HISTORY OF BARBERING

A Barber is a person whose occupation is to cut, dress, groom, style and shave men's and boy's hair. A Barber's place of work is known as a "barbershop". Barbershops are also known as a place of social interaction and public discourse. In some instances, barbershops are also public forums. They are the location of public debates, voicing public concerns and engaging in discussions about contemporary issues. They were also influential in shaping male identity.

The Barber's Pole

The barber-surgeon's pole actually originated from the rod that the poor patient grasped in order to make their veins bulge – this made it easier to cut or slice open. The brass ball at the top represented the basin that was used to collect the blood. The red and white stripes symbolised the blood soaked bandages, which would be washed then hung to dry on the rod outside the shop. The bandages would often twist in the wind, and this forms the spiral pattern we see on the barber poles of today.

In 1540, the law required barbers and surgeons to distinguish their services by the colours of their pole: Barbers used blue and white poles, while surgeons used red and white poles. (Today, in the States red, white and blue barber poles are often found, although this may have more to do with the colours of the nation's flag - some say it goes back to the red representing arterial blood, the blue represents venous blood and the white represents the bandages.) When the barber poles are spinning the red stripes are meant to move in a direction that makes the red (arterial blood) seem as if it is flowing downwards, as it does in the body.

Sweeney Todd

Sweeney Todd - the legendary, but fictional demon barber with a sideline in baked goods! ☺

If you’re unfamiliar with the Sweeney Todd story, the plot can be summarized: Todd, a Fleet Street barber, was a serial killer who murdered his clients. As they sat in the barbers chair he pulled a lever and they fell backwards through a revolving trapdoor, falling to the basement below and breaking their necks (if not the Sweeney finished them off!) His victims’ corpses were then made into delicious meat pies, by his neighbour, Mrs Lovett and sold in her pie shop nearby.

The tale became a Victorian melodrama and has continued to appeal to audiences throughout the years:

· 1846 -47 Victorian penny dreadful ‘The String of Pearls’

· 1936 Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street

· 1959 a ballet by English composer Sir Malcolm Arnold

· 1973 he was introduced as an antihero by English playwright 

  Christopher Bond

· 1979 a Tony award winning Broadway Musical by Stephen 

  Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler

· 2006 a BBC adaptation directed by David Moore and starring Ray 

  Winston

· 2007 as a musical film Sweeney Todd directed by Tim Burton and

  starring Johnny Depp.

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