Perfume Directory

cK be (1996)
by Calvin Klein


cK be information

Year of Launch1996
GenderShared / Unisex
AvailabilityIn Production
Average Rating
(based on 479 votes)

People and companies

HouseCalvin Klein
PerfumerAnn Gottlieb
PackagingFabien Baron
Parent CompanyBenckiser > Coty Inc > Coty Prestige
Parent Company at launchUnilever

About cK be

Calvin Klein's follow up to cK one.

Reviews of cK be

Much better to me/on me than the blandness of unscented washing powder that is CK One, that's for sure. Though I thought I'd like it a bit more, especially according to the notes. Probably there's a bit too much lavender for me. Clean, simple, easy going, non-intrusive and never cloying daytime scent. Can recommend if you're searching for exactly that though - it has a great price, too.
14th October, 2019
On my skin this comes across as a very clean, white variety of musk reminiscent of neroli, orange blossom, and lily-of-the-valley; a laundry fresh, white floral scent with soft citrus notes hovering directly over the male/female unisex divide. There's just a touch of spearmint hidden among the musk that lends a nice, albeit subtle accent to the composition. I kind of wish I discovered this before I plunked down $150 for MFK's Aqua Universalis, as I find them quite similar as far as their immediate effect (Gendarme as well). While there's no doubt Aqua Universalis feels a notch or two higher, quality wise, the smells are similar enough, and the quality of CK be is certainly sufficient to perform the task at hand--in this case, simply, to create a clean, just-laundered impression among its subject. Be nails it almost effortlessly here and what you're left with is an excellent budget alternative within the 'freshly showered' genre. Thumbs up, and absolutely worth the $20 if you're in the market for this kind of fragrance.
13th August, 2019
Not something I would wear today but back in the 90's I actually used to prefer this over the original. I get berry's, powdery white musk and maybe vanilla. Decent staying power and a little bit 'different'.
01st November, 2018
It appeared as though Calvin Klein had made some serious bank with cK One (1994), because they quickly followed with another unisex anchor fragrance in the name of cK Be (1996) and almost diametrically-opposed the original by making it a black bottle. Ann Gottlieb was pulled for composition duties with cK Be, and it looked like they tried to address big mainstream complaints lobbed at cK One with the design of cK Be. Namely, a lot of dyed-in-the-wool "manly men" still refused to try cK One because any trace of perceived femininity at all was a no-no, so the challenge was to make a unisex fragrance that appeared so not by balancing masculine and feminine elements like with cK One, but by not implying gender at all, so nobody could say it leans one way or the other. The other complaint was the "smells like nothing" facet of cK One. Ultimately, cK Be fails at the former challenge, as do all the subsequent cK One fragrance family members, including the third pillar cK All (2017), with the bizarrely abstract cK2 (2016) coming closest to true genderless perfume, but also being so artificial as to alienate everyone. It seemed cK Be succeeded with addressing the later "blank smell" concerns however, as Ann Gottlieb tried to make a unisex fragrance within the loose context of the familiar oriental/fougère style, a category of scent usually reserved for men and containing recognizable key notes, which would in theory kill two birds with one stone in addressing the perceived lack of male-friendliness in the first cK scent, and having some distinction so as not to smell like little else but musk in the finish. Going the fougère route naturally sways the scent more towards guys, because the traditional barbershop structure of bergamot/lavender/oakmoss/tonka makes cK Be intially smell like a lighter, crisper interpretation to any number of drugstore smells. Gottlieb then works against this bias by what she injects into the core of the oriental/fougère formula itself, and the result is something indeed more friendly to the die-hard colognoisseurs, but at a palpable cost to neutrality. If cK One was the unisex scent that seemed more favored among women, cK Be is it's equal opposite that is more favored by men, which ironically makes them a sort of "his and hers" pair like any other major designer release.

The opening of cK Be is it's most masculine part, which does wonders in convincing the neanderthal nose to give it a try. From this bracingly clean masculine opening, cK Be pulls a bait-and-switch into more feminine heart notes before bringing the left foot and the right foot together in the base. The dry down of cK Be is indeed more distinct than the original cK One, which itself resorts to ending in simple androgynous laundry musk a la Alyssa Ashley Musk (1968), but also not as powerful in the projection department. However, if I were to say which one is truly more unisex, it would definitely still be cK One, since synthetic musk implies nothing in a sexual context, while cK Be's oriental/fougère finish is just too traditionally entrenched in the male mindset despite it's brightening by Gottlieb, making it mostly likeable to men, but also enjoyed by women who love women's lavender/barbershop stuff like Chanel Jersey (2011) or the niche Ninféo Mio by Annick Goutal (2009) but don't mind a sandalwood twist at the end. I'm not saying this is as good as them, but a much cheaper alternative that you can spray away without guilt. Bergamot, mandarin, mint, and lavender really set up the barbershop opening of cK Be, with juniper as the only somewhat feminine pull here. The heart is where the pendulum swings back, with peach, magnolia, and a light dusting of nutmeg making it smell a bit like a feminine gourmand, however brief. The base reinforces the barbershop accord of the top but brings in the oriental elements with sandalwood, opoponax, tonka, oakmoss, and musk, but the applications of each are thin and stretched compared to something like say, Canoe (1936) or Égoïste (1990), so it brings us back to neutral territory rather than re-asserting the masculine start. The whole composition feels like the very feminine heart was given the widest berth by the top and the bottom, since the magnolia and peach shine very bright in this during the middle phase, with the rest of the composition just layering those two notes in a thin crispy shell of masculinity, but it's enough to make Mr. Cologne Guy put down his bottle of Kouros (1981) and give it a go. Above all else, cK Be is just clean clean clean, so regardless of who you are, if you're looking for an admittedly synthetic but safe scent that few will label or recognize, this is as close to perfect as it gets.

The later cK Gold (2016) would revist a peach-like middle but even stronger (although ironically because it's a ghost note and not actually present like it is here), so fans of this element in here can go seek that one out as well while it's still somewhat easy to come by. I really enjoy cK Be just for the simple fact that it is one of the lightest and crispest oriental-inflected fougères I've ever encountered, with that glorious peach heart just being the juicy flirtaceous center of what is otherwise a clean masculine staple reinterpreted for consumption by both sexes. Plenty of women enjoy this too and even though it never climbed to the monolithic heights of the original cK One, it is the second most-successful pillar, but also one that oddly never got the army of flankers and seasonal flavors that cK One receives. For ladies who haven't tried anything in the series, or for something arguably more sensual, the sweet and rich musk of the original cK One is still best, but for something cleaner for work, or for men a little more shy to the "deliberate unisex" phenomenon of the cK series, I'd say cK Be is a better place to enter. Performance of cK Be is probably also the weakest of the series, with only a good 6 hours tops of longevity, so don't be shy and get the larger 6.7oz bottle if you intend to make this a daily, since reapplication will be needed. Simply put, if something like Penhaligon's Sartorial (2010) is the high-end men's barbershop revival for the business elite guys who get their hair cuts from places like Jordan's, then cK Be is the progressive, refreshingly-unassuming and welcoming LBGQT+ friendly barbershop for everyone else not needing the pomp a la Rudy's Barbershop of Seattle. Guess you guys know where I get my cuts now huh? Whoops! Anyways, for a nice squeaky lavender peach and sandalwood soirée you can wear to casual events or work without getting noticed too much, this is a great option, whether your stow it in a purse or messenger bag.
28th May, 2018 (last edited: 29th May, 2018)
I got this from Kohl's 50% off. I guess I know now why it got marked down. Don't get me wrong, I really love the way it smells, and it lasts a decent amount of time (considering that that's a problem with anything from CK), but it has no projection whatsoever. I have to bury my nose in the crook of my arm to smell it. It's a serious disappointment. I usually stick to one or two sprays with any other fragrance, but you just might need to use the whole bottle for this one.

I got the deodorant stick from Marshall's, and I loved the scent so much that I knew I had to get the EDT if I saw it. It smells a lot like clean clothes just after they get out of the dryer. Light lavender and faint citrus riding in on musk- it doesn't sound very manly, but this is definitely the more masculine of the CK ONE/Be duo.

This is nice to put on at the end of the day, just before bed, but I would not buy this again just for the fact that it's so hard to smell.
06th July, 2017
Resembled a slightly over-ripened banana smell to me! cK Be is just as polarizing (maybe more so?) than cK One, but for me it's hard to connect with.

24th December, 2016

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