I spent last weekend in the Hamptons. This is not a phrase I have ever said before in my life. I’ve been a Jersey Shore person since I was born. To take someone like me, a guy in his thirties who has experienced basically one type of beach his entire life, and drop them into a place as microcosm rich as the Hamptons…well there was some culture shock.
I should point out that my hosts were amazing and I had a great time over the weekend. When I talk about the people here I’m talking about the overall feel. It’s vibe. It’s denizens. The outliers who manage to define the image of the place in lieu of the larger crowd.
There were an astounding number of guys wearing headbands and linen jackets. At the bar we went to it was honestly like someone had offered a very sought after prize for the person who wore the biggest headband and the most carefully weathered jacket. Mirrored sunglasses were also everywhere, as if Top Gun had just come out in theaters.
And there was a hierarchy. There were guys who exuded headbandedness that had people flocking to them in order to say hello. I was chatting with someone who suddenly caught sight of one of the Kings of the Headbands, and they broke away mid-sentence in order to run after him.
Then again maybe I was being a boring conversationalist.
I was chuckling a lot. It was amazing people-watching and, aside from one or two horribly invasive assholes, it was all just something to look at while my friends and I hung out and drank beers.
But then I got to thinking. It was different, yes. And it seemed more pronounced, this costume of the Hamptons. But was it really that different from my haunt, the Jersey Shore? I mean lets be honest, it’s not like the Jersey Shore is known for its understated clothing and attitude. The shore I grew up visiting is a small family town with an ice cream parlor and a pizza place. Yet that town is on the same island as Seaside Heights, the den of Snooki and The Situation. When I go out to a bar, there are plenty of people wearing clothes that fit into that summer’s fashion nightmare of choice. And, in the end, they tend to be window dressing outside of one or two obtrusive jerks. I just hang out with my friends and people watch and have fun.
Are people everywhere just people?
I do think the Hamptons feel is more prominent, and I honestly think that is due to the geographic isolation of the area. It’s a hike to get out there and, while still more built up than many places in the middle of the country, it has a rural feel. I imagine this has a lot to do with the wealth of the area and the ability of people to be able to hold large pieces of land intact instead of parceling them out. And if some old-time family does have to sell, there is no lack of buyers willing to part with absurd amounts of money for a house in the Hamptons. Plus, unlike the Jersey shore, the landscape is largely wooded. The house I stayed at could have been anywhere in the country, the only difference being that it was a short drive to towns where everything was horribly overpriced and headbands were sold as fashion statements. The dark woods and the high trees creates a seclusion in the Hamptons. It is possible to go there and to forget that the world exists. Or maybe, it is possible to go there and have that small chunk of land become your world.
At the Jersey shore you have a series of barrier islands that run along the coast. You don’t really drive out to a point. They are small and isolated and, again, have grown their own subculture, but you also get Philadelphia influencing things and the entire Northeast Corridor has more access, so I think cultures and norms get shaken up more, as well as more often.
Also in the Hamptons, due perhaps to its foreign nature to me, I was dying to know the origins of some of the fashions. I saw a lot of tennis courts, and I imagine this explains the headbands in some way. But the people I saw had not come fresh from the court to have a drink. They were wearing headbands independent of any activity. They were wearing them to wear them, to have that look that other people had.
I have to wonder if it didn’t evolve naturally. Maybe some guy was running late and he felt his hair was too sweaty and he had nothing but his jacket because he had come from work and so he showed up for a date in a headband and jacket. And someone looked him over and said, “Yes. I think I’ll try that.”
And maybe some guido on the Jersey Shore accidentally fell head first into a tub of hair gel and his locks hardened into concrete and he was in a rush so he just went to the bar like that after a steroid induced workout. And someone looked him over and said, “Yes. I think I’ll try that.”