A couple of weeks ago on Twitter, my lovely friend Stella tweeted that her husband had been reminiscing about Cusson’s Imperial Leather: “The first time we got it, it came in a cardboard box and I thought this is the poshest f***in’ soap in the world!”
To this day, I still think of it as fancy soap. In fact, the first time I saw it at the in-laws, I pointed it out to David and said, “Have they won the lottery?” Even though I know that it costs less than 50p a bar (cos I just looked it up).
But it’s the cardboard box and the little label that makes it seem like posh soap, innit? And I always thought the point of the little label was just to show off its fanciness, even when the box has been thrown away, but Frank Skinner was talking about it on his radio show the other day and he reckons the little label was to stop the soap sticking. To the soap dish, the side of the sink, wherever.
He said you put the soap label side down and it makes it easier to pick up again. He called it one of the greatest design ideas of the 20th Century. And then he said that’s why it has a little shaped plinth. Like a kitten heel, he said. “Bugger me,” I thought. “I never knew that.”
Neither did Emily, his co-presenter, and they talked about it being an Idiotic Eureka Moment, while I wondered whether everyone else knew this. So then I got home and googled Imperial Leather and found that, not only has the label been oversimplified to the point where it no longer looks fancy, but also the plinth has gone. Making me wonder if that was ever the point of the label in the first place.
It’s possible I’ve spent too long thinking about this…
What do you think?