Barbers and their trade has been around for centuries. Anthropologists in Egypt discovered razors in digs for relics dating back to the Bronze Age (3500 BC).
The earliest barbers were revered and respected. In fact, barbers were initially men of medicine and the clergy.
In some of the earliest tribes there was a belief that evil spirits could enter a person's body or soul through their hair. Shaving or cutting the hair was thought to be a way to drive out any evil spirits.
Barbers also performed spiritual ceremonies which explains why the earliest clergy had the dual role of dealing with issues surrounding the hair.
During some of the religious ceremonies performed by barber clergymen, the hair was cut as part of the ceremony.
During baptisms and marriages the hair was left loose and then cut it and gather it back to prevent the entry or bad spirits or the escape of good ones.
Men in Ancient Greece viewed the time they spent having their beards, hair and nails groomed, cut or shaved as part of a social gathering.
Beatles And Long Hair Impact On Barbers
Until the introduction of the Beatles in the 1960s, followed by the Hippie Movement, barbershops were still the gathering place for men of all ages and races in order to be groomed and share lively discussions about sports, politics and similar events.
When the Beatle mop top hairstyle became popular in the 1960s young men started visiting Unisex hair establishments where their haircuts were created by hairstylists rather than barbers.
As long hair became more popular for men the time between haircuts, even at the salons, were extended from every two or three weeks to every couple of months.
As older men who were used to visiting the barbershop every week retired, moved away or passed away the traditional barbershops started to close in response to the lack of business.
The Hippie Movement is also blamed partially by some for the decline of the traditional barbershop. After the movement with spawned waist length strands for both men and women, the goal of getting trimmed and manicured every week or every other week completely faded away.
Long hair has had a major impact on the survival of the old time barbershops with men either letting their hair grow without trims or visiting hairstylists instead.
Economy And Social Media
The decline of the barbershop which has been even more impacted by the current economy, was recently featured indirectly on the ABC hit series Last Man Standing starring Tim Allen as Mike Baxter.
Tim works as the director of marketing of Outdoor Man, a sporting good store. Mike and his boss Ed Alzate played fabulously by Hector Elizondo are old fashioned men's men. They share old-fashioned values.
In a recent episode - The Passion Of Mandy - Ed is mourning the decline of his favorite barbershop - Murphy’s Barbershop - which has become a virtual ghost town. and is closing. Mike feels badly for his boss so he starts to work on some marketing ideas to try and pump new life into the traditional barber shop before it goes out of business.
While Mike is working on the project his middle daughter, Mandy Baxter, who is totally into fashion and social media offers to perform some modern marketing magic via Twitter and Facebook. In short order the barbershop is swarming with a cool new crowd.
Of course Ed is horrified to find his man cave overrun with young people wearing chic hats and drinking exotic coffee drinks. He is more in the dumps than before and lodges his complaint to Mandy who was initially thrilled by her barbershop marketing success.
Although the episode to save the dying barbershop was written for humor it was very real-to-life from the viewpoint of the dying men's haircutting shop and the impact social media can have on any struggling business.
Will The Barbershop Become Extinct In The Near Future?
The barber, hair and spa industry have been hit hard by current economic conditions. People who used to get their hair cut, styled, colored or chemically treated at the barbershop, salon or spa/salon have adjusted their habits to visit less frequently.
Many hair clients, both men and women, have searched for ways to do their hair at home, visit cosmo schools to save money or turned to friends.
This doesn't mean that all barber shops have disappeared. There is a famous celebrity barbershop - RahCuts - in Hollywood in Los Angeles that caters to celebrities such as Chris Rock. Terrell Owens, Andre 3000, Bow Wow and Akon, to name just a few.
However, RahCuts is the exception rather than the rule.
Will traditional barber shops survive for the future or will they become real life scenes out of Last Man Standing with coffee bars and barbers with cool little hats?
What do you think? I would love feedback. Please visit HairBoutique.com's HairTalk to share your opinions.
- Revised Date: 01/03/12