Rise of the Barbers

by Nicholas Karnaze April 28, 2014

Barber shop, Washington, DC

What’s old is new again. Throughout history, barbershops were staples in masculine life. The word “barber” is actually derived from the Latin word barba, which translates into “beard.” In the golden age of ancient Greece, well-trimmed beards were fashionable. In 334 B.C. however, Alexander the Great required his military to be clean-shaven in an attempt to give them an advantage in hand-to-hand combat. This enabled Roman warriors to grasp their enemies by the beard, while safeguarding themselves against this tactic.


Barbershops in America flourished between the 1880’s and the 1940’s. Men visited these establishments on an almost daily basis for haircuts, beard trims, and warm shaves. Most importantly, it was a place where men could be men. Fraternize and stay current on local news and politics.


These barbershops epitomized masculinity. Marble counters lined with colorful blown glass bottles shadowed by hand carved barber chairs of hardwood fitted with perfectly tanned leathers. The scents of pomades, oils and neck powders intermingled with the aromas of slow burning pipe tobacco. Despite the opulent surroundings, barbershops were always warm and welcoming.




Barbershops first took a hit in 1904 when Gillette began mass marketing the safety razor. It was billed as a more efficient and cost-effective way of shaving. With two world wars, the Great Depression, and shifting grooming trends, men began to view this as discretionary spending and trips to the barbershop became infrequent if not non-existent.


When short hair came back into style during the 1980’s, barbershops did not surge back to life. There was a new type of hairdresser that captured a majority share of the barber’s former clientele: the unisex salon. Places like “SuperCuts” that catered to men, women, and children alike. Many states assisted this trend by ceasing to issue barber licenses and instead issued unisex “cosmetologist” licenses to those entering the profession. In New Jersey for example, the State Board of Cosmetology regulates both and there is no longer a legal difference between barbers and cosmetologists. Whereas in Maryland there is a strict difference between the two, only licensed barbers are allowed to use straight razors.




Men are rediscovering the value of an experienced barber and the welcome escape provided by an authentic barbershop. With a growing interest in facial hair and appearance, independently owned barbershops are popping up across the country catering to these discerning gentlemen.

We’ve come across a number of these gems on the East Coast and will be introducing you to them in the coming months. Subscribe to our blog and check back often as we begin introducing you to these one-of-a-kind establishments!


stubble & 'stache was founded by a former Marine Corps Special Operations Combat Veteran in memory of his fallen comrade. We donate a percentage of profits to organizations supporting those men and women suffering from the mental wounds sustained in combat.


Nicholas Karnaze
Nicholas Karnaze


Warfighter turned entrepreneur. Founder, stubble & 'stache. Grooming expert. Skincare nerd. Marine Corps combat veteran.

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