thursday, february 24, 2011
"The origin of the red and white barber pole is associated with the service of bloodletting and was historically a representation of bloody bandages wrapped around a pole. During medieval times, barbers performed surgery on customers, as well as tooth extractions. The original pole had a brass wash basin at the top (representing the vessel in which leecheswere kept) and bottom (representing the basin that received the blood). The pole itself represents the staff that the patient gripped during the procedure to encourage blood flow. Barbers, being medieval surgeons, would be present at the birth of a child, and were there to cut the umbilical cord—a red (artery) and blue (vein) on a pale colour umbilical cord was passed to the parents by the barber after the umbilical cord had been cut, and this blue/red/pale tube or pole became the Barber's pole"
There's historical debate(!) about all this (might've been a sign that a bawdy house lay near), but let's go with this explanation. Nowadays there's only one barber pole manufacturer left in North America. http://www.wmmarvyco.com/