the story about the barberpole


In earlier days, a hairdresser or a barbershop were recognizeable by theire barberpole.

A remarkable barberpole worldwide used as tradesign with a special history.



In the medieval times barbers were not only cutting hair, beard trimming and shaving.

They were also performing tooth extractions and minor surgeries like bloodletting.

The purpose of bloodletting was to cleans the body from illnesses.

The patient's arm would be tourniqued using bandages and a stick.

The barber would cut a vein and drain some blood.

After the bloodletting was done, the dressings were washed and hung over the stick outside the shop to dry.

This would show the other people that the barber mastered the skill of bloodletting and also that he was free for the next patient.

The red bloodied bandage (washingpowder did not exist) and the white bandage whirled in the wind together into a spiral.

And behold: the barberpole was born!



Afte rthe development of the medical profession, barbers were only allowed to practice under the control of a physisician.

The barbers were now called barber-surgeons.

This is where the difference began between longcoats and shortcoats.

Under the auspices of the physician, the barber-surgeon was authorized to do the 'dirty' work.

Physicians understand the circulatory system and are able to distinguish between the oxigen-rich arterial blood, which is disignated as red, and de-oxygenated blood, which gets marked with a blue color.

Showing this knowledge a third color was added to the barberpole: blue!

The barberpole became a status symbole for the barber-surgeon.



That applies in this case too.

Originaly the golden balls of the barberpole were brass and lead basins, used in bloodletting.

The golden ball at the top of the barberpole symbolises the brass basin used for the storage of the leeches.

And the golden ball at the bottom of the barberpole represents the lead basin that received the blood.



With the invention of the electric razors in the beginning of the 20th century people started to shave themselves more and more.

And since the 1960's the barber trade slowly started to disappear.

Since then barbers started to study to become hairdressers, and called themselves more upmarket "coiffeurs".

The barberpoles, the status symbols of the barbers, were removed from the shop fronts and ended up in the attics.

There they have been gathering dust for about 50 years, until now.

The barber shop is back into fashion!

The modern men like to be shaven again with the open knife at the barbershop.



The stubble beard is out of fashion.

If you want to look good, you should wear a full beard.

No savage pirate case, but a well-groomed beard under the chin!

Pomade, moustache grease, everything taken from grandfathers cabinet to look ship shape.

Not everyone is able to keep a beautiful beard.

This made more and more men and woman feel called to take up the razor to pamper men with a great shave.



Well, if you take yourself serious as a barber, then you go to the attic to find that barberpole your grandfather had once placed on the shopfront of your barbershop.

Now what? Thrown away? Eaten by woodworms? What a shame...

Buy a new one? Where?

And again: the new-age barberpoles don't look as good as they should...



Fortunately, I practice the authentic profession of a traditional woodturner.

I would love to see those beautyful old barberpoles adorn the streets again.

So it has become my mission to bring new live to the barberpole.

The poles you can see on my website are brand new: designed, turned and decorated by myself.

However, they look identical to the barberpoles that have been hanging on the barbershops for at least 70 years in all kinds of weather and exhaust gasses, and then left for about 50 years in the attic.

By using outdated painting techniques and matt paint the poles look authentic.

The corresponding frame can be adapted according to the situation of the fa├žade, where it will be placed and coated to prevent rust and weathering.

I'm sure you won't be climbing a ladder every year with a paintbrush in your hand instead a shavingbrush?

I guess not!



The whole process of making these barberpoles is in my own hands. Turning and painting is done by hand.

The construction of the frame is customized, as each situation where it schould be fastened is different.

Even if the pole is requested to be free-standing, I will think of a solution.

So, each pole looks original and that is one of its charms.

Of course you may happen to have your own picture of a barberpole or mayby you have a design of your own in mind that you have always dreamed of.

Don't be afraid to express your desire: your wish is my command!


With kind regards;

NANCY GELDERMAN, Traditional Woodturner.