Return of the Barber

Return of the Barber

The long lost art of male grooming finds an unlikely new champion in Rotterdam
Elliot Wilson

‘Schorem’ translates from the Dutch as ‘scumbag’, refering to either a despicable person or, in older vernacular, a condom. It’s a well travelled word, having been nicked from the Vikings, as well as a fabulously apt name for the eponymously named barbershop that lies on Nieuwe Binnenweg in Rotterdam. For this establishment, on an unassuming street in the heart of the old Dutch industrial city, all chrome, buffed leather and rockabilly cool, is the Daddy of the renascent barbering industry. It caters to those of us with X and Y chromosomes, limited attention spans, and spatial awareness. In short, it is where men come to feel like real men in an often troublingly metrosexual world.

True, old-fashioned, gritty-dirty barber work had rather fallen out of fashion when Leen and Bertus, Schorem’s hirsute co-founders, set up shop in 2011. Men gravitated toward hairdressers, or opted for a bog-standard trim. As a teenager growing up in a small British town, I would be dispatched every month to Jack’s, where an unsmiling barber would give me a severe short-back-and-sides. I’d return, sheep-sheared and miserable, thinking there had to be a better way.

There was, but it took a while to arrive. And when it did, it had an unlikely source and an unusual face. Leen and Bertus were having a drink in a Rotterdam bar when the idea popped into their heads. “We really wanted to open a shop that we wanted to go to, where we could listen to rock ‘n’ roll music, have a beer and a laugh, cut hair, and study the rich culture and history of barbering,” Bertus tells Stylebible.” They wrote a business plan on the back of a beer mat, bought a few retro Belmont barbers chairs, and flung open their doors to the world.

Nothing could prepare them for the shock of success. Within three weeks, there was a four-hour queue forming in front of Schorem’s by mid-afternoon. “People were waiting five or six hours for a haircut, often in the rain, and we only had 40 umbrellas,” remembers Bertus. “It was insane and got worse. After two years, we were forced to move to a bigger shop.”

The original outlet still cuts hair, but it is now called The Old School, and is used mostly to train barbers, many of whom go on to open their own establishments. Directly opposite lies the ‘new’ Schorem, which has to be visited by every man at least once in his life. With its banks of leather barber chairs, gleaming mirrors, and cabinets filled with racks of soap, pomade and hair wax, it’s a throwback to an older time, when men genuinely cared how they looked (without resorting to manscaping), and weren’t scared to stand out from the crowd. Beyond the understated refinement, there’s an otherworldly feel about the place: standing next to the vast central wooden waiting bench, I’m reminded of the opulent bar scene in The Shining.

But this is also a working institution, for working men. Schorem’s shavers and scalpers will hand you a beer when you walk in, then get to work. This is where you come to get something done, not to get pampered. To Bertus, such places are necessities in modern society. “Men need a place to unwind,” he says. “Men covet a place where they can feel at home among their peers without the stress of daily life, where everybody is on the same social step of the social ladder.” It’s also a no-woman zone. Not even wives and mothers are granteds access.

The founders have no desire to open new outlets, whether in Rotterdam or beyond the city’s borders. Leen, a Mark Ruffalo lookalike with a true forest of a beard, says he loves Rotterdam, noting that “cult-status is worth more than world domination”. Bertus, elaborately mustachioed and fairer of hair, resembling a character in the opening credits of Cheers, simply wants to carry on in the same mould, offering the sort of great haircuts – classics, pompadours, contours, quiffs - that have drifted in and out of fashion since the 18th Century French court of King Louis XV.

While Bertus finds it “funny” that barbering has regained its mojo, he distances Schorem from being typecast. “Men are taking care of their looks again for sure,” he says. “But we did not open the shop to create hipster heaven, or to cater to the hateful ‘Metroman’ thing. We opened the shop to cut our friends’ hair, pure and simple.” Among the many people that have influenced the pair down the years, Leen highlights the work of David Raccuglia, a stylist de nos jours who has sculpted the hair and image of artists ranging from Ray Charles and Gary Oldman, to Macy Gray and Rob Lowe.

And while Schorem’s masterminds may downplay success, their influence has stretched far beyond their front door. In London, barbering is back in business. The wonderful Murdock now has six outlets, ranging from Sloane Street to Shoreditch to Spitalfields, and is preparing to open its first New York branch. Sharps, from Manhattan, is making the reverse journey, opening barbershops on Oxford and Windmill streets, and on Islington Green.

Ambition be hanged, then. Manscaping be hanged. Fixing what ain’t broken be hanged. Leen and Bertus had the right idea at the right time. Men wanted to be men again (and God knows women are sick of vanilla-flavoured masculinity). Schorem, for all its visual beauty, remains simple, old-school. In the end, says Bertus, it’s all about being yourself. “Grow a beard because you’re a lazy sod and don’t lie about it. Wear a pompadour because you love rockabilly music or because you just really like the haircut. But don’t get one to become someone you’re not, that’s not gonna work and nothing worse than cheating on yourself,” he says. “Men belong in a barbershop to get their haircut and talk some bullshit, not to be part of a trend or to buy an image. If you want that, go to a salon.”


Nieuwe Binnenweg 104
3015 BD Rotterdam, Holland

Visit the website: | Tel: +31 010 - 2410 309

Find them on Facebook | Instagram