For years, the Hamptons have been a hot summer destination for young, up-and-coming New Yorkers and both old and new money. It was a place to see and be seen. Mick Jagger Stories party it spread as a tradition in Montauk, and Andy Warhol once hosted the Rolling Stones on his beach compound. It wasn’t uncommon for young college graduates in town to save up and scrape together to rent a summer house and taste the magic.
In 1999 Conversation to New York Magazine, Jay-Z put it simply: “I think the Hamptons is cool.”
The Hamptons still hold a mythological reputation fueled by famous celebrities that come with square footage, seclusion, and ocean waves. “Kaia Gerber, Ina Garten and Diplo walk into a bar—that means the Hamptons have a certain je ne sais quoi? Where else would these mega names be in the same sentence? said Jacob Rutledge, 22 Model and content creator.
But the Hamptons aren’t what they used to be. Lots of factors—extremely expensive housing costs (high even for the Hamptons), strict rules about how many people can share a home, a crackdown on nightlife, and a pandemic driving more people with kids year-round—combine to make the resort less desirable among everyday 20s and 30s.
Despite his instinct to marvel at a Long Island retreat, Mr. Rutledge, who lives in Ridgewood, Queens, won’t be heading to the Hamptons this summer. Instead, it will be close to Fire Island.
“When you go by boat to Fire Island, there’s a certain air, like a school bus taking these gay people to an amusement park,” Mr. Rutledge said. “The culture Fire Island provides will always be the reason it stays in style. When I’m 50 plus, find me in the Hamptons.”
Even Generation Z’s favorite ’80s icon and star of the latest Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, Martha Stewart got rid of is selling his East Hampton estate in 2021 for $16.5 million.
How the Hamptons Became and The Hamptons?
Hamptons chic has always been cyclical, defined by whoever tried to take control of it—from bohemian cool, upscale art world to glamor and glitterati cool.
Over the decades, new groups of people came to the Hamptons and attempted to adapt, warp and modify the resort to suit their own unique needs and desires. “The continuity in the Hamptons is that really rich people are looking for something new to conquer,” said Corey Dolgon, author of the bookThe end of the Hamptons” and professor of sociology at Stonehill College.
Sometime after Pangea existed, but before Gwyneth Paltrow bought a place there, the Hamptons formed as a region on the southeast end of Long Island, surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean—as is much of the desirable waterfront property.
Before European colonizers arrived in the 1600s, Native Americans, including the Shinnecock and Montauk tribes, occupied much of eastern Long Island. Non-members co-opted indigenous values and culture, enforced a cash economy and established a patriarchal system of governance, Mr Dolgon said. Clashes over land use between newcomers and natives continue to this day. Wealthy residents and local officials protested the construction of the highway by Shinnecock’s people billboards and plans to open a casino to her reservation – both are trying to alleviate the high levels of poverty they face.
Centuries later, another early wave of outsiders – artists and writers – descended on the land. In the late 19th century, Walt Whitman published several works about his fascination with the natural wonder of the Hamptons. In an article in The Brooklyn Standard, he wrote: “To the mineralogist, Montauk Point seems to me to be a perpetual holiday. Even to my unscientific eyes there were innumerable wonders and beauties all along the coast and on the edges of the cliffs.’
Such descriptions “encouraged people – especially Czechs, artistic types and young people with money – to go to this pristine country,” Mr Dolgon said.
The migration of artists then began to attract the wealthy to build summer cottages there, Mr. Dolgon said.
In the post-World War II era, the Hamptons attracted a new group of artists. With a loan from Peggy Guggenheim, in 1945 Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock bought a house in the village of Springs in East Hampton for $5,000.
The postwar economic boom, along with city planner Robert Moses’ construction of highways along Long Island, allowed people of means to come out to the Hamptons more often and for shorter periods, Mr. Dolgon pointed out.
The Hamptons’ reputation as a weekend retreat and summer vacation spot continued to grow, and in the 1990s and 2000s, “everyone wants a piece of the Hamptons,” Mr. Dolgon said. The dot-com boom and the rise of working from home led to “a new wave of money trying to put its imprimatur on the ground.”
This is when the Hamptons become fashionable in an aspirational sense, and college graduates would save up to rent summer houses together. “The people who come and go,” Mr. Dolgon said, “have to have a place in the Hamptons.”
In 1998, Diddy hosted the first of his strictly all-white dress-code parties at his East Hampton home, which Paris Hilton he called “iconic.” The next year, Ivana Trump and Busta Rhymes sat together at Jay-Z’s Fourth of July soiree. One tabloid story that epitomized the craze at the time was about Lizzie Grubman, a columnist who New York Magazine crowned the “reigning queen of New York nightlife”. In 2001, after a brawl with a bouncer outside a club in Southampton, Ms Grubman backed her Mercedes into a crowd of partygoers. It would become known as the “Summer Lizzie.”
So what happened?
Now it’s more likely to be a sleepy summer.
Last summer, when Ms. Paltrow’s daughter, Apple Martin, struck at their Amagansett estate, police supposedly turn it off. But Ms. Paltrow Pajama Party sponsored by Cartierwhere “bedtime milk” was handed out as a party favor didn’t ruffle any feathers.
Decades ago, cities began to enact rules to regulate amusements. In 1975, East Hampton passed legislation which prohibited groups of more than four unrelated people from living together in houses. Southampton has restrictions specifically on the number of people who can occupy the rooms.
For a while, many looked the other way as friends, lovers, and strangers split the cost of a summer home in more than a dozen ways—sharing rooms, mattresses, and more. In the episode “Sex and the City,” Samantha Jones tells her friends about her 25-year-old assistant who “lived in Bridgehampton for the summer with 18 other girls. He has to sleep in shifts.”
Such a setup would be difficult to achieve today as residents have begun to demand stricter enforcement of long-standing laws. “A long tradition of dozens of youngsters cramming into a Hamptons home for a summer of wild abandon is under attack,” The Times reported in 2003, after several police raids, neighbors were spying on each other and Southampton introduced tougher penalties for violators.
In a fight reminiscent of “Footloose”, even dancing can be punished.
Dating back to the 1920s, Shagwong Tavern is a no-frills traditional restaurant and bar in Montauk that was a favorite haunt of John Lennon, Bianca Jagger and Andy Warhol. The Rolling Stones’ “Get Off of My Cloud” blasted from the jukebox and people shook their sides into the AM
There is currently a sign on the front that says “piano player wanted must have knowledge of clam opening”. All walks of life knew they could connect there through music.
“It’s for everybody — a fisherman, a Wall Street guy, a celebrity, a contractor,” said Jon Krasner, who bought the pub in 2015.
Last year, the building inspector ruled that moving furniture for dancing meant that Shagwong was illegally operating as a nightclub, a special permitted use in the region.
“We’re not going to make money by being the best filet mignon place in town.” We are a bar,” Mr. Krasner said. “If people want to listen to a band and dance, then hell yeah, that’s what a bar is for.”
Rumors of ‘Fancy People’
But who are the Hamptons for?
It goes without saying these days that enjoying the Hamptons costs money. During the pandemic, many New Yorkers moved to the Hamptons full-time and the region’s DNA changed—more businesses stayed open year-round and school enrollments increased. East Hampton’s population grew by more than 30 percent from April 2010 to April 2021, according to census data.
Prices went even higher. For the first quarter of 2023, the average sales price of a home reached a record $3.08 million, reports Douglas Elliman. Rentals aren’t cheap either. “For a relatively updated three-bedroom house with a pool, you’re looking at $1,000 a night,” said Joseph Van Asco, a broker. “The high end starts around $100,000 a month.
“Housing is probably the main reason why the 20s and 30s are kind of pulling out of the Hamptons,” said Britton Bistrian of Amagansett. consultant. “A shared home, in the 1980s and 1990s and even into the 20th century, was something that was attainable for a young professional. And I’d say it’s not anymore. They were valued just like working class people.’
Demand is falling. It’s over news that summer rental prices are falling because there are more houses in the region than people willing to rent them. But that may not be enough to draw trendy youngsters back.
The Hamptons represent conspicuous wealth that is not as celebrated as it might have been in the 1990s and 2000s. The media we consume is largely driven by rich storylines – such as “The Triangle of Sorrow”, “The Menu” and “The White Lotus”. So perhaps it’s not unexpected that young people have little interest in adapting to the Hamptons lifestyle.
“I think of the Hamptons as a vacation spot for a certain subset of affluent New Yorkers who probably use the word ‘summer’ more as a verb than a noun,” he said. Jade Song26-year-old art director and author of “Chlorine: A Novel.” She won’t be leaving New York this summer, but she’ll still get her beach fix — “I’ll be eating vareniki, lagman and khachapuri on Brighton Beach,” Ms. Song said.
Sunny Hostin, 54, co-host of ABC’s “The View” and author, also used to feel the same way. When she was 20 years old, Mrs. Hostin “heard rumors about this place where posh people went.”
Even though she was intrigued, Mrs. Hostinová was not in a hurry to visit at first. “From my perspective, it didn’t have a reputation as a haven for people of color,” she said. “When I got invited, because it was this glitzy, rich, rich place, I wasn’t really drawn to it at first because I didn’t know if it was the right fit for me.”
But her opinion changed in her 30s when she discovered a historically black beach community known as SANS in the port of Sag. She started renting a house there during the summer months and it quickly became a tradition. “I have memories of clams digging in the bay looking for crabs with their babies,” she said. “Now I have a real history there.
Inspired by these experiences, Mrs. Hostinová wrote “Summer in the port of Sag”, set in SANS. He hopes it will help change young people’s minds about the Hamptons. “I can’t believe I felt that way,” Ms. Hostin said. “They need to visit as soon as possible, even if it’s just for a day – one day is all you need to know you belong there.”