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Published: Monday, 3/19/2012

Shave and a haircut …

Lawmakers in a number of states have become embroiled in snippy, hair-raising arguments over whether cosmetologists should be allowed to display barber poles outside their shops. Battles have been drawn in Michigan and Minnesota.

You would think that politicians have better things to do than to push legislation to limit use of the red, white, and blue- striped poles to traditional barber shops.

Silly and chauvinistic is the way some beauticians view the debate. At first glance, they seem to have a point: A haircut is a haircut.

But Ohio, which has the nation’s only barber museum — the Ed Jeffers Barber Museum in Canal Winchester, near Columbus — has been able for decades to impose fines of up to $500 for unauthorized use of the poles outside shops that employ hairstylists, but not licensed barbers, although it rarely does so.

Howard Warner, executive director of the Ohio State Barber Board, said most Buckeye State violators remove the poles after they learn about their iconic history. The poles date back to an era when bloodletting was one of a barber’s principal duties. Red symbolized blood, white stood for bandages, and blue represented veins.

Men and women now work out together in health clubs; they serve together in the military. There are countless examples of merged activities among the sexes that were once separated.

But barbers are not cosmetologists, and vice versa. Only the former, for example, are licensed to offer a shave with a straight-edge razor. The latter can provides manicures, pedicures, and spa-type services. The hours of training required to be licensed in the two professions differ.

“If a cosmetologist wants to be a barber, they should go to barber school,” Mr. Warner said. “There’s nothing chauvinistic about it. They’re two separate professions.”

He said the differences between their crafts is as distinctive as the difference between a massage therapist and an escort who is — well — good with his or her hands.

In Ohio, the issue is settled, at least for now. Let other parts of the country fight over the line between barbers and hairstylists. But hide the scissors



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