Do you know the difference between a barber and a hairstylist? One cuts hair for boys and one cuts hair for girls, right? Well, not entirely.
A barber specializes in cutting men's hair, both on the head and sometimes on the face. Traditionally, barbers offered expert shaves of the face and neck. But like the waistcoat and the snap-brim hat, that part of the barber's role has considerably faded to obscurity. Still, a few old-school barbers continue to offer it.
The modern barber belongs to an ancient vocation, which earliest beginnings trace at least as far back as 3500 BC in Egypt That's more than 5,000 years – a lot of haircuts.
During the Middle Ages, barbers also acted as dentists and surgeons, performing minor medical procedures and treating illnesses. The red and white barber's pole began as an apparatus that would hold leeches used to draw blood (and the illness therein) out of the patient's body. In America, a blue stripe was sometimes added to represent the national colors. (Yay, America!)
Barbers train in the cutting of men's hair and do not receive the other, more expansive training in coloring, texturing, or otherwise chemically altering the hair that hairstylists receive. If this makes you think barbers are less skilled than hairdressers, think again: like a doctor specializing in one system of the human body, barbers are trained and re-trained to deal with men's hair and all its weird tendencies and adjustments.
Barbers train intensively before cutting hair, usually undergoing a ten to twelve month training course and completing a written exam and practical demonstration. In the United States, barber training is given by specialized academies as well as many technical and voluntary schools. Some online training courses are starting to appear, too.
Each state has its own Barbering Board, which often includes certification for Cosmetology as well. The board will grant and renew licenses and will also sometimes certify a barber as a Master Barber, which declares his or her advanced level of technical skill and proficiency.
Hairstylists, as stated above, work at crafting new looks and arrangements for their clients' hair. They're not trained in trimming facial or neck growth, but they sometimes receive additional training in skin and nail care along hairstyling. In recent years, some cutting edge barbershops have begun to include hairstyling extras (colorizing, texturing, et cetera) into their men's hair care retinue.
Barber of Hairstylist?
Choosing whether to go for a hairstylist or a barber is for the most part choosing where you feel most comfortable. There's a sense of masculine confidence to the work of a good barber. On the other hand, if your preferred hairstyle requires an awful lot of artificial enhancers (perm, highlights, etc) you're better off in the care of a hairstylist.
The traditional barbershop was a place where men could unwind, tell a joke, and enjoy one another's company – it was an hour spent "with the guys." The old school barbershops still keep that atmosphere, and plenty of new shops uphold that tradition. Some are beginning to merge the barbershop atmosphere with hairstylist versatility, giving their male male customers a "best of both worlds" approach to better grooming.