On a recent Basenotes.net thread, a question was asked about “discreet” scents:
The title was simply “Discreet/subtle modern.” As one might expect, there were some rather questionable recommendations, such as Eau Sauvage, which is not only non-subtle, but it’s certainly not “modern.” One person even suggested Pi, which is about as far from discreet as one can get! I mentioned this, which seemed to offend him, and then I pointed out that if you are going to make such a suggestion you might want to ask yourself how that scent would fare if the opposite question were to be asked. In this case, Pi would likely be suggested by many if the question involved the loudest scents that are widely available!
But the point I tried to make to the OP (and anyone who hadn’t thought of it previously) is that if you are like most people, and have a limited budget, then you might want to spend very little on a discreet scent that is “modern.” I mentioned the $4 bottle of Cuba’s Silver/Blue (100 ml) I purchased recently. It reminds me a bit of Allure Homme Sport, but simpler and more subtle, though of course one could spray more to achieve the desired effect (a major advantage of “super cheapos,” again, if you are on any kind of budget). Someone took issue with my comment, at one point saying:
You’re not really asking why somebody would buy something nice for himself, are you? Yikes.
I guess some people see ‘discreet’ as being a bad thing. Not me. Not at all.
I never said it was “bad” to spend $80 or more on a scent that one likes, just that it might cause problems if another scent subsequently was desired but the budget had been “broken” on that discreet scent! As most others might, I can go on a spending spree whenever I like, at least until the credit card is declined, but is that the standard for all such recommendation threads? It sounds ridiculous to me, and what this person did was to set up a “straw man” argument, but he only made himself look desperate, for those who still respect logic to a large degree. After all, if I could get a Lutens type scent at the dollar store, you can bet I’d stock up on them. I wouldn’t say to myself, “I should buy something nice for myself, and there’s nothing nice at the dollar store.” These are just smells. You can either get what you want for let’s say $10 or less or you can’t. If you can but you don’t you are wasting your money – at least admit it, for goodness sake!
My favorite approach lately to this “discreet scent” idea is to spray the back of my jacket with a scent that I think will be interpreted as “nice” by most people while I spray what I want to smell on my chest (when I go out in public), because to me the issue is the scent, not the strength. One can always do things like spray into the air and walk through the mist to substantially lessen the strength – why not just wear what you want? Just figure out how to make it subtle? This brings me back to the Pi suggestion. The person later claimed that one could simply wear Pi discreetly, which is true, but it’s not what the OP asked. By contrast, my argument is that if one can barely smell a scent, why not spend very little on a “super cheapo” that gets the job done? I can’t imagine that a subtle citrus/vanilla-dominant scent that is barely detectable is going to smell that much “better” if Lutens rather than Cuba released it (assuming Lutens would release such a scent)! If it’s a tobacco-dominant scent, then by definition it would have to be quite subtle or else it would not be “discreet,” and again, Cuba has several scents that would function quite well in this context.
If one encounters an expensive, discreet scent that smells unique (and pleasant) then I think most of us would spray more, because we would not want to barely be able to spray it on rare occasion throughout the day. Thus, it would no longer be “discreet!” On the other hand, there are plenty of gourmand, oriental, etc. niche scents that people say are too weak, but it seems clear that the OP was seeking something like Prada’s Amber Pour Homme rather than something like Muscs Koublai Khan, and I’d guess this is the “modern” part of the request. But this brings up another point I have made in the past, which is that if you want to ask for suggestions you should tell people what your experiences are – this person only mentioned two scents, and the obvious question is, if you found two that work for you, why not just wear those? The OP’s question was actually:
What’s your preference in this area?
But everyone seems to have taken his post to mean what would they recommend to the OP. For me, the suggestion would be the same. In any case, I think there is often “subtext” to these kinds of threads, something along the lines of, “what do the people who really know great fragrances reach for when they are thinking they should smell modern but discreet?” They don’t seem to want to know that there are really cheap alternatives, because when smells are really light not much is going to be detected – a musky vanilla is common, for example. You don’t need to spend $400 per 50 ml bottle for that effect! However, I do think there are more than a few people who do believe that there is a major difference between this and that very light scent of the same genre, as they may have been convinced by the marketing. Nobody wants to admit this, though, and I’d guess that in most cases, once you have “bought the hype” it’s psychologically difficult to say to yourself, “you know, this Cuba scent would serve the same purpose and nobody’s going to be able to tell the difference, if they smell it at all.” In many ways, life can be a constant struggle against self-deception. For others, though, there is a preference to live in that happy land of nonsense businesses market to us all the time. For those who have plenty of money, this may be less of an issue, but for those who don’t things can get bad in a hurry!