Parting the Difference Between Barbers and Hairstylists

Do you know the difference between a barber and a hairstylist? One cuts hair for young men and one cuts hair for young ladies, right? Indeed, not entirely.

A barber specializes in cutting men’s hair, both on the head and sometimes on the face. Traditionally, barbers offered expert shaves of the face and neck. But like the waistcoat and the snap-overflow hat, that part of the barber’s job has largely faded to obscurity. Still, a couple of old-school barbers continue to offer it.

Barber Job Description

Barber History

The cutting edge barber belongs to an ancient vocation, whose earliest beginnings trace at least as far back as 3500 BC in Egypt That’s more than 5,000 years – a lot of haircuts.

During the Middle Ages, barbers also acted as dentists and surgeons, performing minor medical methodology and treating diseases. The red and white barber’s post began as an apparatus that would hold leeches used to draw blood (and the sickness therein) out of the patient’s body. In America, a blue stripe was sometimes added to represent the national colors. (Yay, America!)

Barbers train in the cutting of men’s hair and do not get the other, more expansive training in coloring, texturing, or otherwise chemically altering the hair that hairstylists get. If this makes you think barbers are less skilled than hairdressers, think again: like a doctor specializing in one system of the human body, barbers are trained and re-trained to deal with men’s hair and all its odd tendencies and adjustments.

Barber Training

Barbers train intensively before cutting hair, usually undergoing a ten to twelve month training course and completing a written exam and practical demonstration. In the United States, barber training is given by specialized academies as well as many technical and vocational schools. Some online training courses are starting to appear, too.

Each state has its own Barbering Board, which often includes certification for Cosmetology as well. The board will grant and reestablish licenses and will also sometimes certify a barber as a Master Barber, which declares his or her advanced degree of technical skill and proficiency.


Hairstylists, as mentioned above, work at crafting new looks and arrangements for their clients’ hair. They’re not trained in trimming facial or neck growth, but they sometimes get additional training in skin and nail care besides hairstyling. In recent years, some cutting edge barbershops have begun to include hairstyling extras (colorizing, texturing, et cetera) into their men’s hair care retinue.

Barber of Hairstylist?

Choosing whether to go for a hairstylist or a barber is for the most part choosing where you feel most comfortable. There’s a feeling of masculine confidence to the work of a good barber. On the other hand, if your favored hairstyle requires an awful lot of artificial enhancements (perm, highlights, etc) you’re better off in the care of a hairstylist.