The Meaning of the Barber Shop Sign

For centuries in the West, the place to go for bloodletting was the barber shop. In fact, the barber’s pole originated as a symbol for bloodletting-the brass bowl at the top represented the bowl where leeches were kept; the one at the bottom represented the bowl for collecting blood. And the red and white spirals have their origins in the medieval practice of hanging bandages on a pole to dry them after they were washed. The bandages would twist in the wind and wrap themselves in spirals around the pole. As to why barbers were the surgeons of the day? Well, they were the guys with the razor blades.

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