National Geographic : 2004 Feb
GREENWICH, CONNECTICUT Best & Co.'s owner and chief designer is Susie Hilfiger, whose ex-husband, Tommy, has made a fortune outfitting hip-hop kids, the spiritual opposite of this starched primness. Concern with appearance, contrived or not, fits with the town's reputation as exclusionary. It's an image that wearies and chagrins some residents. One woman asks if I'm going to write "the usual slam," while another leaves a message, hoping I won't be too "sarcastic." People feel duty bound to drive me through Chickahominy, one of the town's working-class neigh borhoods. They point out the renovation of a charming old redbrick building for the Boys & Girls Club for underprivi leged youth-a project entirely funded by private donations. "There is ego here, but almost no arrogance," says Diane Terry, a 15-year resident and mother of three who runs an adventure-travel business. Her nuanced distinction is worth understanding. One needs at least a modicum of ego to make upwards of a million dollars a year-which many residents do-while arrogance would be woefully out of place in a town where there is always someone with a good deal more, and a good deal older, money. That Old Money dominance has shifted, however. Dozens of investment firms have been established in Greenwich, making it a hedge fund capital rivaling Manhattan. More people commute into town than out of it, and only 28 percent of today's residents were even born in Connecticut. Parsing the Old Money-New Money distinction is ultimately futile. Yet more than one person makes a concerted effort to apologize for the arriviste "McMansions" springing up everywhere. The rap on these newer houses is that they are too opulent, striving vulgarly for Old World legit imacy. But to an outsider they seem indistinguishable from the more established manses. A gray-shingled colossus on the water built with tele communications money seems no larger and no gaudier than, say, the century-old blinding white replica of the Petit Trianon palace of Versailles. Susanna Barron and Fanny DeCoster (above) assess their lemonade stand's liquid assets in the Milbrook neighbor hood. "It was a beautiful day, and everyone was out on the street:'," says Susanna's mother, Eve, a former New Yorker. Those streets offer safe haven: Milbrook has a private security force. Lacrosse fan Lillian Geronimos (left, seated) also left the Big Apple. "It was too hard to raise kids in the city."