Barber Pole

In the Middle Ages, barber shops were places to not only receive haircuts and shaves, but medical procedures too.  More often a process called bloodletting was performed to allow certain diseases to flow out of the body through the draining of the blood from an incision made on a vein.

The blood will drain into a brass bowl, now symbolized as the brass ball on the barber poles. When incisions can’t be made safely, leeches are used to remove the impurities from the blood system. These leeches are also known to be kept in the brass bowls.

To improve the blood flowing out, the person would grip a white pole/rod. This blood drips down and now symbolizes the red stripe on today’s barber pole, and the white pole symbolizes the white stripe today. Other beliefs of the red stripes are to represent the arterial blood, the white stripes are for representing the bandages, the blue stripes for the venous blood.

At some point, rules changed. To advertise these changes, barbers began displaying blue and white poles, while surgeons began displaying red and white poles. This meant that surgeons could no longer shave or cut the hair of their patients, and barbers could no longer perform surgery on their customers.

These poles can be purchased on