The word barber is known to have originated from the Latin word ‘barba’ meaning ‘beard’. Basically, it connotes a person who is in the profession of cutting any type of hair, as well as shaving the beard and trimming it. According to historic findings, eras ago the barbers used to also carry out surgeries. However, as time went by their duties in society seem to have been going through load-shedding; and at least since the end of the 1800’s surely no barber has been used for surgeries, anywhere in the world.
And now with most men maintaining the clean shaven look, the professionals are limited to primarily cutting hair. In especially United States of America and the Commonwealth countries, present day barbering refers to simply cutting hair. Having anything to do with the facial hair is a matter of request by the limited few who maintain it. Interestingly this is being considered as one of the mainstream professions and there are barbering schools opening almost everywhere. The barbering courses are either certificate of diploma short term ones.
Traditionally in India, the barbers, know as the ‘Naai’ in Hindi, would roam through the streets shouting out their arrival. Either they would make home visits or there customers would sit under the shade of the tree and have their hair cut and beard trimmed. This included the young school going boys, who were made to cut their hair every week, or every fortnight. These hair professionals would also clean the ears of their clients. This is still a common sight in certain parts of the country. And the slum areas of Mumbai still such have such a barbering services, as well as the residential areas where there are male home-workers, as well as security guards.
Ask the older grandfathers, and they definitely prefer this door-to-door service. Many old Parsi families also have their personal barbers cutting their hair on two Sundays a month. It is a pretty sight to see such tradition still prevails in today’s times.
However, for a vast majority, it is a visit to the local salon, which is a must. For them the barber’s job goes beyond a simple haircut. It is about styling. It is about the hair streaking and coloring, as well as the straightening and coloring. And when selecting their stylist they prefer one who is well stocked where the barbering supplies and accessories are concerned. And if they see a pile of barbering books lying around they are all the more confident of the services they have come for.
There are popular celebrity barbers, who may have inherited the family profession, yet they have expanded their horizons by going beyond what their father and grandfathers did. Many of them have educated themselves in the art and craft of hair cutting and styling and continue to upgrade their knowledge by attending seminars and conferences hosted by international salons, cosmetic companies and stylists. They understand the need to keep up with the times, and have in fact opened salons that are unisex.
And so, the traditional men’s barber has made way for the 21st century unisex barber, who can cut and style a woman’s hair with same grace and speed that he does the man’s hair. In fact, many urban women prefer the male hairdressers to the female. They feel a man can style their hair better, as men know best what kind of a style another man would desire in his woman.
Interestingly, this is one profession that has seen a major shift where respect is concerned. Earlier those in the hair cutting profession were considered to belong to the lower ranks of society. They were looked down upon. But, barbering today is amongst the respected and better paid industries. And media exposure to celebrity styles seem to have contributed largely to this, as well as the respect the west has for their hairdressers and stylists.