Shane O’Shaughnessy, owner of The Dandy Gent barbershops in Derby, has frequently talked about his desire to recreate the ‘traditional’ barbershop experience – and many would agree, he has done a pretty outstanding job of achieving that.

However, it might surprise those gents popping in for a quick ‘cut’ to learn, that – up until the 1890’s – you might have got a lot more than you bargained for!

Back in the days of the Black Death and the signing of the Magna Carta, barbers not only provided tonsorial (shaving) services, they also dressed wounds, pulled out rotten teeth and performed minor surgery.

In fact, Barbers figured prominently in the development of ‘surgery’ as a recognised branch of medical practice. Monks and priests, the most learned and educated people of the Middle Ages, had become the physicians of the period and often called upon barbers to help. In 1163, when Pope Alexander III forbade the clergy from medical interventions, stating it was contrary to Christian doctrine, the role of surgeon was passed down, exclusively, to barbers.

For centuries barbers were known as Barber-Surgeons, and were the sole providers of minor surgical procedures and dentistry. However, the combined role of Barber-Surgeon was increasingly challenged as the science of surgery developed, and ended in the 16th Century. The resulting medical field of surgery is generally accredited to trail-blazing French surgeon – formerly a Barber-Surgeon himself – Ambroise Paré.

For many years prior to the demise of bloodletting (late 1800’s), the still familiar striped pole was adopted by barbers who continued to carry out the gruesome service – thought to be beneath Paré’s new breed of professional surgeons.

The pole depicted the blood-stained bandages that regularly hung out to dry around a staff that patients used to grip tightly during the letting process. The brass cup at the end of the pole represented the bowl containing the released blood. The blue stripe, often appearing on barber poles, has been attributed to the patriotic influence of US barbers – or the representation of veins. The former being the most likely explanation.

The first barber school was opened in Chicago in 1893 by A.B Moler, who went on to publish his own range of text books on the subject. Barbering was finally holding its own as a bona fide profession and business was booming for the, often smoke-filled, ‘masculine haven’ – the barbershop.

During the mid 20th century, the aftermath of the war and the depression – together with the continued growth in use of the new Gillette safety razor (first on sale in 1903) – had a significant impact on the downturn in barbershop trade. Trends towards longer hairstyles in the 60‘s, unisex salons in the 80’s and the unpopularity of beards generally, all compounded the decline. That is, until the recent 21st century resurgence of the traditional barbershop.

The Dandy Gent was one of the first traditional barbershops to open in the East Midlands in 2013, quickly followed by the launch of its ‘on brand’ range of grooming products in 2014. Three years later owner, Shane, realised his dream in glorious technicolour when his second, flagship, shop was opened with the décor to match its traditional values.

“I think most of my clients would be horrified at the thought of me extracting an aching molar, or treating their indigestion with a spot of bloodletting,” smiled Shane. “But as for the vibe at The Dandy Gent, we believe its a traditional as it gets! Our clients constantly tell us that they look forward to every appointment – and that’s an absolute testament to the Dandy Gent vision and the quality of my barber teams!” He concluded.

Who knows what’s around the corner for the barbering trade, but we sense the current popularity of fine grooming will only grow, as more gents realise the real benefits of regular visits to true barbering professionals.

Visit to book an appointment, buy a gift voucher and see the complete range of The Dandy Gent traditional grooming products.



10a Irongate House,
Tel: 01332 265 722


154 Nuns Street
Tel: 01332 381327