April 1, 2019
___ A fellow needing a haircut might step into the local tonsorium.
From Latin noun tonsor meaning “clipper” and the verb tondere meaning “to shear,” a “tonsorium” is a location where a skilled barber, or tonsorial artist, offers services.
Traditionally, these services were offered to men, as barbers were trained to artfully shear men’s beards and clip their hair. This while women traditionally grew hair long, and decorated their tress by wrapping it in buns and braids, or setting it in ring-curls.
During the 1920’s Prohibition era, Flappers and other ladies partaking in a new freedom were encouraged to shorten their skirts to the knee, and to clip their long tresses to a “Bob,” at the neckline. The ladies needing the haircut filled local barber shops, to the astonishment of the barbers and their regulars.
Since then, beauty parlors opened with “beauticians” to tend to the ladies’ hairstyles, while barber shops and tonsors continued to tend to men’s beard-shearing and hair-clipping needs.
Today, barbers, or tonsors, continue to treat men’s traditional haircuts and beard-shearing, and shaving as an art. “Tonsorium” is a formal, and at times a tongue-in-cheek reference to a Barber Shop.
Have you seen a “Barber Pole” representing a tonsorium in your neighborhood?
This Jacquée T. Writer in Residence featured Word is brought to you by supporting sponsors including Larry’s Barber Shop in Hiawtha Kansas.
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