Trivia: The Gruesome Origin of the Barber Pole

Barber PoleThe red and white stripes of the barber pole symbolize the bandage used during bloodletting, which in addition to cutting hair, was a service used to be performed by medieval barbers!


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The red and white colors only symbolized, white for the clothes that medic's wore when performing medical situations, and red stood for the color of blood . The older symbol, FOUR SIDED CROSS, that was common years ago on ambulances was the color red in the center, and the ambulance was usually white to go with it. Doctors,Nurses,Barbers,Dentist and Hospitals all went by that theem. The barber pole also became controversial when the uni-sex shops became known as a place for men and women to get a hair cut in the 1960's. I hope that was cleared up a little.
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Tim, how can you be so opinionated about this, considering that you've never been a bloodletter, a barber, or a psychiatrist?

Aren't you just a puppet of the media?
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That's right Miss Cellania. The poles were initially used for patients to grip tightly with a tourniquet applied on the upper arm - this way the veins would appear more prominently. Bloodletting was believed to cure all sorts of ills (one of Hippocrates' cockups). Blood would drip down the pole (leeches were subsequently used to increase the bleeding) and as you say MC, the poles would be hung out with bloody bandages that sometimes wrapped around. The ball represents the bowl (with leeches).

Interestingly, the two groups of surgeons - the barber surgeons and the 'real' medically-trained surgeons - had their own coloured poles. The two groups were amalgamated by force and maintained their own identities. The barbers had a blue and white pole, whereas the surgeons had the familiar red and white pole. So it's strange that the barbers later adopted this one. Some have interpreted the blue to mean venous blood and the red to mean arterial.

Tim, there are still two occasions we perform blood letting. But come on, it's a far more scientific than this psychiatry you talk of.
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