbers of that era were quite wealthy and influential. The Tonsors were developed in the high-end expensive streets unlike today, where Barbers are not usually as expensive or set up in posh areas. 


Barber Shops in 19th Century

In the 19th century, Barber Shops were considered to be one of the most influential businesses. The African American culture was usually promoted in these barbershops. The difference between black barbershops and white barbershops was also rising during this time. These shops were becoming more complicated as they were meetup points where many contests were held at a time. For example, there were arm-wrestling contests. 

In addition to that, men also found the barbershops as the escape point from nagging wives and different problems that they were facing such as issues being faced at work. The slang rule “What’s discussed at the barbershop stays at the barbershop” was adopted. Even during this time, the barbershops were serving wealthy people only but later the common black men were also being served. Barbershops in the late 1800s cost about $20 to equip which had dimensions of 10 feet by 12 feet. The average price for a haircut was 5 to 10 cents while shaving was priced between 3 to 5 cents. 

Barber Shops in 1897

Barber Shops in 20th Century

The 20th Century was the time when barbershops got mass popularity and fame while they were also a major influence to pop culture. The equipment used by barbers was improved and more precise cutting was possible. Barber Shops were now becoming a place where people would even come up and have different types of business talks. Some even played Board Games or discussed the different types of current affairs. Many communities gathered at these shops to unanimously raise their voices against a particular issue. 

The influence of Barbershops increased during the 20th century mainly because of modern trends. Different types of TV shows were becoming popular and people tried to follow the hairstyles that the stars of these TV shows were following. Since Hollywood was also on the rise, better hairstyles were being introduced. Magazines also played an important role in the development of modern hairstyles. What was earlier considered as a need was now becoming a fashion icon for the people. 

In addition to that, the barbershops were becoming famous due to the brands that were working for hair products. Shampoo was first invented in 1927 while hairspray was invented in 1948. Earlier, only haircut or shave was possible but with the invention of shampoos and hairsprays, the styling was also possible. Barber Shops were becoming salons for men where they could get complete hair treatment. 

Barbershops in 1920.

Learn more about how to make beard products at home – How to Make Beard Care Products at Home?

Barbershops in the World War

Although barbershops were on the rise during the 1900s, the First World War created a bit of a negative impact on them. During this time, there was only a specific type of haircut followed for men because men were required to participate in the war. Fancy styles were becoming less popular. On the other hand, barbershops started providing diverse services and the barbers would dress the wounds of the soldiers too. At times of the Second World War, specific haircuts were again provided to the soldiers by barbershops. 

Barber Shops in Post 1990 Era

With significant research and development done for hair products and the arrival of many mega brands to the industry, the Barbershops saw massive growth post-1990s. Washing, dyeing, and cleaning of hair were done with the help of modern tools. In order to assess the concerns for quality assurance, barbers were encouraged to use safety equipment such as plastic gloves. Sterilization of tools was also implied to avoid any kind of germ transmissions from one person to another. 

In addition to that, the barbershops were also providing specialist services to men. Facials for men were also done at these shops while some even offered massages to the customers. The element of sophistication took over the charm of informal conversations and gossip that were there. Barber Shops also provided the services of professional makeup for men and specialist haircuts for grooms. Waxing facilities also began as men seem to have an increased interest in getting rid of their body hair.

Positive Impacts on Barbershops

With the arrival of different types of barber schools and colleges, there has been further development in the barbershops. Being taught in the form of a specific curriculum, barbering is now becoming a major career field. Schools such as the London School of Barbering have become quite popular over the past few years and many new students are enrolled every semester. 

Further developments have been seen in 2018. Arthur Rubinoff opened up a museum in 2018 which was surrounded by different types of antique barber equipment. Barbershops have also been influenced positively with the help of social networks such as Facebook, Tiktok, Instagram, and others. Popular barbers seem to show their talent and exceptional skills to the world via these platforms. 


Negative Impacts on Barbershops

Equipment such as hair trimmers, nose trimmers, beard trimmers, and other such equipment was developed which created a negative impact on the barbershops. Although initially, this equipment was expensive and only barbers were able to afford them, later, they started to become cheap when more companies started selling them. This includes Braun, Panasonic, Phillips, and Kemei as well. As a result of this, people started to buy them for personal use and the visits to barbershops deteriorated. 

The difference between old school thought and new school thought is also the reason why the barbershops are no longer considered as the points of social gathering. Earlier, people used to get their haircut done every few weeks while there were meetups too regardless of the fact whether a haircut was needed or not. However, now, the youngsters only visit the barbershops when they need to go there. It is no longer a famous hotspot for social gatherings. Barbershops are replaced with cafes, bars,  and other such places. 

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Modern barbershops have a wide range of facilities.


The art of haircutting requires precision and accuracy at each corner. Therefore, barbers use a specific set of techniques to ensure that your hair can be styled in the desired manner. However, there is a long and diverse history of how barbershops evolved. Above we have discussed the different aspects of barbershops in the historical context as well as factors that affected them negatively and positively.