Schorem interview: Leen and Bertus Reveal The Secrets To Their schorem haarsnijder en barbier. One of the things that I love about barbering is the motley crew of people you get to meet; in my experience barbers are often unconventional and always fascinating. Leen and Bertus, the men behind Schorem Barbier in Rotterdam, Holland, are absolutely no exception, and I’m delighted to be welcoming them to the Larry the Barber Man column.
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The Schorem Interview With Owners Leen and Bertus Begins…
Having met them before both at their shop and at barbering events, this time we caught up at the prestigious Orlando Premier hair show. Something you notice instantly about Rob and Leen is the strong bond between them, and the way that they bounce off one and other – so it was great to have the two of them together to talk about what we all love best… cutting hair!
Schorem Interview: How Leen and Bertus Met…
I was very curious to hear the story of how the two of them came to be partners. Both men are self-taught: Rob started barbering when he decided to try giving his mates Mohicans, while Leen picked it up because he needed to find work after finishing high school. The catch was that they lived on opposite sides of the country, so I asked Rob to explain what brought them together:
“I had this girl up North where I was living. I was really in love with her and she moved to the South, so I said okay I’ll follow you and I’ll just look for a job there. So, one day I walk into this shop in the South of Holland, and there is this guy standing on a stool and putting little shampoos on a shelf. I didn’t get the job, but I stayed there all day and we were laughing so hard.”
Although they didn’t end up working in the same shop, Rob did manage to get a job working for the same franchise – meaning that their paths continued to cross, and their camaraderie continued to grow. Leen adds that: “What was strange was that our barbering styles were so similar, and we didn’t know that from each other. We never saw anybody cut hair the way that we cut hair, we were self-taught.”
Schorem Interview: How Leen and Bertus set up schorem haarsnijder en barbier
Their unique techniques and sense of fun bloomed into Schorem Barbiere, a barbershop that offers a real melting pot of styles, drawing inspiration from history, global barbering culture… and a fancy antique cabinet that the boys simply had to have. Rob gave me the whole story:
“We have always been very honest that we stole every idea of Schorem from around the world. We did a lot of research, we loved the American barbershop, we looked at history, took things that we’d learned from around the world, threw it in a pot, mixed it around and Schorem came out
“But the thing is, we really wanted to have an American barbershop, in the beginning. That was the first idea. You know, jukebox, chrome, rockabilly music. Then we saw this cabinet, and we spent half the whole budget on this cabinet. It was a friend of my father, an antique dealer, and when we got there Leen said ‘I’m going to have to bargain’. We walked in, and they had this mint condition, a 120-year-old cabinet. I had to say, ‘I don’t like it’ and just walk out so that he could bargain. But my face said it all, the woman in the shop knew I’d spend all the money I had just to get it.”
This meant they had a new spin on their barbershop; instead of building it around exclusively American style, they used the cabinet as a starting point. They also began to create incredible posters to display on their walls, using honest images with honest haircuts to ensure that guys coming into the shop would feel comfortable just pointing out a picture that they liked.
These untouched but highly relatable posters were initially just for their own shop, but after Leen had the idea that they could start selling them they found that there was a big market. Having initially been unconvinced that anybody would want to buy them, Rob believes that a lot of their success is down to the fact that, when a barber hangs and honest looking poster on the shop wall they’re able to deliver on those cuts for their clients. “They can say – you know what, you can have that haircut but better. And that’s the trick, it’s far from perfect… the models are far from perfect, but they’re honest haircuts.”
During This Schorem Interview, Leen and Bertus Share the Schorem success story
When Rob and Leen talk about Schorem and their careers in general, they give off a sense that a lot of their success has happened by accident, simply as a result of going with their gut. But it’s important not to ignore the fact that they’ve worked hard to get where they are, and been lucky enough to have a lot of fun doing it!
Recently, their success has seen them take on a new challenge – touring with a stage show where they demonstrate their cutting techniques whilst sharing their story. So far, it’s taken them to an impressive list of destinations including New Zealand, Japan, Australia, Canada, Mexico, a huge number of European countries, and many others.
Both agree that a lot of the success of their show is down to the fact that they just don’t take things to seriously, focussing more on making sure they’re having a good time. It definitely works; the audience can see how much fun they’re having up on stage, and their candid approach, and so the audience has fun too. As Rob puts it, “I think every guy has a best mate, and I’m doing this with mine”.
Before the Orlando Premiere show, I’d last seen Rob and Leen at their shop in February last year. Did they think then that they might reach the stage they’re now at?
Leen: “It’s not something you can plan for. If you have a plan like that it’s going to fail. It was an organic thing for us, it went gradually. But people might think that we don’t have failures as well. But every 100 things we did 99 went wrong.”
Rob adds that “now we hear a lot of young kids that are inspired by our shop and that warms our hearts. But the best thing we ever heard was this old guy that came up to us and he goes ‘boys, I have had a barbershop for 45 years and the last 15 years have been so bad that I was getting close to bankruptcy. But you guys showed up and all of a sudden, I’ve got these young boys coming in asking for haircuts, and for the first time in 20 years I took my family on a holiday.’
“Then I realised that we actually influenced a life somewhere, and that was a thing of beauty.”
Branching out: the Reuzel brand
There’s more to Rob and Leen than the Schorem story, though – they also have Reuzel, their own line of top-quality hair products. When I saw them back in February, the line had two pomades in two different colours… it’s grown a fair amount since then, and Leen fills me in:
“We started out with the two products, the red water-based product and the green oil-based product, but we needed a little more. So, after that we made one that was like the red but on steroids, the blue one, and the green on steroids which is the pink one. So that’s oil-based and water-based again. Water-based means you can put it in as a gel, and it looks like wax but you can wash it out like a gel. The oil-soluble products need build-up, so the more that’s in your hair the better it looks. It’s old school and new school.”
After that they continued to grow the line, adding a grooming tonic and an old-fashioned style tonic as well as, more recently, a fiber and a matt clay which have proved particularly popular. Rob tells me that the addition of the tonics to their line helped to cement their strong sense of old and new:
“The grooming tonic is a very new-school product that you can pretty much use for everything. You can use it with the water-soluble products, or over the oil-based, if you want to give it a bit of shine. But we really wanted to have a tonic that’s like your old-school barbershop tonic. The cool thing is they were usually made by the barbers themselves, all these little secret formulas, and we loved that. So, we said there’s always got to be a balance, if you’re going to do a new style product there’s always got to be an old-school product with it.”
That’s not even an exhaustive list of all the products that the Reuzel brand has put out, with the blue pomade having proven itself as one of their all-time top sellers – tried and true for those of you who might be interested in bringing this sort of product into your own shop.
At this point, it’s customary to ask barbers what their next big thing will be… and it’s also customary for barbers to be a little coy! Rob and Leen are no exception, telling me that they’ve got their biggest project yet planned, but it’s all still under wraps.
We’ll have to wait to find out what they’ve got in store for us next – although I’m willing to bet it will be something exciting. In the meantime, here are Rob’s tips for getting the most out of social media, to help you keep growing while you wait:
“Social media is getting harder. Stay honest with your haircuts. Because what we see a lot now is photoshopping and filters. And make sure they’re recognizable, whether it’s a way of lighting or whatever, so when people scroll they know it’s you.
“Make sure people like what you’re doing and do not push it upon them.”
While you’re there, be sure to follow @schorembarbier on twitter to keep up with their latest styles, and me at @larrythebarberman to learn more about the lives and careers of some of the world’s best barbers.