Traditionally, before a concept of unisex perfumes appeared, or the notion that everyone can wear what they like re-emerged, perfumes were subdivided into masculine and feminine groups. In my native language, in the past, you would have never called creations for men anything other than “cologne”; while their feminine counterparts were called “parfum” (those were pre-spray-bottle times, which, as I suspect, in that country lasted longer than in the USA or some European countries).
Surprisingly, soaps – in the form we had them back then (I’ve previously shared some insights into experiences of my generation in older days so I won’t repeat it) – were strictly unisex before we even knew that term. There were some special “baby” soaps but everything else that I remember from my childhood was sexless. And even when later we were getting some coveted “imported” soaps – Palmolive or Camay – they were never thought of as feminine, and the most macho men had no issues using those fragrant soaps.
When I discovered soap for men (a German company Schwarzkopf & Henkel in 90s came up with the idea of targeting men with their products), a dark navy box with the inconspicuous name “Fa for men,” it was revolutionary! I loved that soap and bought it more than once, even though it was relatively expensive. It was marbled blue and white, and smelled wonderful though I wouldn’t be able to tell what it smelled of.
They were probably before their time, so in a while it transformed into Fa Sport for Men first, then into something else (it had happened after I moved to the US, so I don’t know/remember what it was in between and cannot find since it was before mass Internet), and then into Far Energizing (the picture above shows the most recent reincarnation: both the box and the soap of the original one were darker but this is the closest I could find).
In the US there were enough local mass-marker brands, so I completely forgot about that European brand… until many years later I smelled Caswell-Massey’s Sandalwood Soap on a Rope.
When I blind bought the first bar, I didn’t know what to expect from the scent: I was looking for soap on a rope to hang and use in the shower and liked how this one looked on the picture. Years apart, I cannot say with any certainty that Sandalwood and Fa for Men soaps smelled identical but in my scent memory they were very similar, and that made me predisposed to like Sandalwood even before I started using it.
Sandalwood soap surprised me: not only it perfumed my bathroom for months, felt pleasant while used and would leave a fine trace of sandalwood aroma on my skin, but it was a much better quality than I expected from that type of a product from some random brand…
Well, in my defense I should say that by the time I arrived to this country Caswell-Massey wasn’t a part of the shopping landscape any longer. But before ordering my second bar from Amazon, I decided to read about the brand. I discovered that, according to Wikipedia, the company, created in 1752, “is the first fragrance and personal care product company in America. […] is regarded as the fourth-oldest continuously operating company in America and the oldest American consumer brand in operation.”
If you’re interested, you can read more about the brand’s history from the link above, I’ll just mention that as of 2017 it was re-launched (still as a privately owned company), and they’ve re-released their perfumes and colognes line (with some “updated formula” – whatever it means).
I bought my second Sandalwood bar as a gift to myself and my vSO for Christmas 2016 – and for almost 16 months since then he’s been using it exclusively and I would rotate between this soap and several shower gels. And it still has probably another month of use in it!
Do you know Caswell-Massey brand? Have you tried any of their products – be that soaps, perfumes or hand creams? Have you ever used any soap on a rope?
Images: Fa – from the brand’s site; all others – my own
We had a soap in the UK that looked just like Fa but for the life of me I can’t remember the name.
I never used soap, but my dad uses Imperial Leather to this day and they always had TV ads that appealed to me as a child.
Purrfect posting from Rusty yet again.
You have never used soap? It’s unexpected: I’m not sure I shower gels existed before I was in my mid- to late twenties :) And my vSO has never warmed up to using them: he claims he can’t wash them off completely.
Rusty was extremely curious about that new “ornament” when I put it on the tree, so it wasn’t hard that time to take pictures of him and the object of the future post.
Good morning on Monday sweetię!
Fa soaps were very popular in Poland in late 90’s. I remember we were using those at home. They are still very present on the market here but people tend to go for liquid soap rather than bar nowadays.
I was not familar with Caswell-Massey brand and the idea of a soap on a roap is also not very well known here. You use it in the shower instead of gel, am I right?
You made me smile with “use it in the shower instead of gel” part: you use it in the shower instead of regular soap :) (see my response to Tara above).
Had Fa produced that original type of soap, I would have been buying it still.
I remember soap on a rope from childhood, although I have no idea what it was . We stopped using bar soap because combined with our hard water we were getting tons of residue in the bathtub. Shower gels for all. I think I have had some Caswell-Massey hand cream before, but haven’t seen it recently. I tend to use small wrapped soaps in my dresser drawers like sachets.
By coincidence Robin published in today’s lemming post about this brand and their lilacs soap… I’m thinking about it now.
I use shower gels when I come across the one that I like, but I enjoy this soap as well, so sometimes I use t just to get that faint scent on my skin.
In the 90s, I used to subscribe to a magazine called Victoria which featured short articles on all manner of beautiful things, most of them related to the home, and they often mentioned Caswell-Massey in their articles – perhaps because Caswell-Massey was also one of their regular advertisers. I don’t think I ever tried anything from them, but I got the impression that their soaps were especially luxurious. Your sandalwood soap-on-a-rope description sounds like it is not only luxurious but very long lasting!
Another brand prominently featured in this magazine was Crabtree & Evelyn, which was accessible where I lived at certain gift shops, and I loved and used a number of their soaps, particularly their Rosewater Glycerine soap, now discontinued.
We do not have any Crabtree & Evelyn stores around here so I had some of their products given to me as a gift ones but other than that I’m not familiar with that brand. But as I read in that Wikipedia article about C-M, C&E was one of their competitors that contributed to their demise.
As to this soap, I can’t believe how long lasting it is! I think that hanging and drying quickly after each use prolongs its life.
Oh my God. I remember Fa soap. I seem to remember a green package. And, my mom bought me soap on a rope from Avon many, many years ago. And you are absolutely correct about the manliest of men having no problem using perfumed soap. My dad loved Camay and Cashmere Bouquet!
Fa soaps came in at least 3 or 4 different colors but that “for men” was my favorite.
Until I started writing this post, I have never thought about how unisex soaps were in older days. Though, most modern liquid soaps also lean feminine, if to follow classification similar to what we use for perfumes.
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I used to use a soap in India called Mysore Sandalwood, and I found it again when I lived in Singapore. It was inexpensive but smelled very luxurious. Interesting that Caswell and Massey is reintroducing. I noticed I’d gotten several emails from them, as I somehow landed on their mailing list.
I’m tempted to try some other of their products. I’m even interested in perfumes but they don’t sell samples.
That soap looks amazing. I love sandalwood soaps with a passion, the browner the better. I had a Roget & Gallet one that turned white eventually to my great disappointment. I may have to seek this out.
It is a very good soap, I’m surprised I got it without any research or recommendations. And it keeps both the scent and the color “until the last drop” – which wasn’t the case with Jo Malone soaps that were of the same price, if not more expensive.
I didn’t know this brand, but much prefer old fashioned soap bars to soap dispensers. Soap on a rope is very smart though, I’ll look out for it.
As I didn’t find any perfumes in the shops in Milan to really truly wow me, I ended up buying some really beautiful soap (from Verona) in stead. Concerning unisex, these are actually called fougere, but they just smell amazing, so who cares? Not me :-)
I think it’s a smart move. Next time I travel, I’ll be looking for a soap, not perfume: I think I’m much easier to please when it comes to soaps, and any mistake won’t be too costly.
Had other brands produced nice soaps on a rope, I would have been buying and using more of those: it’s really convenient and … frugal if you calculate the price per use.
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I have never used soap on a rope; yours looks amazing. I believe Twisted Lily sells soap on a rope but I am too lazy to look to see what brand.
The Sniffapalooza gift bag from 2 years ago featured a huge bar of triple-milled Caswell-Massey soap. I think I gave it away as I have a ton of soap already.
For what I call Soap that never dies, I highly recommend Atelier Cologne and Roger & Gallet!
Yeah, I saw those soaps but I do not know the brand. They even have a brown one (amber) but it’s twice more expensive than you can get Sandalwood from Amazon (with free shipping).
Atelier Cologne soaps are next on my “to try” list.
Thanks for the info, Undina. I have never heard of the Caswell-Massey brand before. I’m not really a soap-on-a-rope kind of guy. But I do enjoy a good sandalwood soap. I tried one recently from India, but can’t remember its name.
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Isn’t that strange (and maybe even sad) that one of the oldest companies in the U.S. isn’t known outside the country – and it’s in our Internet age! On the other hand, it would have been really boring if we all used the same brands, ate the same food and wore the same perfumes.
I deeply enjoyed this post. I’d never heard of this company either, and I’m ashamed.
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Thank you, Jessica.
I could probably think of a name or two (great writers or historical figures, maybe) not knowing about whom someone might be ashamed. Not knowing about a consumer brand – even a very old and established – is hardly a reason :)
Fair enough! Still, now I wonder what the three oldest are? I’ll have to go look it up!
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