This exhibition presents the traditional profession of the barber, hairdresser and the barber’s shop in Agiasos.
In the old times, hairdresser or barber shops were exclusively for men to have their hair cut and shave (since modern hairdressers only started operating in the last decades of the 20th century when initially they only served women from the middle and upper socio-economic strata).
Naturally, barbers learned the art as apprentices (usually without pay) by an older barber. They usually just watched the barber work (since most of the time the elder barber did not actively focused on training them) and then practiced their art with friends and relatives, until it was perfected.
The barber shops of Mytilene
In fact, the profession of the barber was very attractive for the candidates since in Mytilene only in the 1960s, there were about 45 barber’s shops.
In addition to barber shops, some barbers frequented certain cafes and served customers on the spot.
Barber shops in Mytilene were divided into categories (A, B and C) based on the area where each store was located.
Each area had a corresponding rating of the prices that the barbers could charge for their services, which was determined by the Trade Department (while today prices are set by the free market).
Although to practice this profession and operate a barber’s shop was enough to just learn the art, this is not the case today since, in addition to the certificate of learning from a recognized government agency, the license to practice the profession requires the collection of some practicing stamps to provide a license to operate a store.
Barbers or Hairdressers?
The profession of the barber in Mytilene was organized until the 1970s in two strong unions, “Barber’s” and “Kalfada” (assistants – apprentices), while from 1975 a single union was created, “Barber’s – Hairdresser’s”.
On the one hand, the barbers used somewhat different methods and techniques from the current hairdressers since they cut with a comb and scissors and did not use their fingers in combination with the scissors, while they did not necessarily bathe their clients.
In contrast, in the hairdresser’s shop customers could enjoy shaving and facial treatment (with a warm towel compress, massage and use of scented cologne), beard and mustache care, mustache painting and scalp massage with a solution of filtered pure spirits, water and spirits.
The barber’s equipment
The materials and tools they usually used were:
For the haircut: Well-groomed scissors, comb and handmade shaver with a thick or fine grill (until about 1965-1970) and later (around 1970), an electric shaver with four razors,
Shaving: Water, traditional scented soap (usually “Splendit”), sharpening razors (up to one year), sharpening strap, alcohol and sterilization oven, while today they use disposable razors,
Facial care: Towels, rosewater (rose spirit), cologne, pure alcohol,
Mustache, beard and hair care: scissors and mandeca (aromatic ointment for mustache dye), and
Hair care: Brigol (perfumed paraffin oil) and Bill Grimm for holding hair.
In addition, the papers for wiping the soap were nailed to a counter.
Today the profession of the barber tends to disappear (in the city of Mytilene there are only five barbers) and they have been replaced by hairdressers with their more luxurious service which in today’s world is more expected.