Black 
Kenneth Cole (2003)

Average Rating:  83 User Reviews

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Kenneth Cole
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Harry Fremont
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Firmenich
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Reviews of Black by Kenneth Cole

There are 83 reviews of Black by Kenneth Cole.


Kenneth Cole Black (2003) was truly a black sheep of sorts, as Kenneth Cole Reaction (2004) and Kenneth Cole Signature (2005) would echo vibes from the original Kenneth Cole New York Men (2002) designed by Steve Demarcado for LVMH, while this one did not. Kenneth Cole was initially under LVMH via Parfums Givenchy (just like Michael Kors), but regardless of manufacturer or distributor, all men's fragrances from the house made in the 2000's have that unmistakable "Kenneth Cole DNA" in them, thanks to the designer's love of ozonic top notes (usually but not always grapefruit) as a signature of the brand. What makes Kenneth Cole Black so "black" isn't really anything tangible other than the marketing of the decade that denoted "black" flankers to established masculine perfume lines had to be mysterious with an air of seriousness to them, but in reality all this meant was make something markedly different from all the other flankers in a line, as Ralph Lauren did with Polo Black (2005) by making it a super fruity neon ozonic mango thing over violet ionones and woody notes. Kenneth Cole Black can probably be blamed somewhat for that, as it is a rather bombastic atom smasher of fresh and fruity notes over floral notes, dry woods, and a pre-ambroxan attempt at an ambergris base. All of this probably sounds rather yucky, and the young men of the era (like me) definitely over-sprayed it, but the long-term effects can still be positively felt in releases like Bleu de Chanel (2010). In this attempt to be moody and dark, Kenneth Cole merely helped create the future of mainstream versatile dumb reach scents for men instead, all while avoiding the 2000's pitfall of sour candy musks or itchy black pepper notes.

First thing's first, this stuff is an ozonic, so if that is something you cannot abide, I suggest checking out right now. Secondly, while the reputation of Kenneth Cole Black being a youth market release still haunts it nearly twenty years on, it is a youth market release from another era and many of the notes and accords in this stuff have since "matured" in mainstream men's perfumery. In short, this stuff isn't as tacky as you may remember or have been told, but it is still definitely "out there" compared to "blue" juices that followed. The opening of ozonic aldehydes, "watermint", mandarin, and basil over some dry ginger feels like a cold bolt of lightning that quickly gets surrounded in ionones that represent both fruity, woody, and floral configurations sans any iris. Violet leaf is the primary floral here but it competes with the fruity minty tones and a bit of dusty nutmeg into the heart. The base is a tricky combination of Suederal and Iso E Super with Timberol. Mixed with some other musks, these things mimic the salty breathy semi-fresh muskiness of ambergris, with Timberol in particular taking on an "incense" role similar to its successor norlimabol (aka Karmawood), which is basically a second generation version of this note. Combined, we get fresh, fruity, citric, cold-spicy, musky, woody, and still low-key sexy if you ask me (and I know you didn't). Kenneth Cole Black really is just an office scent that came to work in baggy jeans and a band shirt, so the shock and awe only lasts until it gets down to work. Wear time is a good 8 hours and sillage is above average. I'd use something like Kenneth Cole Black now as a work or office scent, since it doesn't have the "night club factor" anymore after being years removed it.

So the big deal about Kenneth Cole Black, why it should be more loved, is that it represents a prototype for the later post-aquatic "blue" fragrances that would initiate with the release of the aforementioned Bleu de Chanel. Jacques Polge must have been a fan of Harry Freemont and Sabine de Tscharner's work here for Kenneth Cole, because he copied about 60% of it into Bleu de Chanel. Granted, he switched out the spazzy ozonic top notes for more muted citruses (and ironically Kenneth Cole's preferred grapefruit); then added traditional notes of lavender, geranium, oakmoss, plus patchouli into the heart and base; then subbed in real ambroxan plus norlimbanol to make a more lucid version of what Kenneth Cole Black tries to do; but Jacques Polge really only took the extroverted dynamism found here then shoved it into a suit and tie. The only thing that makes Bleu de Chanel "blue" is the same thing that makes Kenneth Cole Black "black": The aesthetic. Both are primarily fresh citrus and violet leaf fragrances over a modern psuedo-chypre bases, but the older Kenneth Cole Black gets the bum rap because it has a bolder opening and relies on cheaper period-specific materials to make the same point. The line has been successful enough to spawn flankers over the years, and is still produced, so someone besides me out there is still buying it. Bottom line is if you like the "blues" from the 2010's, you owe it to yourself to smell them during their edgy days in the 2000's, when they shopped Hot Topic and dressed all in black. Like the genre of nü-metal from the same time period, Kenneth Cole Black is better than you remember; but I still wouldn't be caught dead enjoying it around anyone you'd want to make a good first impression on, for reasons you can likely guess. Thumbs up
Dec 16, 2018


This is a "meh," from me.

It's fresh with a dash of spice.
A very generic, inoffensive fragrance.
The thing is, even though it's a bit more higher quality smelling than Claiborne's line of men's fragrances ie Curve, Mambo, Bora Bora, it's too synthetic and, despite it's fresh nature, a bit cloying.

I think this would make a decent office scent, but it's not that fun to wear.
Nov 2, 2018


This is certainly not a perfect fragrance, but I really, really like it. Kenneth Cole Black is good. I'm not sure what it's good at, exactly, but I'm still impressed for $35 (or less) at a department store. I typically despise fragrances that are overly synthetic, but while this one is synthetic it doesn't bother me at all. Quite the opposite - I can't stop smelling it. It's hard to over-apply with this stuff, and that's actually one of its downsides - the projection is weak. So is the longevity.

Watermint? What the heck is that? Maybe it's the ingredient that keeps this from smelling like a mall-scent mess. To me, it's so much better than typical designer fragrances. It's fresh, watery, spicy, and ultimately pleasant. Not black, and probably not a compliment magnet because it's too middle-of-the-road. I don't care. I love how I smell when I wear this. I sought it out right away after running through a bottle.

However, I have had two very different bottles. My first bottle came with a sprayer, and that bottle was spicy. The other came with a stopper cap, and this bottle is sweeter, with more flower. I miss the spicy bottle, because it was way more interesting. The sweet batch is too light. I honestly don't know which bottle was made more recently - I swiped the stopper bottle from my dad after my other ran out, but he might have bought his before I bought mine. Look for the spray bottle.

Thumbs up for the spicy bottle. So enjoyable.
Aug 14, 2018


I think the notes listing and recent reviews have nailed this mixture's elements pretty well. I will comment more generally.

Black has a very common modern aqua air about it. However, it is amazingly powerful by modern standards and it does have a nicely blended late appearing blackish incense note that stands it apart from the modern norm. Somehow I always manage to spray on too much of this potent scent, as it is so light and inviting up front. I better put 1 or 2 marks on this bottle, which would be a reasonable number of sprays. 3 is too much and alas my wife now does not like this one.

I still generally like it; but, the darkish midpoint and ending can be an irritant. It lasts very well too. A great value given its very reasonable price and potency. 1 bottle should last a very long time when applied correctly.
May 7, 2018


Safe generic mandarin orange freshie. Last longer than most of my other fresh scents. $35 for a 100ml @ Ross. Not bad not great.
Mar 7, 2017


This is a rather generic middle of the road scent... but what else would you get from a mass produced mainstream designer fragrance. It does have a solid opening but as you go along for the ride through the mid and base it turns synthetic and boring. Shouldn't offend and the online price is solid.
Jul 26, 2016

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