Barbers, beauticians get snippy over striped poles
Friendly arguments aren't hard to find in a barbershop, but try cutting in on a hallowed symbol — that red, white and blue pole — and it may be time to hide the scissors.
Steeped in history and symbolism, those iconic cylinders spinning on storefronts across America are an increasing source of friction between barbers and beauticians. Minnesota and Michigan are the latest fronts in a spreading legislative campaign to reserve the swirling poles for barbers. The proposals, which often include fines for offenders, are driving a new wedge in a trade where gender lines have long run deep.
"The barber pole is the oldest sign in town besides the cross. It should not be displayed where there is not a licensed barber," said Charles Kirkpatrick, of Arkansas, a barber since 1959 who keeps tabs on such legislation for the National Association of Barber Boards of America.
For many, the only real difference between a barber and hairstylist is the clientele they serve. But barbers say the tools of their trade and unique services they provide make them different, and that laws are needed to prevent beauty parlors, salons and other establishments from passing themselves off as barbershops, including chain shops that bear the barber name and logo but don't have a single licensed barber on site.
Cosmetologists argue that haircuts are haircuts, and say the protective efforts are silly and chauvinist.
"They're still trying to hang onto the vestiges that say they're special. I can cut a man's hair. Why shouldn't I be able to put a barber pole up?" said Jeanie Thompson, president of the Minnesota Salon and Spa Association and owner of a beauty parlor. "They're making a mountain out of a molehill." read more
Are barbers really making too much out of the issue of the striped poles?
And guys, does it really matter who cuts your hair? A barber or a hairstylist?