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Kenneth Cole Reaction Cologne Review: Vibrant Summertime

Kenneth Cole is a designer who launched his company, Kenneth Cole Productions in 1982. He used a guerilla-style marketing technique to launch a line of Kenneth Cole Shoes, while simultaneously creating a film called “The Birth of a Shoe Company.” Since then, Kenneth Cole Productions has added a line of clothing, luggage, accessories, colognes, and perfumes to its catalog.

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One of the more popular men’s colognes in the line is Kenneth Cole Reaction for Men. Its arrival in 2004 came on the heels of Kenneth Cole Black for Men. This 1-2 punch made Kenneth Cole’s line of fragrances an essential part of any cologne collection. But is Kenneth Cole Reaction the right one for you?

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Snapshot of Kenneth Cole Reaction 

PROSCONS
Bright and invigorating on the initial sprayDoesn’t last long
Works best for humid and high-heat Won’t project in cooler weather
A masculine fruity fragranceInitial fresh notes become synthetic
Pleasant and inoffensiveDoesn’t always attract compliments due to its light projection
Clean and enjoyable It can come off a bit basic and adolescent
  • Fragrance Type: Fruity Aromatic
  • Scent Potency / Appropriate For: Light / Best for high heat, summer, casual wear, hanging with friends, at the beach or gym or after a shower
  • Sillage: Medium at first then light after an hour 
  • Longevity: OK – lasts for one or two hours
  • Price: $

Scent Notes

The main notes in Kenneth Cole Reaction cologne are green apple and watermelon. There is some citrus in the opening, but it’s the green apple that takes center stage. As it moves to the middle notes, the cantaloupe peeks out, but that is likely from the musk and sandalwood notes that appear in the base. 

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The mid shows some patchouli and white florals, but they’re hardly recognizable. Reaction cologne is all about the green apple and watermelon.

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Performance

With Reaction, Kenneth Cole has fashioned an Eau de Toilette (EDT) concentration that wears more like an Eau de Cologne (EDC). So what’s that difference? It’s all about the concentration of fragrance oils. 

The higher the concentration percentage, the more oil there is in the cologne. Higher oil concentration means deeper aromas and greater longevity. EDT’s range from 5-15% fragrance oils, but EDC is usually 2-4%. 

EDC’s often start with a bright refreshing blast, but then disappear quickly and that is what I found with Kenneth Cole Reaction. It’s a quick refreshing blast up front that is fleeting. It’s definitely a cologne that you’ll need to reapply every few hours if you want it to last all day.

After the top notes wore off (an hour or so), the rest of the notes became more of a skin scent.

That said, while not exactly original, it is a light and refreshing crowd-pleaser. Expect lots of compliments.

Who Makes It

Kenneth Cole Reaction is produced under the Kenneth Cole Productions fashion line, under license by Parlux Ltd – which is also the company behind Vince Camuto, Tommy Bahama and Billie Eilish fragrances.  

Kenneth Cole Reaction for Men came out in 2004. It was one of the earlier creations by German-born / New York based perfumer Frank Voelkl. Reaction cologne was an instant hit and resulted in a bunch of flankers in the collection. 

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The first was Reaction for Her (yes – there is a Reaction for Her, available, so be sure to check the label), which has similar notes to the guy’s version, but it’s a bit more sweet and powdery. 
After the first two, they released Reaction Thermal, Reaction T-Shirt and Connected Kenneth Cole Reaction. At this point, all but the original Reaction for Men and Reaction for Her have been discontinued. The cool thing is that you can still get the body spray version of Reaction, which is a great way to amp up the projection and longevity of the cologne.

Who Would Like It

This is a perfect cologne for a guy who just needs a quick refresh and wants to feel clean and invigorated. I find it leans a bit younger, but older guys will enjoy wearing it. Just don’t expect to make any lasting impressions. 

If I want a quick blast of something bright and uplifting that won’t offend and won’t project too far, then this is an easy choice.

We certainly hope that this Kenneth Cole Reaction cologne review will allow you to see what scent is fit for you!

When to Wear It

Kenneth Cole Reaction is a summertime cologne. There is no doubt about it. The cool light green color and the fresh notes of green apple and watermelon are perfect hot weather notes. It’s even better in the humidity. I got a little more projection when the temps were high and the air was heavy. 

Reaction cologne is also something I’d prefer wearing in the daytime, maybe at a sporting event or coming home from the gym. It’s pretty casual, but I could probably wear it in an office – especially if there are tight cubicles or shared spaces. It’s not going to bother anyone or project too loudly. It’s just a fun, easy-going wear – nothing too serious.

Packaging and Presentation

Kenneth Cole Reaction comes in a sturdy silver box with a light green top that matches the juice color. The bold font is in all caps, reflecting the more modern Kenneth Cole logo, rather than the handwritten free style found in some of their other fragrances. 

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What I really love is how the silver oval cap clicks into place, so I can grab this by the cap without worrying about the bottle crashing to the floor. It’s a really solid bottle with smooth rounded edges that fit perfectly in my hand. It’s just so easy to snag and do a quick spritz.

Personal Impressions

Fresh summer scents are something that I enjoy a lot, but Kenneth Cole Reaction fell a bit short for me. I loved the opening burst of fresh, crisp green apple and the breezy watermelon note, but it just didn’t work on my skin. It faded really quickly and only left a slight synthetic musk note after an hour. 

It was nice for a quick, spontaneous refresh on a hot day, but I couldn’t take this seriously as an all-day scent. It’s just too light. 

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I have pretty dry skin, so using a moisturizer as a base before spraying did help a bit. 

Where I did have some fun was by blending this with some stronger fixative fragrances. Fixatives are fragrance molecules that are used to round out certain fragrances. It makes them more complex and in some cases, adds longevity to the scent. 

Escentric Molecules has a line of fragrances that focus on some of these individual fragrance molecules and using them as a base before spraying Kenneth Cole Reaction improved the longevity and projection of the cologne. 

My favorite was Molecule 01, which made the fruit notes brighter and vivid. Molecule 02 was also great because it adds a note of Ambroxan, which lends a salty, velvety musk to the dry down. 

The thing about Kenneth Cole Reaction is to not take it too seriously. When I threw it on for a fun afternoon drive in a convertible, with the top down and heading to the beach, Reaction Cologne was a perfect companion. A quick spritz after running out to the store on a hot humid day made me feel bright and refreshed again. But, if I’m heading on vacation, to a dinner or party, there are stronger alternatives out there.

Similar Perfumes / Alternatives

If you’re looking to get a similar kind of fruity aromatic cologne that works great in warm weather, you have plenty of affordable alternatives. Right off the bat, Nautica Voyage is a no-brainer. It has a fresh green apple accord with a watery cucumber note. It comes off a tad more green and herbal, but just as fresh with greater longevity. 

Another hot weather favorite of mine is the CK One Summer line. They come out with a new version each year, but they’re all vivid, bright, and refreshing. They’re not powerhouse colognes either, so you won’t get much more longevity than Kenneth Cole Reaction cologne, but they tend to add a unique tea or herbal note that gives them a spicy, zesty kick. 

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CK One Summer Daze is awesome. It uses kumquat in the top notes, which matches the brilliant tart notes in Reflection, with a bit more bite. The most recent one is CK One Reflections. It’s cool and sparkling with a unique ice accord. 


Boss Bottled has long been a go-to cologne that uses a delicious apple note. The super popular original from 1998 works best in cooler weather, but they have a few flankers that lean fresher and work well in the heat. Try Boss Bottled United for a deeper, more ozonic take on those apple and melon notes.

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Conclusion

Kenneth Cole colognes are known for being dependable, economical fragrances that almost everyone enjoys. Reaction has been a stand-by for a lot of guys over the past few decades for good reason. It’s economical, clean, refreshing, and easy to take along with you. The bottle is sturdy and can knock around in a gym bag, or small messenger bag. It’s a solid quick, pick-me-up fragrance that won’t offend anyone. 

If you’re looking for something more impressive, something that will make a statement, there are better choices. Reaction can be a bit synthetic and youthful, but at this price point it’s worth checking out and gifting to a younger brother, cousin, or nephew if it’s not your thing. 

Related Content: Kenneth Cole Mankind Ultimate Cologne Review, carefully designed to take you from the boardroom to the dinner table!

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Writer

Ron Pitt is a winemaker who developed a passion for fragrance while studying the olfactory relationship between smell and taste. After producing and marketing wines that focus on complex aromatics along with flavor, Ron altered his attention from the tasting room to the perfume lab. In addition to his passion for both wine and fragrance, Ron and his wife have been rescuing beagles for over 20 years.