cK one 
Calvin Klein (1994)

Average Rating:  152 User Reviews

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About cK one by Calvin Klein

People & Companies

Calvin Klein
Fragrance House
Harry Fremont
Perfumer
Firmenich
Supplier
Fabien Baron
Packaging / Bottle Design

This popular fragrance from Calvin Klein kicked off the whole unisex buzz when it was released in 1994. Of course there were unisex fragrances before cK One (4711 by Muelhens for example) but it was Calvin Klein that made it sexy.

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  2. Heart Notes

  3. Base Notes

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Reviews of cK one by Calvin Klein

There are 152 reviews of cK one by Calvin Klein.


This came out in 1989, not 1994. I was on a plane to Munich when another passenger said she worked for the Calvin Klein company and was incidentally carrying a sample of CK One in her purse, which she gave to me. She said it was a unisex fragrance (something new at the time). I thanked her, and have loved CK One ever since 1989.
Apr 16, 2021


As far as fragrances that were released during the 90s (I'm not including frags released in the late 80s; like Cool Water, Joop, or CK's Eternity in this one) there were a handful of fragrances that achieved ubiquitousness in an era they were made in - Calvin Klein's One, being one (no pun intended) of them. In fact, I think the only other fragrance that beats CK One as a time capsule of the 1990s is: Acqua di Giò.

Like Acqua di Giò, this scent was everywhere in the 90s. Probably even more so, because it was (as it is now) cheaper than Acqua di Giò.

Disclaimer: this review might be a little biased due in part to nostalgia. Smelling this fragrance again; I can hear Ace of Base's "The Sign" bouncing along in the overhead speakers while walking around in the mall when I was a kid.

I don't know how long past formulations lasted. But, in it's current form; 6 hours, at best.

First notes to greet the nose; is a lemon/citrus smell, very comparable to a gin & tonic smell. Accompanying the slighty boozy citrus smell is a vaguely synthetic smelling floral scent - think of roses or tulips. There's also a very subtle feminine tone underlying the floral/citrus/fresh smells; to me, it reminds me of a women's salon shampoo.

Projection lasts about an hour. After that, the citrus notes taper off, and the floral scent plateaus.

Hour 3-4: the citrus takes a back seat to the green tea and sandalwood. By this point, it is a fresh/floral scent.

Hour 4-5: Basically, a skin scent at this point. Citrus smell is mostly gone.

Hour 6: Whatever sillage left on the skin, has evaporated or been absorbed, by this point. Any residual smell left, now lingers on your clothes; your shirt will smell vaguely of dryer sheets.

And that's about it; It's neither very remarkable, nor very bad. It's just...your basic, safe, clean, inoffensive (for the most part), scent...and, that's part of the problem with it.

CK One suffers from a couple of problems:

1. It's a people-pleasing fragrance from Calvin Klein; so it's going to be a somewhat of a milquetoast, synthetic, middle of the road fragrance to some people - especially after 25+ years of being on the market.

2. It's a unisex fragrance; it ends up straddling a fence between feminine/masculine which makes it smell more generic than it otherwise would have.

3. It could end up being either too masculine or too feminine on you; depending on your body chemistry and what sex you are. On me, I find it to be a little on the feminine side within the first hour: it's the floral scent mixed with women's haircare product smell.

To me, this is a daytime scent; wear this at the office or casual weekend afternoons. Technically, this might be considered an "all-season" fragrance. But, I would classify it as a spring/summertime scent. Again, it's just a workhorse fragrance for the office or running errands on a spring/summer day below 75°.

I would recommend this people who are new to fragrances, and basically want a cheap, inoffensive, safe scent they can use everyday.


3.25/5 stars. Just barely above a neutral rating for me.
Mar 18, 2021


One third Z 14, one third Tuscany, one third CK One. Hello Aussie summer!!
Oct 27, 2020


This review is going to be a bit contradictory. So was the fragrance.

I shared my boyfriend's bottle when I was 18 and he was 38. That's 13 years ago. I still have the memories of a fresh fragrance with citrus and woods, that I found cool in my pseudo-feminist young and free years, but also too masculine for what I was thinking I should smell like. It felt like the notes were chosen to balance each other, to the point of zero, like opposite-coloured lights would make the sum of them look white.
Oct 27, 2018


This smells almost identical to Azzaro's Chrome, and al-Rehab's Silver. Ok but not great.

3.5/5
Jul 4, 2018


Reviewing generalist scents always brings up the problem of not only setting the facts strait amongst all the unintelligible and extreme two-liner reviews that either skyrocket or tank the scent's ratings, but also of accurately describing them with enough specifics to make them seem distinct to the reader without smelling them, since generalists are not meant to be distinct by their nature, with cK One (1994) being the ultimate generalist. The hot take version of this review is cK One is essentially an Alyssa Ashley Musk (1968) 2.0, but for more, read on. The mass-appeal fragrance model always existed but not until the 90's did it cast such an impossibly wide net, with new creations resetting all the levels on things from the past and striving to be as inoffensive and unspecific as possible, in an attempt to reclaim respect and acceptance lost by the very brash and ostentatious 1980's. This process began in earnest first with masculine fragrances as male "powerhouse" scents were often the most bizarre and virile, while female-marketed scents were no less loud but commanding in a more charismatic way than by brute force, so they didn't transition into the "fresh revolution" until later on. Calvin Klein is much to blame for this entire changing of the guard, as they were among the vanguard of perfumers offering a new generation of unassuming olfactory pleasantness, but kept going further and further in that direction by using increasing numbers of nondescript custom synthetics (often with fantastic names in the note pyramids) until their perfumes smelled like nothing recognizable in the real world. Removing nature from perfume was relatively easy, as enough blending can achieve that even without synthetics, but the next step in Calvin Klein's efforts to "smell like nothing" would be to remove gender as well, which led to the creation of cK One in 1994. Now to be clear, unisex fragrances actually predate all other kinds of perfume, as fragrances did not have gender, despite being favored mostly by women in western culture for centuries, and only received sexual assignment after insecure guys made it clear they needed their own special scents with reassurance of masculinity if they were to wear any fragrance at all. Many niche and high-end perfume houses have never really taken to labeling their creations by gender until exclusive "for men" fragrances came about, and some still don't assign gender even to this day. However, in regards to mainstream perfume, Calvin Klein deliberately marketing cK One as "unisex" by design became a huge deal and mind-blower to those who didn't know better. The "Age of Eternity" was in full-swing by the advant of cK One, and it's "One for All" attitude spawned a wave of unisex clones from other houses throughout the decade, plus created a cult following that to this day buys up every flanker and seasonal alternate version released.

Alberto Morillas, who even by 1994 had an impressive portfolio of creations, was brought in by Calvin Klein to spearhead the cK One effort, with Harry Freemont, who is also known for a lot of winners in the designer segment. Together, they created a scent that is basically so intent on being gender-neutral from a perfume aesthetics perspective, that it literally comprises notes that act to neutralize each other, making the most anonymous and androgynous of beige pleasantries ever smelled at the time. cK One is constantly fighting itself in the dry down, creating a silent maelstrom of opposing forces that smell both like a dozen things you've smelled before and also none of them simultaneously. This amazing and admittedly confusing feat begins with bergamot, lemon, mandarin, pineapple, papaya, and cardamom, which is a "we are the world" of citrus minus maybe lime, counterbalanced by rounder fruit choices and a meaty spice. The next level of Dante's Inferno in a bottle comes in the form of jasmine hedione, violet, rose, muguet, freesia, and nutmeg, which swings the the composition feminine from all the florals at first but soon swings the pendulum back to the guy side with nutmeg. Green tea, oakmoss, cedar, sandalwood, amber, the only synthetic "Kleinism" in the form of "green tree accord" and finally white musk bring the base into territory inhabited by unisex musk perfumes of the 1960's, without the hippie sweat factor of heavy aromatics. The conflict these accords undertake with each other is less of a free-for-all and more of a standoff a la trench warfare of the first world war. You catch a glimpse of something like citrus, then the fruit holds it in check. Violet and rose begin painting a dainty and dusty feminine picture until nutmeg stamps it out. Cedar and oakmoss begin to anchor the base in barbershop territory until the sweet amber and laundry musk neutralize the effort. The whole thing is literally just checks and balances from top to bottom, which is both exhausting to parse, and ultimately blurs into the perfume equivalent of "apartment white" carpeting. It goes on sweet, bright, then goes floral, and finally ends in clean musk that's hard not to like. High school teens everywhere throughout the 90's obsessed over this, thanks to pictures full of despondent 20-somethings in grungy jeans, white shirts, and edgy haircuts that plastered every subway, bus stop, airport, and magazine insert in the US. Ironically, I remember some total chauvinists back in the day refused to wear cK One because to them, a scent that was unisex was tantamount to just being women's perfume anyway, which was their loss.

cK One set another precedent for Calvin Klein, who already ushered in the serenity that was Eternity for Men (1989), then came along with this scent so everyone and their sister, brother, cousin, or mother could smell clean, unobtrusive, and completely alike. I know it sounds like a fragrance trying to smell like nothing would be terrible, and for many a purist this was blasphemy, but those folks subsequently moved either into vintage scents or niche depending on their economic upward mobility anyway, leaving the designers behind to court the masses, which may have been their end game all along. Who's to say? One thing is certain, there's so much effort and creativity worked into this scent by Mr. Morillas and Freemont, plus so many nearly-imperceptible sides to cK One as a result of it's highly-synthetic blending, that it's hard not to appreciate the artistry here even from a hobbyist standpoint, if not the style of the scent itself. For those who love the puzzle box in the frosted medicine bottle that is cK One, wearings in different temperatures will reveal a great deal of versatility. Like most generalists before and after, you don't really have to think about wearing cK One, and it becomes the "dumb-grab" for the person in a hurry, which itself has moved more units than probably any other reason that can be found in this review. Safe and sexy in one package is the way to sell units, and designers learned from this going forward, gendered or not. The smell of cK One will yield many a compliment by men or women, as was by design, if that's something which interests you, but it is not a very distinguished nor distinguishable smell, so people wanting to be credited for their good taste are looking in the wrong place here. I find cK One to be the height of Calvin Klein's innovative perfume art through artifice approach, and although later 90's output was also nice, including the unisex sequel cK Be (1996), a certain nadir would set in by the mid-2000's that would culminate in their attempts to relearn diversity by the 2010's with mixed results. cK One is still the best of it's line to me despite being the first, because it is still the most sophisticated, well-blended, gender-neutral, and rounded of the cK scents. It's attempts at minimalism is something it's sequels achieve more successfully, at the cost of quality or true unisex appeal. I also like to think the use of cK One encourages moving outside the comfort zones and exploring other possibilities, because one thinks "if I can wear this, what else can I do?". It's cheap, it's pallid, and ends in a simple musk finish, but it's also quite liberating. Cheers!
May 27, 2018

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