Barber Chair History – All you need to know

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The barber chair history is quite lengthy but fascinating. The style, design, and structure of barber chairs have evolved since their invention. The word ‘barber’ got derived from the Latin word “Barba” which means beard. A barber is someone who cuts hair and shaves/trim the beard.

But before scrutinizing the barber chair history, let us first look through the development and evolution of the barbering industry.

During ancient years barbering occupation was dominated by men. But today, women are making their mark in the barbering industry and becoming successful.

Also Read: Best Barber Chairs on Amazon [for Barbers and Hobbyists]

There was a sharp increase in female barbers in recent years and, the trend is growing as more women have entered into this creative profession. They have become proficient and are constantly developing the art skills of hairstyling.

Barbering, one of the oldest professions, has flourished and undergone many changes. Barbershops originated in Rome and Greece, where people used to gather and gossip.

They would discuss philosophy, politics, routine life matters, the latest news, events, or other unimportant topics. Soon barbershops became popular hang-out places where people loved to sit in the barber chair, to chat and listen to others.

Apart from providing grooming and haircut services, barbers were also medical practitioners. They performed minor surgeries, dental extractions (remove teeth), bloodletting to treat the wounds. They were also experts in extracting stones and tumors from the human body.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, barbershops became a popular business venture. Some people prefer to avail the services of a professional barber/hairstylist. 

Barber chairs and barbershops have been a prominent place from ancient days till today to debate over relevant and irrelevant stuff. Political and sports news were the hot topics which people used to have a deep discussion.

The advancement of technology has led to innovations in the barbering industry. The equipment and barber chair made the work of barbers a lot easier. It has improved the efficiency of barbers providing a good customer experience.


Who invented the barber chair? Barber Chair History and evolution

A barber chair got introduced in 1850 during the civil war era with some basic features. It had a footrest and leather cushion to offer comfort while sitting.

The first reclining chair created by Archer Company of Saint Louis had a footrest and adjustable height mechanism.

Eugene Berninghaus of Cincinnati refined the Archer’s chair design and developed the Paragon chair.

Theodore Koch of Chicago integrated all these innovations, created his own company, and supplied antique customized chairs.


Koken Barber chair history

Ernest Koken was a successful young entrepreneur who had many patented inventions in his name. He used to manufacture razors, clippers, mirrors, shaving mugs and supplied them to barbershops.

He earned his bread and butter by creating and selling such machinery tools. He was a very creative thinker and passionate about studying engineering. 

He developed a primitive basic barber chair with some necessary functional parts and inscribed designs. They are still used today in traditional barbershops. 

Slowly, there was a surge in demand for the chairs designed by Ernest Konen. The success of his invention urged him to achieve more. He started developing illustrative designs model during his leisure time.

Soon he invented a reclining chair that offered comfort to barbers and the customers. It was an incredible accomplishment but, he still strived to progress further. He obtained a patent of the reclining chair to protect it from infringement from the competitors.

Some pictures of his innovative chairs will amaze you and provoke you to know more about the barber chair history:

He continued upgrading his creative skills and revamped the mechanism and design of the barber chair. One day an innovative idea emerged in his mind and, he invented a versatile barber chair. In 1900, he created a hydraulic barber chair having multiple functional features like:

  • The joystick-style reclining lever allowed the customer to lie back in a relaxed position.
  • The headrest, armrest, and footrest provided extra comfort to the customer.
  • The hydraulic pump allows the chair to be raised or lowered following the customer’s height.

It was convenient not only for customers but also for barbers. It provided desired mobility to the barber while shaving or cutting the hair of the customers. The barber could control the chair movements effortlessly and expeditiously. Thus, it enhanced the overall efficiency of the barber’s services. 

He named the chair “Koken Hydraulic Barber Chair” and earned the patent of the chair. There was rampant growth in the use of such barber chairs in the USA and other countries. Again, it was a magnificent achievement for Koken and, his invention turned out to be a great success.

In 1909, Koken died due to cardiac arrest. His company became the biggest barber supply company in the United States of America. The legacy got passed on to his son, Walter. 

Koken’s company continued to diversify its business by creating and selling vintage barber chairs, dentist chairs, beauty salon chairs, hydraulic chairs, contemporary chairs, etc. It developed new models and acquired patents for these designs. 

Koken’s barber supply company was a leading company till the 1950s until competitors entered the barbering market. Gradually, new trends emerged in the market, and the barbering industry was dwindling. There was a fashion to grow longer hair and wear creative hairstyles.  Koken’s barbering company became bankrupt and later got acquired by Takara Belmont, a Japanese company. The acquirer company is now an international brand, manufacturing beauty salon equipment, and spa design throughout the world. 

Koken remains an influential and inspiring personality for his innovative inventions in the barbering industry. Takara Belmont manufactures antique chairs embedded with Koken’s name in the chair. Koken barber chairs are popular even today and available at a few online stores.


Why is it called barber chair?

After studying the barber chair history and evolution, you might be interested to learn more facts.

A Barber chair is a specially constructed chair with mechanical functions in which barber seat their customers. The different types of barber chairs are applicable for multiple purposes. It facilitates hair-cutting, shaving beard, hair styling, massage therapy, hair washing, etc. 

Some professional and luxury barber chairs have superior functionalities. They are sturdy, offer executive-level comfort to customers, and make the barber’s job convenient. It enables the barber to have easy access from all angles and perform their best work faster. Customers are more likely to receive a pleasant experience.

Hydraulic pump lever helps in adjusting the height of chairs and accommodates both taller and shorter clients. They have adjustable headrests and footrests to make the customers feel relaxed.

Barbershops are still a platform to have small talks with peers. This trend exists even today.

Barber chairs help in providing a better customer experience and enhance productivity. The client feels comfortable despite sitting in the same position for a long time.

You can browse through a variety of chairs and select the one that fulfills your business needs.


One-chaired barbershop

The concept of shops with single barber chair history is worth reading. They are small independent shops which have one chair and one barber available to customers. These barbershops provide a personal barbering experience to the customers.

They cater exclusively to one customer at a time. Generally, they provide essential services such as haircuts and shaving for men. Barbers and customers used to have casual conversations and gossip about sports, politics, etc since ancient times.

However, the young generation entrepreneurs find the multi-chaired barbershops more profitable. They can provide barbering services to many customers simultaneously. In this way, they can attract numerous prospective clients and make more money.

Also, the customers’ preferences and attitudes have changed. They prefer going to multi-chaired salons and barbershops.

Such methodology is slowly fading away in recent years. It takes a minimum of 20-25 minutes to finish a haircut. Customers want quick haircut to save their precious time. It is not possible if there is only one chair in the barbershop. 

The main disadvantage of a single-chair barbershop is that the barber would become stressed after seeing a long queue waiting to get a haircut/shaving. The barber would be in haste, thereby affecting the quality of services. 

The tradition of a one-chair barbershop has not got eradicated. But there are very few shops existing majorly in rural areas. You should have a personalized haircut experience at least once in your life before such shops become extinct. 


Difference between barbershop and salon

Barbers get trained to cut and dress traditional haircuts. They do not offer any additional services apart from haircuts and shaving beards. Traditionally barbers used clippers and catered to males services only. You can visit a barber if you want a simple and short haircut.

Salon stylists have the skills to cut longer hair and possess the art of styling hair. Stylists also offer hair color, hair conditioning, face facial, hair straightening (for women), head massage, spa, manicure, pedicure, hair extensions (for women), etc. They suggest and create hairstyles that suit your facial features.

Many people even today prefer to have a haircut from traditional barbershops due to comparatively cheaper rates. A modern-day salon would charge more for the same haircut and styling.