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As we are approaching the American holiday Independence Day we thought we would have a look at barbering in the USA, especially the barber pole.

What is a Barber Pole?

In the UK, the barber pole is red and white. You’ve probably seen it hanging outside our barber shops. Many barbers have them outside their shops to signify they are a working barber shop. The two colours of the UK barber pole have many connotations especially in relation to medicine.

In medieval history, barbers were also surgeons so the red and white pole symbolised blood and bandages. The dual role of barber and surgeon continued throughout early modern England and legislation created the Barber-Surgeons’ Company in 1540.

In 1745 surgeons separated from barbers to go their own way whilst barbers in the UK continued to use the barber pole to show they were a barber shop.

In the USA, barbers also use the barber pole but unlike the UK version, they have three colours: red, white and blue.

USA Barber Pole

When people were migrating to the New World from the 1500s onwards, ideas migrated too. So when barber-surgeons moved to America, the barber pole went with them.

The US barber pole has three colours compared to the UK version. If the barber pole in the UK symbolises blood and bandages, what do the colours of the barber pole in the US mean?

As the barber pole was used by barber-surgeons in America we believe the pole still symbolised medicine and surgery like the UK pole. The red and white still represent blood and bandages whilst the blue could represent veins.

In medieval history barbers popularly performed blood-letting with leeches and the three colours that symbolise the vein, the blood and the bandage can trace back to this old medical treatment.

The three colours have also been related to the United States flag to distinguish US barbers from the UK.

The barber pole is an important sign for barbers and it has been used throughout history, it’s important to cherish the history of the traditional barber. That’s why at Kings Barbers Club, each of our shops have a barber pole.

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