Becoming a Barber was the best decision of my life. It gave me more than anything else I’ve tried like drive, stability and fulfillment. As the tonsorial industry is living its golden age again, it seems appropriate to raise this question: Why do I call myself a Barber rather than a Men’s Hairdresser? Does it really matter anyway?

A group of men examine a body while another one extracts a tooth.

“There is no more science in surgery than in butchering.”
Lord Thurlow

Barbers used to be Jacks of All Trades. A highly respected craft but also an alternative to the doctors when money was a problem. Physicians, who considered themselves above surgery, often opted for academia and consulting, so anyone capable of using a sharp object would be called to action such as butchers, and barbers. Along with the tonsorial affairs, barbers would do bleedings, tooth extractions, wound treatments and even perform surgeries like amputations.

Barbaric. This is how people viewed surgery. No finesse in it and no challenge for the intellect, so physicians didn’t even care about it. Not until anesthesia became a thing. When the first public demonstration was performed in 1846, surgery was no longer brutal, painful and loud, but rather safe, effective and reliable.

With it, surgeons could now perform carefully slower and with more precision allowing a rise in credibility and respect followed by doctors’ total support to “ether” (substance used for anesthesia), paving the way for the creation of medical schools for surgeons and increased regulation of the profession.

Ultimately, there were no more Barber Surgeons.

A barber performs a shave.
Photo by Adam Serez on Unsplash.

So, the use of a blade was of the utmost importance for a Barber and even today, that importance is seen by the amount of money one is willing to spend when it comes to his tools. A hairdresser will spend a great amount of money on exquisite scissors, but a Barber spends more on an outstanding straight razor (generally speaking).

Take America’s definition for example. You are only an official Barber or Cosmetologist after completing a 2500 hours course. Although the term Barber never changed, Cosmetologists have been Hairdressers, Hair Stylists, Hair Designers, Creative Directors, Senior Stylists, and so on…What’s the difference between the two? Barbers use straight razors. I’d tell you who, but I think you’ve guessed it.

Do you get where I’m going with this?

When we hold our straight razors, we go back in time. We are not just picking a blade, we are holding hundreds of years of history, not because the tool is something of old (maybe it’s brand new), but because it is a symbol of times gone by. A marvelous respect to those who’ve used it on a whole different level as well. And we hold it with pride.

A barber performs a beard trim.
Photo by Nuno Fangueiro for Barbearia Porto.

So, the true mastery of this craft lies at the razor’s edge and if you consider yourself a barber, you must live by the blade. Otherwise, you’re just a hairdresser. Which is completely honorable, but not the same.

It’s not about using the new trendy name to define your work but about fully understand the history you carry as a barber. That will bring true value rather then what one would charge monetarily.

Isn’t it beautiful how a bit of history can turn the ordinary into extraordinary? Or at least give you a different perspective upon things? But hey! Don’t be afraid next time you go to the barbershop, I’m pretty sure you’ll still retain both your kidneys. You only need one to function anyway, right?

Featured Photo by Fancycrave for Pexels.

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