Sask. barber hopes to preserve past, protect future

A Saskatchewan man is on a mission to preserve the swirled barbershop pole as a symbol of his distinct, albeit dying, trade.


Ray Tetreault, a barber in North Battleford, Sask., is indignant that barber poles are being used to market hairdressing salons.


“What separates a barber from a hairdresser is the razor,” he said.


At one time, a barber had to pass provincial exams, get a licence and work 1,200 hours as an apprentice.


“We’re losing all our old barbers and they’re not passing on their skills to the younger guys,” said Tetreault.


He wants to create a barber organization dedicated to preserving the profession’s iconic trademark and protect it from being used by those who aren’t barbers. 


The self-regulated organization would also create professional standards, a code of ethics and apprenticeships.


He said the number of barbershops sharply de-clined after government deregulated the hair industry, the GST was introduced and barber trade schools shut down.


The discovery of AIDS was another blow because many feared the barber’s tool of choice might draw blood and spread the deadly virus.


Tetreault is a licensed barber and hairdresser who has worked for the military in Afghanistan and run businesses on Vancouver Island and his home province of Saskatchewan.


He said there is still a strong market for barbers, noting he doubled his income in his current shop in three years.


“Men come in and they’re treated like men. There’s no appointments, but first come first serve.”


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