Calvin Klein CK IN2U Her & CK IN2U Him ~ fragrance reviews

Calvin Klein ck in2u advertCalvin Klein ck in2u advert

CK IN2U is the latest attempt by Calvin Klein to recapture the massive youth market that they so perfectly cornered with 1994's CK One. Even back in 1994, I was not quite the "disaffected, sexually ambivalent grunge youth of the moment" cited as CK One's fan base in a recent New York Times article, but I thought CK One was great stuff: the packaging was different, the advertising was different, and it smelled different. Mind you, I was not "into" perfume at the time; if CK One was derivative of other fragrances on the market, I was blissfully unaware of it.

Fast forward to 2007. I am older now, and if you want to know just how old I am, perhaps you'll find a clue in the fact that my first thoughts on seeing the print ad for CK IN2U were that geez, she really ought to pull her pants up, and has he finished his homework yet? The reaction of the target market itself has been less than cordial, in fact, the backlash against the whole project was vocal even before the scents launched, based largely on the advertising copy ("She likes how he blogs, her texts turn him on. It’s intense. For right now.") Of course, back when CK One launched, there weren't the same kinds of public forums (blogs, MySpace, what have you) in which to protest being "marketed down to", so it is hard to know if CK IN2U is really getting a worse reception or if there are simply more (and easier) ways to register disgust. Regardless, CK IN2U has succeeded in capturing plenty of attention, and in today's crowded fragrance market, that would seem to be half the battle.

So, on to the real point: what do they smell like? Well, CK IN2U Him is my favorite of the two, so I'll start there. It was created by perfumers Bruno Jovanovic & Jean Marc Chaillan and the notes are citron vert "Gin Fizz", pomelo leaves, frosted tangelo, Cacao bean, Jamaican pepper, shiso leaves, white musk, white cedar and "ultra-vetiver". As advertised, it has a nice spicy-fizzy opening with lots of citrus and pepper; the foody notes in the heart are rather subdued (the chocolate is noticeable without being overdone) but add some interest to the proceedings. I was expecting something ultra-earthy from the ultra-vetiver, but it is more watery-fresh than earthy. The dry down is the largely the same clean musk you find in CK One, rendered cleaner, soapier and warmer in the CK IN2U, and accented with a touch of vetiver and some pale woods.

Like its parent, CK IN2U Him is perfectly pleasant and wearable. If all goes well for Calvin Klein and it starts selling like gangbusters, it won't kill me to smell it everywhere. CK IN2U Her is another story. It was created by Loc Dong & Carlos Benaim; the notes are pink grapefruit, bergamot, currant leaves, sugared orchid accord, white cactus, neon amber, vanilla souffle and red cedar. All I can say is this: if the young women of today want to protest something, ignore the ad copy (all fragrance ad copy is inane, and this is hardly the worst) and focus on the product — tell the man, bring me something new. The minute I smelled CK IN2U Her on a card, I was sure I had smelled it before; unfortunately, I don't have the time or energy to test it next to the 500 candy-sweet fruity florals that were released in the past year so I can't tell you exactly what it was, and really, what is the difference? The progression is always the same. Start with some achingly sweet fruits, throw in a dash of bright citrus (screechingly high pitched, in this case), add a blur of unrecognizable flowers in the heart, finish it off with some pale musky woody stuff, more clean than not, and a big dollop of vanilla.

In this case, the musky stuff is also reminiscent of CK One, but it is harder to pick out until the fragrance calms. Once it does, CK IN2U Her is mostly lightly toasted vanilla sugar and musk. As with its male counterpart, the dry down has a nice warmth, and truth be told, it is probably no better or worse than CK IN2U Him, but as I spend a lot more time testing women's scents than men's its utter lack of originality was both more obvious and more annoying. They will be hard pressed to find anyone who thinks it is something new and exciting unless they market to girls too young to have shopped in Sephora or to have tried the latest celebrity fragrance releases. But it is probably as pleasant and wearable as others of its ilk, and since this stuff seems to sell, I imagine CK IN2U Her will do ok.

Whether the duo will ever manage to match CK One's 20 bottles sold-per-minute is another matter. The fragrance market is considerably more crowded with product than it was in 1994, and the IN2Us don't strike me as being different enough from what is already out there to capture any massive amount of interest. And am I off base in finding that print ad a bit, well, dull? It doesn't strike me as anywhere near as compelling as the ads for CK One. The bottles are awfully cute, but if I find them so at my advanced age, perhaps that is a bad sign for CK IN2U as well.

Do comment, and please, somebody tell me what is the current slang for old fogey?

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  1. Anonymous says:

    The main feature of these, for me, was their utter banality. They smelled very little different from CK One, to my nose – bright, clean and slightly sharp. I got not much more than synthetic grapefruit from the 'Her'; didn't arm-test the 'Him'. I can't imagine either of these setting the youth market on fire, although I agree that I would rather smell this in every mall than anything by Escada.

  2. Anonymous says:

    “geez, she really ought to pull her pants up, and has he finished his homework yet?” This really made me laugh.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Robin, I was 27 years old in 1994 when CK One came out, and I was utterly enthralled with it. Of course, my tastes, as did yours, changed over the years and my passion for perfume has grown exponentially.

    What bugs me more than the banality of the actual scents themselves is the marketing message they are dissemintating. What the ad copy is basically saying is that it's good to strive to live a consequence-free lifestyle. If my views render me an old fogey, then so be it. :-)

  4. Anonymous says:

    N, I was especially surprised by the women's. I'm having a hard time imagining that the 18-24 years olds are going to find it any different from everything else on the market. We'll see if I'm proved wrong!

  5. Anonymous says:

    LOL — it is surely a sign of my age that the underwear peaking over the top of the jeans bothers me far more than the topless women in the old CK One ads!

  6. Anonymous says:

    I am very firmly an old fogey! I am a parent now so of course the message bothers me more than it did in 1994, but I'm not sure the message of the advertising is any different, is it? The CK One ads were very striking, (and I don't think this one is) but surely they were not all about commitment or consequences. The boy and the girl in the alley, or wherever they are, just look so much more boring than the wild youth in the old ads.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Fantastic review. The comment about the pants and the homework cracked me up :-D What I see in IN2U is Ultra-Annoying written in Neon letters. Don't want to try it. Thank you so much for doing it for us :-)

  8. Anonymous says:

    Maybe the message of CK One wasn't quite as overt as the CKIN2U ads are today. The whole technology boom that occured during the past decade has affected younger people more than it has affected me. There's a generation gap if ever there was one! I am able to live a highly functional lifestyle without having to text-message anyone. However, I love reading blogs and such and can't imagine life without my IPod. I also felt that way about my Sony Walkman!

    And here's another disturbing bit of history: remember how CK One was sold at Tower Records locations? Well, Tower Records no longer exists. How depressing is that?

  9. Anonymous says:

    Excellent screed! Yes … how ABOUT something new? And I don't believe for one second that girls wouldn't try and wear something new. My two oldest girls have much wider tastes than you'd think, and they both loathe Pink Sugar. There are particular scents (not naming names) they refer to, disparagingly, as “old lady” smells, and they're not far off — classics like chypres. But there is a huge world of alternate smells that could be mined — I think successfully — for younger people that is (pleeeeeease!) not so *achingly* sweet. And not another Angel, either ;-)

  10. Anonymous says:

    Great review. I find the name of this one really annoying. (CK One was fine, generic.) I less it even less than the pretentious “Be”. Why don't you just call it “BTW IMO Hes 2 Hott” or something…

  11. Anonymous says:

    We are in basically the same boat: I spent massive amounts of time online & am lost without my iPOD, but don't know how to text message anyone & probably never will.

    Oddly, I remember adoring Tower when they open, but last I was in there was just before it closed and I was struck by how old-fashioned it seemed. Why bother going there when you couldn't listen to everything you wanted to, but only those things they'd selected for listening stations? I don't see how any record stores (see, dating myself — “record” stores!) stay in business. I'd rather go to iTunes.

  12. Anonymous says:

    M, I must admit I thought they'd do better on these. They really aren't must-tries at all.

  13. Anonymous says:

    NO, please don't name names, LOL — I hate it when something I love is called an old lady scent!

    Hard to see where something really new will come from. If the industry has to churn out 800 scents this year, there is hardly time for the perfumers to do anything more than copy everyone else.

  14. Anonymous says:

    IN2U is really pretty bad. I think they should have just called it CK Two and left it at that.

  15. Anonymous says:

    ROFL — loved it!

    I don't want to smell like “neon” anything, let alone “neon amber,” which strikes me as oxymoronic, although possibly not as oxymoronic as, say, “neon heliotrope.”

    Didn't Prince write a song called IN2U? *scratches head*

  16. Anonymous says:

    LOL — that is oxymoronic, and so is its fragrance family, “fresh floriental”. Then again, now that Miss Dior Cherie is a chypre, fragrance families have lost all meaning for me.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Well, okay, but how about copying something more interesting? Casting my mind around … how about something more citrus-y and fresh? Or a classic floral with a touch of aldehydes but a little edge? Something like the Guerlain AAs, maybe? (I know … dream on.)

    So far as the “old lady” scents goes — you know what I mean, R. Nobody loves a stanky, leathery old whatever more than I do. But I can smell, say, Bal a Versailles or Bandit and comprehend why they're not going to be universally loved by the under-22 set.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Re: old lady scents — since a lot of the things I love (much to my surprise) are turning out to be in this category, I've been dreaming up a little response titled, “Sophia Loren is an Old Lady.” I mean — come *on* we're not exactly talking Red Riding Hood's grandmother here…

  19. Anonymous says:

    And as far as alternative scents for the under-22 set — I don't see why something like the Crazylibellule and The Poppies twist-ups couldn't be marketed to youth. They're cute, affordable, portable, and relatively accessible scentwise. And the name already sounds like a great indie-band!

  20. Anonymous says:

    I don't expect any young people to love skanky old leather, LOL — just wish they'd use the term “old fashioned” instead. It is disrespectful to old ladies to use the term in a pejorative sense about fragrances you don't like :-)

    And gosh, have to agree, so long as everything is going to be a copy of something else, surely we can find something else to copy besides Angel & sweet fruity florals.

  21. Anonymous says:


  22. Anonymous says:

    Hahahahhaha!!! Although my vote for most goofy (besides the FCUK thing) is U4EAAA or whatever that is by Yosh.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Point well taken; I hadn't really thought about it that way (nobody calls things “old man” scents.) I guess I just thought of it as a substitute for “strong with classical bones” (and BTW a fairly good sign that whatever's being discussed I'd like. Unless it involves LOTV.)

  24. Anonymous says:

    Well, actually, every so often on basenotes they do call something an old man scent — but not nearly so often as something on MUA gets called an old lady scent. As I am fast approaching old ladyhood, I prefer people use some other phrase, LOL…

  25. Anonymous says:

    IN2U the name bugs the backside off me. Unlike in the States, where texting caught on a lot later (and mainly with a younger generation – I remember texting a young friend there and he wondered how I did it…) it's a bit like Japan in most of Europe: cell phones are used for texting as much – if not more – than talking. However, shoot me with a big nasty gun if I ever start doing txttlk…

  26. Anonymous says:

    I think I could have lived with a txt tlk name if they'd used one with a bit more irony. IN2U just sounds silly. If someone send me a text message that said that, I'd roll my eyes. Here is a good one from Urban Dictionary:


    …and it means: If You Use Text Talk Once More I Will Get My Shotgun

  27. Anonymous says:

    Horrifyingly enough, I actually like this. Enough to have bought a bottle. For the plain and simple reason that it smells like a guy's cologne on me, but sans the whole actually wearing cologne bit. It is a good casual addition to the collection. Maybe my nose is broken from my recent trip to Sephora or something.

  28. Anonymous says:

    LOL — nothing horrifying about it, everyone has different taste! And I don't even think it is horrifyingly bad, just that it smells like too many other things on the market, and I expected something a bit more interesting and unusual. I do wonder how it is selling!

    • Jess36 says:

      What else does it smell like? I want to buy them all!!

  29. Anonymous says:

    I don't know about the teens in United States, but here in Sweden most junior high girls are obsessed with CK IN2U Her, but that is probably because none of us are that experienced when it comes to perfumes as you said in your review, and I doubt there's any Sephora here. (Unless you live in the capital, but I live in one of the biggest cities in Sweden by population, but we haven't got one here anyway.)

    But despite the fact that the scent is nothing special (which even I can tell, even if my nose isn't fully developed since I'm still fourteen, and I'm inexperienced when it comes to perfumes), it is rather pleasant. I don't get why everybody I know is so infatuated with it, though – maybe because it's Calvin Klein or something, people seem to think that just because it's a more famous brand the perfume is better. Or that it's more glamorous to have an expensive perfume.

    The name doesn't bother me that much, actually — maybe because a lot of people use chatspeak anyway. But the name could've been better.

    Anyhow, thanks for the great review! =D

  30. Anonymous says:

    I honestly have no idea what junior high girls are wearing here, it might be terribly popular. I agree that it is pleasant — I just expected something a bit more than pleasant after all the massive hype. And thank you for the nice words :-)

  31. Jess36 says:

    I’m 36, so not a teen by any means, and CK In2U is one of my absolute favourite perfumes. I smother myself in the body lotion and spray the perfume all over me and my clothes! I think it’s beautiful!!!

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