In modern times, the term "barber" is used both as a professional title and to refer to hairdressers who specialize in men's hair. Historically, all hairdressers were considered barbers. In the 20th century, the profession of cosmetology branched off from barbering, and today hairdressers may be licensed as either barbers or cosmetologists. Barbers differ with respect to where they work, which services they are licensed to provide, and what name they use to refer to themselves. Part of this terminology difference depends on the regulations in a given location.
Different states in the US vary on their labor and licensing laws. For example, in Maryland, a cosmetologist cannot use a straight razor, strictly reserved for barbers. In contrast, in New Jersey both are regulated by the State Board of Cosmetology and there is no longer a legal difference in barbers and cosmetologists, as they are issued the same license and can practice both the art of straight razor shaving, colouring, other chemical work and haircutting if they choose.
In Australia, the official term for a barber is hairdresser; barber is only a popular title for men's hairdressers, although not as popular now as it was in the middle of the 20th century. Most would work in a hairdressing salon.
The barber's trade has a long history: razors have been found among relics of the Bronze Age (around 3500 BC) in Egypt. In ancient Egyptian culture, barbers were highly respected individuals. Priests and men of medicine are the earliest recorded examples of barbers. In some early tribes[which?], a barber was one of the most important members, as it was believed that certain evil spirits could enter a person's body through their hair, and that cutting it was a way to drive them out. Due to their spiritual and religious beliefs, barbers even performed religious ceremonies, such as marriages and baptizing children. During these ceremonies, they would leave people's hair hanging down until after dancing; they would then cut the hair and tie it back tightly so that no evil spirits could enter and no good spirits could escape
Men in Ancient Greece would have their beards, hair, and fingernails trimmed and styled by the κουρεύς (cureus), in an agora (market place) which also served as a social gathering for debates and gossip. Barbering was introduced to Rome by the Greek colonies in Sicily in 296 BC, and barber shops quickly became very popular centres for daily news and gossip. A morning visit to the tonsor became a part of the daily routine, as important as the visit to the public baths, and a young man's first shave (tonsura) was considered an essential part of his coming of age ceremony.
A few Roman tonsores became wealthy and influential, running shops that were favourite public locations of high society; however, most were simple tradesmen, who owned small storefronts or worked in the streets for low prices.
The barbershop in Fluvanna, Texas, has been restored as part of a pioneer village in Snyder in Scurry County in West Texas.
Interior of a barber's shop, circa 1920
Starting from the Middle Ages, barbers often served as surgeons and dentists. In addition to haircutting, hairdressing, and shaving, barbers performed surgery, bloodletting and leeching, fire cupping, enemas, and the extraction of teeth; earning them the name "barber surgeons". The barber pole, featuring red and white spiraling stripes, symbolized different aspects of the craft. Barbers received higher pay than surgeons until surgeons were entered into British warships during naval wars. Some of the duties of the barber included neck manipulation, cleansing of ears and scalp, draining of boils, fistula and lancing of cysts with wicks.
19th century and later Edit
Barbershops were influential at the turn of the 19th century in helping to develop African American culture and economy. According to Trudier Harris, "In addition to its status as a gathering place, the black barbershop also functioned as a complicated and often contradictory microcosm of the larger world. It is an environment that can bolster egos and be supportive as well as a place where phony men can be destroyed, or at least highly shamed, from participation in verbal contests and other contests of skill. It is a retreat, a haven, an escape from nagging wives and the cares of the world. It is a place where men can be men. It is a place, in contrast to Gordone's bar, to be somebody." 
Late in the 19th century there were several noteworthy events in the barber profession that gave it an upward trend, and the effects are still carrying onward and upward. In 1893, A. B. Moler of Chicago, established a school for barbers. This was the first institution of its kind in the world, and its success was apparent from its very start. It stood for higher education in the ranks, and the parent school was rapidly followed by branches in nearly every principal city of the United States. In the beginning of barber schools, only the practical work of shaving, hair-cutting, facial treatments, etc., was taught as neither the public nor the profession were ready to accept scientific treatments of hair, skin and scalp. Not until about 1920 was much effort made to professionalize the work
In the early 1900s an alternative word for barber, "chirotonsor", came into use in the USA.
The barber Sam Mature, whose interview with Studs Terkel was published in Terkel's 1974 book Working, says "A man used to get a haircut every couple weeks. Now he waits a month or two, some of 'em even longer than that. A lot of people would get manicured and fixed up every week. Most of these people retired, moved away, or passed away. It's all on account of long hair. You take old-timers, they wanted to look neat, to be presentable. Now people don't seem to care too much."
Despite the economic recession in 2008, the barber shop industry has seen continued positive growth.
A barber's pole is a type of sign used by barbers to signify the place or shop where they perform their craft. The trade sign is, by a tradition dating back to the Middle Ages, a staff or pole with a helix of colored stripes (often red and white in many countries, but usually red, white, and blue in the United States). The pole may be stationary or may revolve, often with the aid of an electric motor
A "barber's pole" with a helical stripe is a familiar sight, and is used as a secondary metaphor to describe objects in many other contexts. For example, if the shaft or tower of a lighthouse has been painted with a helical stripe as a daymark, the lighthouse could be described as having been painted in "barber's pole" colors.
During medieval times, barbers performed surgery on customers, as well as tooth extractions. The original pole had a brass wash basin at the top (representing the vessel in which leeches were kept) and bottom (representing the basin that received the blood). The pole itself represents the staff that the patient gripped during the procedure to encourage blood flow.
At the Council of Tours in 1163, the clergy was banned from the practice of surgery. From then, physicians were clearly separated from the surgeons and barbers. Later, the role of the barbers was defined by the College de Saint-Côme et Saint-Damien, established by Jean Pitard in Paris circa 1210, as academic surgeons of the long robe and barber surgeons of the short robe.
After the formation of the United Barber Surgeon's Company in England, a statute required the barber to use a blue and white pole and the surgeon to use a red pole. In France, surgeons used a red pole with a basin attached to identify their offices. Blue often appears on poles in the United States, possibly as a homage to its national colors. Another, more fanciful interpretation of these barber pole colors is that red represents arterial blood, blue is symbolic of venous blood, and white depicts the bandage.
Prior to 1950, there were four manufacturers of barber poles in the United States. In 1950, William Marvy of St. Paul, Minnesota, started manufacturing barber poles. Marvy made his 50,000th barber pole in 1967, and, by 2010, over 82,000 had been produced. The William Marvy Company is now the sole manufacturer of barber poles in North America, and sells only 500 per year (compared to 5,100 in the 1960s). In recent years, the sale of spinning barber poles has dropped considerably, since few barber shops are opening, and many jurisdictions prohibit moving signs. Koken of St. Louis, Missouri, manufactured barber equipment such as chairs and assorted poles in the 19th century.
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