Pleased to Grease You, Hope You Guess My Name...
In the mouth of South Holland you’ll find the nine-chair cult barbershop, Schorem — The Holy Ashtray. Schorem was born not as a human, but as beast, created from straight razors, hair snips, witch hazel, Satan’s drink-of-choice and a drug-fueled expedition to open a safe haven for the wicked and weary.
With a bright red, 15-inch-long mohawk, torn clothes, $2 in his pocket, and the stench of an old, stray dog, 17-year-old Bertus “Rob” Rietveld walked into a Rotterdam barbershop. There, he met Lion “Leen” Bergmann, and asked for a cup of coffee and a job. The iconic Schorem barbers admit that it only took five minutes before the two were “on the ground laughing.”
“When Rob walked in, it was clear you couldn’t find two human beings who were more different. And it showed on our faces,” Bergmann “The Bearded Bastard” said. “Now, 25 years later, I look back and realize this was meant to be.”
While “rotten, foul-breathed Bertus” Rietveld has since ditched the mohawk — along with Bergmann abandoning his long braid and “way too tight jeans” — the two preserved their punk ethos throughout their raucous 60-combined years chartering the tradition of the world’s second-oldest profession. Their quest for the perfect, classic haircut became more than just an orgasmic nightmare. The goal to make the world a better place; one haircut a time, became about preserving, providing, and upholding the idea of the “classic gentleman.”
“For me, a gentleman is he who — at any moment in his life — is trying to be the best version of himself. To be honest, I find that this is one of the hardest things to do,” Rietveld said. “It’s really important because it’s a form of respect to your surroundings, but even more of a form of respect to yourself, because it should be the foundation of your personality.”
Rietveld believes being a gentleman doesn’t start with good manners or a well-dressed image, but with knowing who you are and how to present that person to the world. “Being a gentleman is fundamental and timeless,” Rietveld said. “A young boy standing up for an elder on the train is more of a gentleman than the guy who wears the right vest with the right shoes, but keeps his chair.”
While Bergmann and Rietveld are thinning the asshole populace, they are also producing the very best pomps, coifs, flat tops, fades and razor shaves on the planet. The Schorem team is a mix of freaks and vagabonds. “All of ‘em are utterly different than the rest,” Reitveld says, “But somehow, it works.”
In the beginning days of Schorem, Bergmann and Rietveld went looking for barbers in areas inhabiting the margins of society, including bars and in one instance, jail. “We never cared much about their skills with tools,” Bergmann said. “We’ve always looked at their skills with fellow humans.”
Schorem — meaning “scumbags,” but also being the past tense of “I shave him” in Dutch – seeps the familiar and comforting smell of pomade and cigarettes. It echoes with sounds of rockabilly music and gruff laughter from dirty jokes and rowdy reminiscences. Schorem cuts, paired with Reuzel products, transport you to a better place and time.
“We offer old-fashioned service and the best haircut you’ve had in your life,” Bergmann said. “In Schorem, every tile on the floor, every chair, every photo on the wall, has a story to tell. I like to believe you feel the love, sweat and tears that we put into that shop from the moment you walk in.”
Two slogan posters hang in Schorem: “Barbershop Classics” and “Schorem Signature Haircuts,” displaying the 22 cuts you have to choose from. You either pick one of these styles or you get lost, because you’re in the wrong place.
“All of these haircuts are ones that will stand the test of time, and will look good the next five centuries to come,” Bergmann said.
“We try to offer a shave haven for the wicked and the weary, where everybody is treated the same; no matter where you come from, how much money you make, or how fucking cool you think you are,” Rietveld said.
Bergmann added, “We’ve always believed people need a place like that, especially in the days where people care more about their 100K followers on Instagram than the guy sitting next to them.”
Rietveld — a proud member of the Wicked ‘n’ Weary community — shares one of his favorite monstrous memories to give us a whiff of what mayhem the barbers spawned along the road of wreck and ruin.
“One time in Japan,” Rietveld recalled...
“Leen, myself and a whole bunch of our Japanese barber friends stayed in the same apartment. After a night of drinking hard, I took home this gorgeous lady I’ve had my eye on the whole tour. We had a great time. I could tell by her high-pitched sounds, as she could by my low growling.”
This is where Bergmann affirms that he will never let Reitveld live this memory down.
After a couple hours of keeping the whole building awake with their “sweet lovemaking,” Reitveld had to use the bathroom, wearing nothing but his tattoos.
“Japanese toilets are something else man. Heated seat, a thin beam of water that sprays the dingleberries out of your poop shoot, and a cloud of hot air to top it off,” Rietveld said. After drifting off on his Japanese throne, he had finally come back to his senses, remembering the “fine, fine mademoiselle” in his room. Reitveld returned, heading toward the blankets covering his beautiful guest.
“Can you imagine the horror when my lady friend, not only started screaming, ‘GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE YOU FUCKING ASSHOLE,’ but also grew a full beard in the 20 minutes I was away?”
Wrong door. “I totally forgot Leen was sleeping in the next room,” Reitveld said. “Apparently, Japanese walls are very thin. I think you can imagine, he was not amused when I walked in with a hard-on, thinking he was my cutie pie.”
Bergmann confirmed that he was most certainly not amused, and that it was a real nightmare come to life.
In addition to their barbershop, Rietveld and Bergmann created the training shop, The Old School.
Rietveld believes they created the best barber academy in the world.
“They say it isn’t bragging when you’re telling the truth right? We offer different courses for different levels of experience,” Rietveld said. “What makes our system unique is the fact we have 5 educators on a group of 10 students to make the classes as intense and personal as possible.”
Rietveld continued, “Being ‘Old School’ is not just a term to explain the haircuts, but a way of living that involves certain etiquettes, morals, and values when it comes to treating your patrons.”
Bergmann added, “Our goal is to not just teach how to hold your clippers or comb, but to try to inspire you to take a look at ‘the big picture,’ and how you can improve your business and career.”
Next to Schorem, The Old School, and Scumbash — Bergmann and Rietveld’s annual Rock ‘n’ Roll festival — they spread the good word of Reuzel, a men’s grooming brand, world-wide, that not only fits into the Schorem world, but stands out from all the rest.
While “Bertus might try to look tough,” Bergmann tells us he is a “real geek collecting comic books, LEGOs, and practices origami.” Rietveld admits Bergmann is “an amazing cook.” This fascinating “scumbag collective” trains experienced barbers, called “Scumbassadors,” to show and help fellow hair aficionados from around the globe how to use Reuzel products on their patrons.
“As much as we love to travel, it’s impossible to spread the greasy gospel of the good lard alone, and that’s why we have our loyal Scumbassadors,” Rietveld explained.
Just like Schorem’s diverse following, whose clientele includes: “rockabillies, psychobillies, gentlemen, punks, ruffians, artists, brothers of the smock, rockers, bikers,” and those hidden in between, Bergmann and Rietveld’s Reuzel products are for everyone — greasers, tattooers, and clean-cut professionals alike.
Rietveld, who had once punched a tattoo artist in the teeth while getting his armpit inked,
started his body-art obsession with his first tattoo: the zodiac sign of Cancer, with which to impress his first girlfriend. Rietveld is a Libra.
“I had to lie about my age to get it. I kinda like that I’ve got all this 25-year-old punk-rock junk on my arms,” Rietveld said. “As much as I’m blown away by the quality of the work of today’s artists, I’m glad I’ve got mine in a time when having tattoos still turned you into an outcast and a freak.”
Bergmann says to come to Rotterdam and get a haircut in a Schorem chair to hear the “shit y’all ain’t never gonna believe.” The Bearded Bastard adds, “But what happens in the barbershop, stays in the barbershop. Code of honor.”