Signs & Symbols – Halloween Edition

For Halloween, I thought it fitting to post something with a ghoulish twist.

We move through the world looking for signs and symbols to use in our identity, logo and package designs.  Occasionally, we are reminded that the signs around us have some serious history – like over 6,000 years.

In your neighborhood or town is one of the more interesting and historic signs and symbols, and its a little macabre.

It’s the good ol’ barber’s pole. It’s one of the oldest marks of any profession and been used for millennia to advertise the trade.  That trade used to involve a lot more than just a haircut and shave.

The barber was a regular jack-of-all-trades and actually called a barber-surgeon. This was the place to go for a variety of medical services like minor surgery, dentistry and bone re-setting.

One of the quirkier and messier services provided was bloodletting, once a popular way to treat a variety of diseases and disorders.

Patients would grasp a white staff to make their veins stand out and encourage blood flow, which would then drain into a basin.  White bandages would be used to stem the flow of blood and afterwards, washed and hung out on the staff outside the shop where they would be twirled by the wind to form a red and white spiral pattern.

And that was how the trade was locally advertised.  It’s not certain if the blue stripes were meant to represent veins or if it was later added here in the U.S. as a way to look more patriotic.

Either way, your local barbershop has got a colorful history.

Bryan

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