Baton Barbe

Two 'Cadum' brand vintage French shaving soap boxes.

Last summer I bought a couple of ‘sticks’ of vintage French shaving soap from an ebay seller, intending in due course to use them. The soap boxes bore the Cadum brand, which is still very much current, though they don’t appear to make shaving products these days. As to how old the soaps might be I can only speculate. The packaging has, to my eye, more of a mid-20th-century than late-century look about it & at the very least it pre-dates the barcode era. A clue might be the blurb on one of the top flaps of each box: “Doublez la durée du baton barbe avec l’étui Bakélite” i.e. make the soap last twice as long by using a Bakelite case. Even by the ’60s Bakelite would surely have been considered somewhat old-fashioned.

Two 'Cadum' brand vintage French shaving soaps, one partly-unwrapped.

Inside the boxes the soaps were foil-wrapped. One stick had a few small spots of surface discolouration which I cut off, but otherwise they looked and smelled just fine. The soap is medium-soft - not much firmer than cold butter - so was easily grated. I regretted not buying a third stick, as the total amount of soap wasn’t enough to fill the bowl I had in mind for it. I happened to have a puck of modern Erasmic soap handy, so grated that in together with the Cadum, pressing the resulting mixture into the bowl (hence its variegated appearance).

Vintage and modern shaving soaps comined together and pressed into a wooden shaving bowl.

A couple of weeks on I’m very pleased with the combination. Its composite aroma is a straightforwardly old-school soap scent. It lathers readily and profusely, with smoothly comfortable shaves the result.