Exactly 137 years ago this article was published in the New York Times. It was believed that barbers use their position of influence over a patron to gain his favor and get whatever they want. It could be getting a job for a friend or influencing social policy. The barber had power and the power was persuasion over the patron that sat in their chair. In the writers mind this was, “terrorism”.
According to the article 78% of the insane asylum patients were in the habit of being shaved by barbers before they became insane and “if this does not mean that to be shaved by a barber is to incur the risk of being talked into madness statistics have no meaning .”
The article concludes by stating that a barber uses his power of persuasion and gift of gab to sell grooming products and that he is able to break a man in order for him to purchase the product “the sale of tonic in the city alone during the period from 1864-1875 was so great that no man who wishes to maintain a reputation for veracity dared mention the number of bottles.”
In 1879 it was recognized that barbers had a place of influence in society but some people viewed it negatively and took it to an exaggerated extend by claiming that barbers were placing people into insane asylum’s because they were talking their ear off and driving them mad with conversation and constant manipulation.
I believe the article reinforces the authentic and special place a barber shop holds in society. The barbers responsibility is not only to groom the patron but also establish a friendship and a friendship that is not manipulative but honest and sincere (for those that want to have a friendship). It’s been said “they walk in as patrons and leave as friends” according to Danny Becerra from Gentlemen’s Parlor Barber Shop in San Jacinto, CA.
I hope that 137 years from now someone will read an article that I published about barbers and conclude that the barbering revival occurred worldwide and the great tradition did not die out and was upheld by professionals who stayed true to barbering.
May we all avoid the pitfalls of history.
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