Barber pole controversy swirls again

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Minnesota state lawmakers are again taking sides in the heady argument over whether non-licensed barbers are allowed to display the iconic spinning red-and-blue striped barber pole.

The traditional symbol is centuries old, with the red signifying blood, white representing bandages and the blue standing for veins, the Associated Press reports.

Barbers say only licensed barbers should be allowed to display the poles. Others, notably cosmetologists and beauty parlor owners, say that smacks of chauvinism. Sharp-edged debate has raged over the issue in other states, too, in recent years.

Legislation that would restrict pole use to licensed barbers did not advance last year, but the measure is part of a bill scheduled for debate in the House Jobs and Economic Development Committee on Thursday, the AP reported.

"The barbering practice has been around for 6,000 years," St. Paul barber Ken Kirkpatrick told NPR last year. "And I just think this is something that we need to keep in our profession."

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Barbers and beauticians get snippy over striped poles

Barbers say the iconic red-white-and-blue pole should only hang outside shops where a licensed barber works -- and not at salons, beauty parlors or other businesses. They say a bonafide barber has a different trade and service. Minnesota is among states where lawmakers are pushing to reserve the sign for barbers, but some cosmetologists argue the barbers are being silly -- and chauvinist.