Detail from an (authentic?) West African barbershop sign I purchased a few years ago in the Mission. At around that time, or a bit earlier, such signs, usually painted on masonite, had began showing up in trendy "shelter magazines," like Elle Decor---as part of a kind of cosmopolitan or "bohemian" Paul Bowles-in-Tangier interior decoration. (Benito Cereno was never mentioned.) I saw this one around then and jumped on the barber-shears bandwagon. Now such signs seem to be "over"--or have at least receded into the background.
Interesting to know how these "3rd World" artifacts or "traditional" pieces of signage, cloth, costume, furnishings, etc. suddenly become First-World design tropes, then disappear almost as soon as they've arrived. A similar bafflement: how it was that "Kantha-stitched" bedspreads, throws, pillows, etc suddenly appeared one day everywhere in upscale "lifestyle" catalogues like the Sundance Catalog. Who started this particular import/export fad? Mysterious East, etc. These Kantha textiles are often very beautiful.