NEWS THIS WEEK that an exclusive private club in NYC is cracking down on uncool members is the stuff that should send shivers down the spine of anyone who’s ever contemplated themselves in the mirror, liked what they’ve seen and winked.
Multiple sources told Page Six that the ritzy Casa Cipriani in Lower Manhattan is “actively purging” some members. “No one is safe. Members are not being renewed, and people are getting emails that membership is now inactive.”
The gossip site had previously reported that Casa Cipriani was looking to change its mix of clientele. “They’re looking for a cooler clientele, like art world people… more high-profile.”
This preference for ‘classier’ clientele comes after reports of ‘trashy’ behaviour at the club, which has been filled with “mob types and young girls who are practically naked running around”. Yikes.
A rep for the club denied that any ‘purging’ was taking place. “Sounds like someone who is upset they can’t get in, since the reality is that we have had more and more interest from the art and entertainment worlds.”
To be honest the story does sound like a beat-up and could well be fuelled by disgruntled ex-members—having your membership revoked for not being cool or classy enough is a kick in the guts and potentially devastating to your carefully curated self-image, after all.
But while many of the club’s clothing rules could be classed as par for the course for private clubs—no dirty shoes or sneakers with more than two ‘non-neutral colours’, no ripped denim, flip-flops, ‘casual’ sandals, T-shirts or polo shirts worn without a jacket and no beanies and baseball hats–if you read between the lines, much of this could be code for preppy and potentially WASPY, or just an attempt to keep Floyd Mayweather and his entourage out.
The club’s idea of appropriate attire is clothing that fits with the “refined elegance of the Beaux-Arts period”—a stipulation that would have been difficult to compose with a straight face. The club also allows berets and fedora hats—again, a smirk-inducing directive—but one that aligns with the club’s purported desire to attract more people from the arts and entertainment industries.
It’s worth noting that annual memberships for the club start at $2,500 for the year with a $1,000 signing on fee and stretch up to $5,000 a year for access to the Cipriani in New York, its sister location in Milan and all future clubs. In the rarefied air of exclusive clubs (see below), this doesn’t seem overly steep, which could be at the core of the club’s current identity crisis. It wants to be exclusive but is still within reach of the aspirational set.
That perhaps explains the pivot toward a more artistic, sophisticated clientele. These days you can’t explicitly ban certain types of people. Jacking up fees also doesn’t keep out cashed-up bogans or their American equivalents. But making coolness a prerequisite for membership through the prism of art, while obviously pretentious, is possibly a canny move. Read generously, it could be a way of keeping influencers out—which would explain the ban on members taking photos and video or talking on cell phones past 6pm.
The club’s policies beg the question of what is cool, anyway. Trying to answer that is, of course, a fool’s errand—yes, I’m the fool. Coolness is an elusive shapeshifting, tail-chasing riddle: if you have to ask, you’re definitely not cool—I was under no illusions. Yet, despite the absence of a universally trusted arbiter, we all know it when we see it. Attempting to look at it through an objective lens, an admittedly earnest endeavour (that’s therefore uncool), I do believe coolness is not aspirational, isn’t something you can pursue and shouldn’t involve too much grift or perspiration; it’s either innate or effortless. For some reason Usher keeps popping into my head.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that a place for beret-wearing, possibly pencil-moustache sporting, blazer and pure white sneaker types discussing 19th century French architecture probably isn’t a particularly cool club to be a member of. Exclusivity doesn’t necessarily equal cool, either, though perhaps it gives you a fighting chance—as you can probably imagine, I’ve been itching to drop Groucho Marx’s quote about club membership in here this entire article. So here it is: “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member”. Casa Cipriani wouldn’t accept me, of course—alas, dirty multicoloured sneakers would be my downfall—but I have a feeling they would accept Groucho.
The most exclusive private members’ clubs on the planet
A global hotel chain and group of private members’ clubs originally aimed at those in the arts and media, but more recently expanded to include those with a ‘creative soul’. The original location is at 40 Greek Street, Soho, London. Annual membership is $2,250.
R360 Club – USA
A networking organisation for one-percenters. Members are only considered if they have a net worth over $100 million with membership reserved for 500 people from the United States, and 500 people from the rest of the world. Richard Branson is a member. A three-year family membership costs $180,000 USD.
The 1930 Club – Milan
This is a private members’ speakeasy—you enter through a hidden door at the back of another bar. You need to know the password and once inside there will only ever be 34 other members. You also need your membership card, reportedly only visible under ultraviolet light—very John Wick-Continental vibes. Rumour has it there’s no joining fee, but getting that membership card is basically impossible, which is,
of course, priceless.
CORE – NYC
Launched in the early aughts, Core is intended to be somewhere “for today’s mavericks and mavens to do their boldest thinking, deepest discovery, and freest play”. A one-off initiation fee will set you back $50,000 and $17,000 annually thereafter.
5 Hertford Street – London
This is situated behind an unmarked maroon door just off Shepherd Market in Mayfair—yes, from Monopoly, didn’t know you were sitting on a private club, did you, son. Owned by businessman Robin Birley, the club dates back to 2012, and everyone from Harry and Meghan to George and Amal have been known to drop in. Annual membership starts at around $3,500, a relative steal.
Yellowstone Club – Montana
Claiming to be ‘the world’s only private ski, golf and adventure community’, with the tagline ‘private powder’, it’s directly connected to Big Sky’s ski slopes. There’s a $400,000 sign-up payment and annual fee of $41,500. The catch is you’ll have to purchase a house in the area to be eligible for membership; which typically go from between $2-$25 million. May as well.