Posted by: Admin | October 2, 2010

“Red hat, no drawers…”

That’s what my dad used to say if he ever saw a woman wearing a red hat. He also used to say that women who dye their hair tell lies as if they’re prepared to lie about their hair colour they can’t be trusted. Oh well. I suppose it’s a variation of “fur coat, no knickers”, but not for the women who belong to the Red Hat Society.

Based on the Jenny Joseph poem “Warning”:

“When I am an old woman I shall wear purple

With a red hat that doesn’t go and doesn’t suit me…”

(which was featured in an earlier project50 blog entry), the Society was formed in 1997 by Californian artist, Sue Ellen Cooper. The story goes that Sue Ellen gave a friend a red fedora as a 55th birthday present along with a copy of the poem and inadvertently started the biggest women’s social movement in the world.

“The Red Hat Society began as a result of a few women deciding to greet middle age with verve, humor and elan. We believe silliness is the comedy relief of life, and since we are all in it together, we might as well join red-gloved hands and go for the gusto together. Underneath the frivolity, we share a bond of affection, forged by common life experiences and a genuine enthusiasm for wherever life takes us next.” – Sue Ellen Cooper, Queen Mother.

The Founding Chapter of the Red Hat Society (with Sue Ellen Cooper bottom right) Taken from the Red Hat Society website

What began as a group of friends meeting for lunch in purple outfits and red hats has now grown into a community with over 50,000 registered members belonging to almost 24,000 chapters across the United States and in 25 other countries, including the UK.  With a mission to “raise the visibility of ageing women everywhere,” The Red Hat Society celebrates sisterhood by encouraging women to bond as they travel through later life together.

Members wear their clashing red and purple with pride and welcome women approaching 50, (who wear pink hats and lavender clothing until the reach 50 – the age of “red-uation”) to their tea parties and events.

It seems like a gentle and genteel organisation at first glance – and why not? Anything that promotes companionship and celebrates life over 50, yet doesn’t take itself too seriously is a breath of fresh air in this youth-obsessed world of ours. Loneliness can be a curse at any age, but it can be particularly acute in the over fifties, especially once retirement and possibly divorce or bereavement looms.

For the Red Hat Society, the red hat has been re-branded and is now a symbol of independence, solidarity and good old fashioned fun. Methinks there should be one in every woman’s wardrobe. 😉


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