In previous times, barbers (known as barber surgeons) also performed surgery and dentistry. With the development of safety razors and the decreasing prevalence of beards, in English-speaking cultures, most barbers now specialize in cutting men’s scalp hair as opposed to facial hair.
The barber’s trade has a long history: razors have been found among relics of the Bronze Age (around 3500 BC) in Egypt. In ancient Egyptian culture, barbers were highly respected individuals. Priests and men of medicine are the earliest recorded examples of barbers. Men in Ancient Greece would have their beards, hair, and fingernails trimmed and styled by the κουρεύς (cureus), in an agora (market place) which also served as a social gathering for debates and gossip.
Barbering was introduced to Rome by the Greek colonies in Sicily in 296 BC, and barber shops quickly became very popular centres for daily news and gossip. A morning visit to the tonsor became a part of the daily routine, as important as the visit to the public baths, and a young man’s first shave (tonsura) was considered an essential part of his coming of age ceremony. A few Roman tonsores became wealthy and influential, running shops that were favourite public locations of high society; however, most were simple tradesmen, who owned small storefronts or worked in the streets for low prices.