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Barber Story | Schorem Rotterdam

If you are part of the scene, you definitely know them. In magazine photos or as big heads at the barber shop, Leen and Bertus are everywhere. Moreover, their two posters of "Signature Haircuts" and "Barbershop Classics" serve as inspiration and orientation for barbers around the world. And then there is Reuzel, of course, "the finest Dutch pomade." The typical vintage tins with the brand's rustic hog are unique and unmistakable. All of that success had very humble beginnings - a barber shop named "Schorem" on Nieuwe Binnenweg in Rotterdam that still remains unchanged. "Schorem" means riffraff, while "Reuzel” simply means pork drippings.

The names offer a glimpse into Leen's and Bertus' kind of humor and their relaxed approach to business matters. When they started renovating their store, nobody knew that it would turn into a barber shop. The windows were still covered in paper, but they had already put up a sign saying "Men, dogs - no women." Of course, they were the talk of the town even before the opening. Two weeks after they opened, wait times had gone up to five hours. Some days, customers are queuing up at 6:00am - while Schorem opens at 10:00am! Still, the shop operates without appointments, which is clearly part of the experience. You swap stories, drink beer or the best coffee in the city while you wait for your cut.

Right from the start, Leen and Bertus were not stingy with their expertise. Their tutorials for classic men's haircuts can be found on YouTube. When the demand for professional education kept increasing, the duo went to the other side of the street from Schorem to open the Old School Barber Academy.

 


 

Leen and Bertus, Schorem, Reuzel and the Old School Barber Academy – the two of you are all of that. When and where did you meet?
Bertus: We met in 1995, in Maastricht in the south of the Netherlands. Leen and his brother ran the barbershop "Saloon Maastricht" in the city. The "Saloon" is still there. Check it out when you go there. I ended up there thanks to an ex-girlfriend (which is the beginning of virtually every story in my life) and was looking for a job. Unfortunately, the brothers didn't need anyone at the time, but Leen and I experienced a kind of love at first sight. It was, as they say, "the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

You do shows all over the world. Where are you coming from now?
Bertus: The last few years have indeed been hectic and completely crazy. We must have flown three times around the world by now. We had some great adventures and met fantastic people (and a few jackasses as well). Our last stop was pretty close to home. We flew to Sheffield for a day to visit our old friend, Joth, the owner of Savills Barbers.

What does a typical day at work look like?
Bertus: That's a hard question to answer, because we have very different tasks. Leen is usually at the computers, making sure that everything runs smoothly. I do a little bit of everything and as little as possible (laughs). With three businesses, many employees and changing Academy classes, life is never boring.

What do you consider a successful day at work?
Bertus: We have always been driven by the idea of "satisfied customers and satisfied employees," and I think that is still the case. When I say 'customers,' I mean the ones sitting in our chairs and the ones buying a tin of Reuzel or registering for a barber class.

What should a customer expect when he comes to Schorem?
Bertus: Service, inspiration and quality would be the key words you should print, but it's really all about a cut that gets you laid.

What are the rules at your barbershop?
Bertus: Respecting everybody is the most important thing. At the barbershop, everybody is the same regardless of their money or social status. None of that matters once you step through our door.

Do the various enterprises leave you time for other things?
Bertus: Leen is crazy about cooking and I have to say that he is a damned fine cook. There is nothing better than a home-cooked meal made by the Bearded Bastard! He is also crazy about cars and likes to discover new places with good food and drinks. Ultimately, he works a lot though! I try to spend every spare minute reading or hanging out with my kids. Though I do work to live, my hobby is working with my friend Jelle to create great things. Snapping photos, filming videos, designing t-shirts. I don't see that as work.

You love the movies. You have already produced a short film, a gangster story set in the 1930s. If you were to create a feature film: Leen, what part would Bertus play in this movie?
Leen: I think he'd be an elegant gentleman with a keen sense of humor, great zest for life and always with a beautiful woman on his arm. A model of sophistication, manners and intellect, highly educated and very humble. He wouldn't even have to act...

Bertus, what part would Leen play?
Bertus: Hannibal Lecter!

You are committed to Rotterdam. For these two, there can be only one city in their hearts: Rotterdam or Amsterdam. If Amsterdam is 'Disneyland for criminals,' as said by a Dutch minister, what is Rotterdam?
Bertus: Now that we've seen the world, there is still no city we love more than Rotterdam. It is a melting pot of all the cultures on the planet – and it is the most honest, forthright city of all with a wonderfully dark sense of humor. Amsterdam has a certain 'je ne sais quoi' – Rotterdam doesn't need it.

What is your take on the Dutch barber scene? Are you one big family or is everybody going it alone?
Bertus: I do think that we are one big family but with a few grouchy cousins related by marriage (laughs). We are seeing the barber shops have its comeback as an institution, because we are reaching out to one another, finally realizing that this is the only way to grow and add to our skills. Schorem has always been a very transparent business with no secrets. From the beginning, we saw ourselves as ambassadors of our trade and we think it is great that the barbershop is once again part of city life.

In our last issue of Boker Barber's Corner, we had a straight razor that we made with Paul Kox from Breukelen. As one of the last old masters, you know him as well. Are you still in touch?
Bertus: Yes, Paul is a wonderful guy who has given us so much support in the early days of Schorem. We haven't talked to him in a while but "what sits in the grease doesn't go sour" (Dutch proverb). I'm sure that we are going to run into him again soon.


Bertus and Leen, thank you very much for your time!

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