The Typography of Hair Salons

When moralists and literary scholars start discussing the ‘world’s oldest profession’ they are, of course, referring to the humble cutter of hair. Roughly four to six weeks after humankind completed the final stages of its evolution from Homo neanderthalensis to Homo sapiens, it realised that things were growing a bit wild on the back and sides … and while the coming millennia would witness the advent of the comb, the mirror, and scissors, the task of keeping things tidy on one’s own remained perpetually beyond the reach of human achievement.

Although anyone living in certain neighbourhoods would be forgiven for believing otherwise, Berlin is a city of fine hairstylists. From the earliest barber-surgeons to the artisans of the present day, hairdressers have been a part of the city’s history since the very beginning … and wherever there are people in the business of cutting and styling hair, interesting typography is never far behind.

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A classic Berlin Friseur sign … in cursive neon, of course.

In addition to the inevitable ‘Haar’ puns – just as cringeworthy in German as they are in English, it turns out – the variety of salon signs in Berlin is enriched by the lack of common agreement on what the place should actually be called, or indeed how it should be spelled. In moving through the city one will encounter the Friseur and the Frisör, the Coiffeur and even the Kuaför, in addition to straight-up Haarsalons and other variations on the theme.

As with the Apotheken of last week’s post, there are certain typographic themes which recur in the Friseur signs of Berlin, but there are also bursts of magnificent invention and unorthodox beauty; there are elaborate one-off constructions of neon, and plenty of vernacular typography from all parts of the last half-century. The following images are just a small selection from another of Berlin’s inexhaustible wells of typographic greatness.

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There is something deeply hypnotic about those lower-case ‘f’s.

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The U went missing somewhere along the way, but the individual circles for each letter are really quite wonderful.

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The awning and that strange cloud to the left of ‘Coiffeur’ appear to be later additions to an otherwise magnificent piece of neon.

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Sometimes minimalism offers its own rewards.

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The orange, brown and yellow colour scheme, and the giant pair of scissors holding it all together are what elevate this sign.

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A beautiful, if somewhat faded example of the fat cursive that was once popular in Berlin … ask about their special ‘Fönschnitt’.

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The brilliance of this comb-shaped sign is self-explanatory … with bonus points for an inventive cut-out umlaut.

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This extraordinary sign manages to summon all the promise and majesty of the space-age.

If you don’t already, you should follow us at @Berlin_Type on Twitter, for your daily dose of typographic goodness from Berlin.

 

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