The services of barbers like those of tailors are indispensable.  Barbers as well as the tailors make the persons smart in  appearance. Yet, for all this the barber gets his seat just on the lower rung of the social ladder. In a small village the barber is a balutedar and serves the villagers for which he gets food-grains at the time of the annual harvest. Usually in the morning he sits in the veranda or under a simple shade nearabout his residence or sometimes tinder a tree at the centre of a village. The village barber has a bag known as dhopti which is a miniature mobile saloon and contains a pair of scissors, one or two razors, a pair of cropping machines which is always out of order, a broken comb, a fading out mirror, a small piece of simple soap, a brush and a small aluminium pot (wati). His other duties consist of calling persons from the village to attend a marriage ceremony, for taking meals, etc.

In towns or cities the barber sets up permanent shops or hair- cutting saloons. Besides, some barbers with their bags move from door to door. Most of the hair-cutting saloons are situated in rented premises. They are arranged aesthetically and equipped with a sufficient number of tools, mirrored walls, chairs either wooden or revolving, dressing tables, lights, fans and radio-sets in a few cases. Very few establishments provide amenities such as cushioned chairs, better toilet-service, etc., and also cater to the needs of their modern customers who wish to have different hair styles. Naturally, amongst other factors this has enhanced the cost of equipment and in general, the expenditure on establishment with the changes in the pattern, employment, equipment, income, etc., of this occupation. The following table shows the number of persons engaged in this occupation during the last fifty years: -


Number of persons engaged


in the occupation














The village barber needs no cosmetics. What he requires is nothing but an ordinary cake of soap and cold water. The itinerant barbers who are found in the towns and cities have their bags well equipped with better tools and a few cosmetics such as snow, superior soap, face powder and hair oil. These itinerant barbers spend not more than Rs. 10 per month. The expenditure on the same items in an establishment in a big town varies between Rs. 30 and Rs. 75 per month depending upon the turnover and size of the establishment. Accessories required by a well-equipped hair-cutting saloon in a city constitute cosmetics such as pomade, snow, face-powder, scented oil and soaps, etc., which are locally available.

Tools and Equipment.

The occupation can be started with a minimum of tools and equipment such as a pair of scissors, one or two razors and a pair of cropping machines. The tools and equipment of an itinerant barber cost between Rs. 100 and Rs. 150. The establishment could be categorised in three types, viz., establishments having one or two chairs, a dressing table, big mirrors, and other tools; secondly those having three or four chairs and all other tools and equipment required to carry on hair-cutting operations at three or four chairs at a time and thirdly big establishments, having more than four chairs, dressing-tables, big mirrors fixed on the tables, a simple or well-carved long bench for the customers to relax upon, fans and a radio-set in a few shops and the required tools such as scissors, razors, cropping machines, etc. The cost of tools and equipment in a small shop is estimated at about Rs. 300. In a medium shop it amounts to  about Rs. 500, but in a big shop it exceeds a thousand rupees.

In towns the owners are inclined to invest more in tools and equipment with a view to giving a good appearance to the shop. Probably this tendency can be traced to the craving for decency, insisted upon by the customers. Thus the occupation does not require large capital investment at its initial stage. The working capital consists of the amount required for the maintenance of tools and equipment, for buying accessories and for paying the wages to the employees, if any. The capital is often raised from their own resources or from their friends or relatives.

A hair-dressing saloon has fixed hours of work spread partly in the morning and partly in the evening and usually observes the time schedule rigidly. The itinerant barber starts very early in the morning and works till mid-day depending upon the response to his work and earns an income varying between Rs. 30 and Rs. 70 per month. In the big establishments, artisans are paid wages either on a fixed or on piece-meal basis but in either case they earn an income varying between Rs. 40 and Rs. 100 a month. In big towns the charges of various hair-cutting services are more or less fixed.

Some barbers were found to possess small agricultural holdings cultivated either by their family members or leased to other cultivators. This provided the family with supplementary income. In some cases members of their families were found to be working on daily wages on the farms of other cultivators. It was also observed that though the occupation in many cases was of a hereditary nature, some of their members who were better educated did not undertake the occupation.