Heading to the East End anytime soon? If so, are you excited? Or intimidated? Or perhaps a bit of both? People speak of the iconic summer playground of the New York elite – “the Hamptons” – as if it were one destination with one vibe. But dear reader, that’s just not so.
We here at Dandelion Chandelier have studied the denizens of the Hamptons over the course of many summers – oftentimes over a glass of rosé – and we have learned that in fact, there are at least seven distinct tribes to be found there. While their paths may occasionally cross at a cocktail party or a fundraiser, you won’t otherwise find a great deal of social intermingling across tribal lines. Sort of like New York City.
So with heartfelt apologies to anyone we left out, and with the aim of arming you with everything you need to know to blend in with the natives like a seasoned pro, here’s our annotated list of the seven tribes of the Hamptons:
1. The Black Elite. Natural habitat: Sag Harbor, especially the neighborhoods of Sag Harbor Hills, Ninevah, and Azurest; increasingly seen in East Hampton Village. CEOs, financiers, surgeons, publishers, philanthropists, attorneys, and other assorted Ivy League graduates and their broods bond over sailing, tennis and hanging at the beach. If you feel at home in Harlem, New Rochelle, Montclair, View Park, or Hyde Park/Kenwood, this is your tribe. If you visit, be sure to bring: your golf clubs, seersucker shorts, Fieldston sweatshirt, and a photo of you with the Obamas.
2. The Southampton Chic. Natural habitat: either a fantastic house tucked well away from public view with a pool and a tennis court, or a sensational ocean-view estate so large that you can see it from the International Space Station. Favorite activities include shopping on Main Street and Jobs Lane; tooling around in a luxury convertible (extra points if it’s vintage); hosting and attending dinner parties in nearby homes. If you love Madison Avenue above 63rd Street, Worth Avenue, Scarsdale or Beverly Hills, this is your tribe. If you visit, be sure to bring: a lovely hostess gift and your Aston Martin.
3. The Montauk Cool-Cats. Natural habit: catching a wave. At the farthest end of the South Fork of Long Island, you’ll find a bohemian vibe that revolves around sun, surf and sand. If you’re looking for a great tattoo parlor, this is your place. Favorite activities: fishing, beachcombing, kayaking and surfing; photography, seal watching, and hanging at the pub telling fish tales. If you like Malibu, San Diego, Huntington Beach, or Waikiki, this is your tribe. If you visit, be sure to bring: your Ray Ban Wayfarers and an ample supply of craft beer for the boat.
4. The Amagansett Avant-Garde. Natural habitat: Strolling through a chic small art gallery or antique store – perhaps with a glass of rosé in hand. Many of our friends in the creative class and the fashion world have second homes in Amagansett. The parcels of land are large and less manicured, and it’s a great place to build a contemporary dream home from scratch. Some of our pals find clever ways to start the weekend on Thursday night in order to beat the Friday traffic, including scheduling “store checks” on Friday morning in the various Hamptons locations that sell their brands. If you feel most at home in the Meatpacking District, Chelsea, SoHo, or Brooklyn (especially Greenpoint, Williamsburg, DUMBO or Brooklyn Heights), then this is your tribe. If you visit, be sure to bring: plenty of good gossip.
5. The Quogue-for-Convenience Crowd. Natural habitat: On a laptop or mobile device while sitting beside the pool. People who opt for a house in Quogue will always – within 30 seconds or so – tell you that the reason they’re there is because “we don’t want to deal with the Hamptons traffic.” They’re willing to sacrifice a bit of charm for the security of knowing that they won’t be sitting on Route 27 for interminable periods of time every weekend. Think Wall Street types, attorneys at big law firms, and management consultants – busy professionals with limited leisure time. If you like Edgewater, Midtown or walking to work, this is your tribe. If you visit, be sure to bring: a big scoop of patience if you decide to go anywhere else in the Hamptons while you’re staying there; it will take forever.
6. The Sag Harbor Cultural Cognoscenti. Natural habitat: Reading in a comfy chair or attending a friend’s book signing. Journalists, writers, artists, editors, creative directors and those who love them often migrate here. Lures include the chill vibe, the cultural offerings, the quaint Main Street, and the spectacular sunset views across the harbor. If you like the Berkshires, the West Village or Palm Springs, this is your tribe. If you visit, be sure to bring: flip-flops, faded jeans, and your latest manuscript.
7. The East Hampton Village Elite. Natural habitat: The Maidstone Club. They’re the original Village People – and they’re much better than you and me. When most people dream of the Hamptons, it’s East Hampton that they’re imagining: spectacular Victorians, clapboards and Colonials that have been in the family for generations; pristine uncrowned beaches; hushed streets traversed mostly by gardeners; gravel driveways and pristine green lawns; dense hedgerows and ancient trees; European luxury convertibles everywhere; and a distinct sense of privilege and exclusivity. If you feel most at home on the Upper East Side, or in Bronxville, Nantucket, or Greenwich, this is your tribe. If you visit, be sure to bring: an expensive logo-free suitcase full of understated designer clothing; a nice bottle of Highland Single Malt Scotch would not be unwelcome.
The good news? There are plenty of summer days left. The even better news? The joy of the Hamptons is that as a visitor, you can delve into the milieu of your choice, have a fantastic time, and then return to your real life. The place can mess with your head if you let it (for example, you could be overcome by extreme real estate envy), so don’t succumb. At the end of the day, it’s what you make of it. So make it your own.