James Cooney meets with the barbers from Rotterdam who’ve turned into cult figures of the male grooming world.
It’s safe to say that Dutch barbers Bertus and Leen didn’t expect all this success. But since opening a small vintage barber shop in Rotterdam in 2011, the duo now travels the world with a stage show, a product line and hundreds of customers lining up every day in front of their premises.
The barber shop is called Schorem – which roughly translates into English as “scumbag’ – and it only takes male clients. It also only does a select 22 classic and signature cuts. If the haircut you want doesn’t fit in with the dozen or so styles that Bertus and Leen approve, you’ll have to go elsewhere.
But the scumbag barbers don’t just put their success down to the styles they offer. It is, they reckon, as much about creating a space where men can have a chat and hang out.
“Everywhere around the world people are losing the art of having a conversation with a stranger,” explains Bertus. “Everybody is on Instagram and Facebook and they are having a make-believe life. People need this space to have a conversation and be men.”
Men’s Style sat down with the scumbags during the ‘went tour of Australia and while there’s two of them, Bertus likes to do all the talking…
What were you aiming for when you created your now-famous barbershop?
We wanted a shop that we wanted to go to. One that was all about haircuts, rock ‘n’ roll music, drinking some beers and having fun… and this shit hit the fan. It grew so fast that now we’re able to travel the world and talk about it. We are the two luckiest motherfuckers in the world.
We’ve heard that not even your mothers are allowed in the shop. Does this put some women off?
No, the women in the Netherlands love it. I think they see it as a space that their men can relax and really be themselves. We are scumbags, but we are decent scumbags. We like to drink, we like to swear. We are just guys. We know how to act polite, but we don’t have to within the walls of the barbershop. If there’s one place not to worry about your guy and what he’s doing, it’s the barbershop.
Is it the case you guys are treated like rock stars in some places?
But we’re not rock stars, we’re just barbers. Part of our message is that everybody can do what we do. The thing we’re most happy about is putting barbering back on the map m a profession. It’s a job to be proud of. I’ve been laughed at for 26 years, looking the way I do and cutting hair. We broke through all that and it’s great. So, were not rock stars, though we do sometimes enjoy a beer.
What makes a quality haircut?
I’ve got my own ideas about style, but we always believe a good haircut is one that makes your client happy and feel confident even if I personally think it’s a lousy cut. As a barber I’m always trying to learn. The true master is he who has mastered the art of being a student.
How does music work as inspiration for being a barber?
I got into barbering because of music. When I started there was no internet and clients would come in with their records because they wanted to look like their favourite artists. I’d put the records on while I cut their hair, so I was learning about new music like punk rock, rockabilly, psychobilly and hardcore. And the haircuts that went with it stuck with me. Pretty soon I became the guy that people would go to for a cool cut. For us, the types of haircuts that go with subcultures are the best because you tell a story with the way you wear your hair.
What will you do when the haircuts you like go out of fashion?
We don’t do fashion, we do style – and that never goes out. We want to do haircuts that people could show photos of to their grandchildren and great grandchildren and they can say “Oh, he looked cool back in those days.” Nobody wants to show photos of themselves from the 80s with mullets, shoulder-pads and bleach. We stick to the classics. The classics look good on everybody. Just look at James Bond movies. You could watch them in 100 years. They put so much thought into the suits, watches, shoes and classic haircuts. It will never go out. That’s what we are trying to do with our haircuts. We look at fashion, but we don’t follow it. Some haircuts will never go out of style and once a guy has a haircut that they like, they keep it forever because it looks good. It’s important to have a haircut that suits you.