Barber vs Hairdresser

The Difference Between Barbering and Hairdressing


A Hint of History

Unravel the etymology behind the word barbering and you see a wealth of history and weight. The term barber comes from the Latin ‘Barba’ which roughly translates to ‘beard’. While this may seem a simple and straightforward translation, trace your finger back through the ages and barbers have played an integral role in tribal history.

In a time when ancient tribes were shaken by the belief of good and bad spirits, the Barba was the original medicine man – the community leader. In roman times the barbershop was a place of status as only the barbarians would sport beards. Barbers were also considered high-society surgeons; covering everything from fire cupping to neck manipulation.

The history of hairdressing comes later; with the word first appearing in Europe’s 17th century when the towering bouffant of wealthy ladies needed to be teased and tamed and held in place. Hairdressing is a response to crafting trends in society, whereas barbering is arguably the very foundation for building a society.


Soft Style or Sharp Cut

Today, people often assume that hairdressers occupy a more feminine space whereas barbers hold court in a male environment. This can be true as hairdressers tend to bring softer styles to the table – words like feathering, layering, highlighting, and teasing all come into play.

Compare this to the hair-centric words used in modern barbering – cut, clip, buzz and it’s easy to see that barbering is more synonymous with a sharp masculine look.


Trending or Timeless Skill

That’s not to say that barbering takes a heavy-handed approach; in fact, barbering has long been considered one of society’s most important skill sets. We almost lost the lilt of barbering a few decades ago as unisex salons started to crop up. However, these spaces seemed to cater for basic grooming needs rather than calling on the in-depth specialist skill set that went with the art of barbering.

As culture shifted from the sixties’ easy-come, easy-going nature, the modern man wanted a return to the rugged edge of masculinity and a laid-back space dedicated to escaping the daily routine, committing to the self, and building their social status.


Tailored Treatments

While hairdressers will be busy dressing tresses, barbers bring a wealth of male-centric treatments. Hairdressers are well-versed in colors, cuts, wash, and blow drying, but the barber is specially trained in added elements such as beard grooming and trims, ear flaming, timeless wet shaving, hands-on friction massages, and hot towels to truly amp up the experience. Hairdressers are not trained in the art of shaving or dealing with neck trimming.

The same ethos applies to the range of products your stylist or atelier pulls off the shelves. In a hairdressing salon, the products are often geared towards more feminine styles: spritzes, shining creams and light mists. In a barber shop, you find a range of products tailored towards the masculine, with gels, beard balms, and treatments that tailor texture, hold and style.


It's All in the Vibe

Throughout history, the barbershop has served as a place for blending male-centric socializations with style. From the opulent golden era, when marble counters and leather chairs set the scene, to those tiny backstreet barbers found stashed in Morocco’s medinas, the emphasis on providing an urban or neighbourhood hangout for men has always been the backbone of the barbershop industry.

As soon as you step inside, you know you are entering a world where you can wear a carefully tailored suit. There’s a casual, cool, yet high-end vibe, a drink with your name on it and the kind of conversation that keeps you at ease. Along with the soothing style of a hot towel treatment, style and shave, you become part of a crafted scene where modern men are celebrated and free to find their style. Barbering will forever outlast the trends; it’s a timeless craft built on honour, heritage, and heart.