I decided that, rather than going on about my influences and other barbers I whom find inspirational, I would get them on here to answer a few questions so you could all get to know and love them too.
So, without further ado, I'm delighted to introduce the first gentleman in what I hope to be a regular line of some of the world's greats barbers, the exceptionally talented...
Bertus of Schorem, Haarsnijder en Barbier in Rotterdam!
BE: Hello and Welcome to Barber Eile's Blog! Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions.
So to begin, please introduce yourself to my readers!
Bertus: My name's Bertus and I am one of the two owners of Schorem, Haarsnijder en Barbier. Schorem is dutch streetlanguage for "scumbags" but it also translates as "I shaved",while Haarsnijder en Barbier means "haircutter and barber" in old dutch. I've started the shop about a year and a half ago with my best friend Leen in the heart of working man's town of Rotterdam. We have been cutting hair for 22 years, and have known each other for about 19 of those years, so I guess you can say we have 45 years of experience.
BE: How many staff are in your barbershop?
Bertus: We started with the two of us but right now we have five guys working for us: Nelis, Lau, Mannes, Coos and Janus. Three barbers and two apprentices.
BE: Schorem Barbershop has a fantastic reputation. What do you feel you bring to the craft of barbering and to each client you serve?
Bertus: We really believe in perfecting each haircut on each patron. The most important difference between hairdressing and barbering for us is that hairdressing is mostly about being creative, an art, while barbering is a craft, trying to perfect the cut you do over and over again. It may sound boring to some but we see it as a challenge with every patron that comes into the shop. I really think our patrons feel the love and passion we and our staff have for the craft.
BE: You can definitely see this perfect in the photos of some of your haircuts. I post a lot about shaving on my blog - could you please tell me a bit about what a client should expect in a hot towel shave at a barbershop? What process do you use?
Bertus: Okay, we offer both shaves with an "original" straight razor, but is has to belong to the client (he can store it in one of the drawers of our mirrorcase, which it was originally meant for, it was made for a barbershop in 1890 and it's still in perfect shape) Or the "normal" hot towel shave which we do with the replaceable blades (or shavettes as some will call them) -we use feather blades for all normal shaves. We use both hot and cold towels, the hot ones being prepared in hot water with a few drops of lavender to make the patron relax and the cold ones with a few drops of mint to waken them up again (we try to make the whole treatment one to remember). We usually start with a hot towel, than massage some pre-shave into the beard, we will go over that with hot lather, applied by with badger brush, badger in the right hand, left one on the back to keep dry. Another hot towel, apply more hot lather, talc the hands and start the shave, after the first shave (14 steps), we relather the face with the badger (we have a latherizer as well, that's easy to use for the last bits) and go over a second time SLIGHTLY against the grain. we really don't go for the BBS but try to come as close as possible without causing any trauma to the skin. another hot towel and final check before applying an after shave balm that we massage into the skin with different hand motions. Then we put on the cold towel, closing the pours and make the beard retreat into the skin, and of course cleaning the face, apply a little after shave and then finish with talcum powder. After the shave every patron gets a quick shoulder and neck treatment with the massager (Oster) and a splash of aftershave in the neck (we keep the tonics and aftershaves in the freezer for that extra tingling feel.
BE: That sounds wonderful! So -if someone told you you had 2 minutes to grab some of your tools as you were going to a desert island to work as a barber, what would you take first and why?
Bertus: Well, I wouldn't be very busy on a deserted island I guess! - but I get the point. On one hand I would take some of my straight razors and a strop because of the emotional value, but if I had to choose to take my favorite working tools, my first choice would be my Wahl Super Taper and comb, with that I'd be able to do every haircut, second place probably my feather artist razor, so I'd be able to shave and clean the outlines.
BE: - I see that your barbershop takes on apprentices. How do you recruit these people? Do they come to you or do you find them?
Bertus: Both, we feel we're making a change in the Netherlands at the moment, you have to understand that in Holland, there's no "barberschool" anymore, I was one of the last students that were able to choose between being a "gents" hairdresser, a "dames" hairdresser or "unisex" hairdresser. Now, there's only unisex or all-round left in the shools, which means you have to learn both, including doing colors and perms. You see, barbering is a dying craft here, there are actually only a few left. For us, this is the biggest problem in the shop, to find guys that'll fit in, and more important, guys that understand that being a barber has got nothing to do with being a stylist. The first apprentice we took was an old skateboarding friend of mine who was working as a garbageman. He just loved hanging around the shop so we offered him a spot, and now, a year and a half of training really hard later, he's working as a full-time barber. Because of all the photos we post on the internet, we think we're making it look more attractive to become a barber, and now we get a lot of guys asking for apprenticeships.
BE: What level of training do you expect them to have before starting out their apprenticeships? And must they pay to learn – like a barber college?
Bertus: Well, we expect no level of training at all, we do expect passion and love for the craft, and we expect hard work. Everyone (well, every guy that is) can come work for us when we have the space, we really don't care about age or former profession, being tattoeed, whether you did time in jail, we really don't give a F#@k. The only thing that matters is that you really, really want to learn how to cut and shave gentlemens' style. They don't have to pay for their education, we do ask them to work in the shop for two days in exchange for their training as a barber, but we see those two days as training as well, so as a part of their education.
BE: How long does the training last, and, in brief, what will each barber have learnt once they are done training?
Bertus: It really depends on the student, but it's save to say that they'll be ready to work full time after between one and two years. They will still have to train once a week though, to clean up the rough edges. We think the real training begins at the moment you start working in the shop on your own, then you will encounter the hard stuff without one of the two of us to help you out. A barber at Schorem has to be able to do a perfect hot towel shave and a perfect cut (this includes all haircuts).
BE: - What do you feel is the “Golden Rule” for every barber to know by heart and to live each day?
Bertyus: The only difference between a master and a student is a master has mastered the art of always being a student.
BE: Brilliant and wise words to remember for sure! What is the regulation for barbering like in Rotterdam? Here in Ireland anyone with a scissors can open a shop and no training required so it leads to a lot of unprofessional and unhygenic barbers here. Is it the same in your city?
Bertus: Yep, it's exactly the same here, and you see shops popping up everywhere now. Well, we love seeing that guys really seem to enjoy coming to our barbershop, because before they had to go to the unisex shop, where they had to sit next to the old lady with the foiles in her hair, getting a haircut from a 16 year old girl advising him a Justin Bieber bowl cut because it would go really good with his eyes... Hahaha. I think Schorem is a bit of a safe haven for guys that just want to get a proper cut in a nice enviroment. We've been in the business for so long now, people just know that when they come to us they'll be treated the way it's supposed to. We think that allthough everybody can open a shop, it's only the good ones that'll survive. It's a good thing that barbering is seeing a revival in the Netherlands though and we hope in the future we can educate more and more youngsters to become proper barbers, showing them that it can be a craft for life. A barber will never be rich, but will always have money in his pocket.
BE: How do you feel about female barbers in the industry?
Bertus: I really don't think that's there's a big difference between male or female barbers when it comes to do a proper haircut or shave, I do think we as man have a bit of an advantage because we have the experience of shaving ourselves, so we know what it feels like, and what it shouls feel like, but again, that's only a slight advantage and I think anybody can learn the craft because it's more a technical than a creative proces. We were lucky to meet some very, very professional female barbers, Linda at the Waldorf as best example, and we have a big photo in our shop to remind us of a great week in Dublin at her barbershop. Schorem is a man-only barbershop though, no women are allowed in our shop, not even my wife, mother and daughter (and believe me, I had a whole lot of explaining to do). This is as we see it an answer to all the unisex shops we have here in Holland, again, everybody can open a shop here, and we wanted to create a place where men could feel home amongst their peers. Men usually don't like sitting around a bunch of women all covered in foils to get their highlights done, that's why we wanted a woman free-zone in Rotterdam. So we can read a playboy, drink beers smoke cigars and make all the dirty jokes and comments we want, and trust me, it works, they don't have to worry about losing their cool, because they're all there for the same reason.
We love women, but we love the few hours amongst the guys just as much.
BE: Thanks again for your time, it's been great to get a virtual look inside the workings of your shop!
Is there any final message you would like to add, perhaps to anyone thinking of becoming a barber, or just looking for a great haircut?
Bertus: we love what we do and we love it everyday. The good thing about barbering is that you have the choice in what you want to accomplish, work in your own one chair shop for sixty years or teach the youngsters the tricks. It's a craft with so much history and there's so much to learn. We love to know as much as possible about "traditional' barbering, but think it's really important to learn all techniques to perfect a cut or shave. Some barbers say you're not a "real" barber when you use your fingers instead of scissors over comb or when you use a dryer, some say this, some say that... We really don't give a f@#k about that, we work our asses off to try to give all patrons a good time and a great cut or shave. Have fun and be proud to be a barber. The best job in the world.
So there you have it. Honest words from a fantastic barber. I'd love to hear feedback on this and any suggestions on who you would like me to interview in this section, or questions you would like me to ask. Either leave a comment here or send an e-mail to the address at the side.
And if you want to see more of the style being created at Schorem visit their Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/Schorem and their website: http://www.schorembarbier.nl/