Fun, friendship, and red hats galore

By Southern Living
Red Hat Society
Credit: bobbieo/Getty Images

You've likely seen groups of ladies eating lunch together, but have you ever seen a group of ladies eating lunch together while wearing red hats? If so, you may have had a sighting of the Red Hat Society. The Red Hat Society (RHS) is billed as an international ladies-only group "created to connect like-minded women, make new friends and enrich lives through the power of fun and friendship." The research is in, and it says that friendship may be an essential ingredient to a long and happy life. So groups like this one, which are filled with opportunities to cultivate connections and build close relationships, may be even more important than we realize.

The purpose of the crimson chapeau group? It's all about friendship and fun. RHS explains, "Membership in the Red Hat Society is a rewarding vehicle for reconnecting old friends, making new friends and rediscovering the joy of getting together with other women for the express purpose of having fun." It brings together women from all walks of life for gatherings big and small. Membership in the society offers access to gatherings, events, and opportunities to make connections and build friendships with other members of the group.

The society got its start in 1997 when founder Sue Ellen Cooper bought a red hat for a friend's birthday: "She gave her friend a red hat of her own, suggesting that she keep it as a reminder to grow older playfully - on her terms. The symbolism behind the red hat had a profound impact on women Sue Ellen encountered. Those women responded by donning their own red hats and […] embracing a renewed outlook on life filled with fun and friendship, fulfilling lifelong dreams."

Twenty years later, the red hats live on. When getting together, society members are encouraged to don red hats and purple accents. Members over the age of 50 wear red hats and purple clothing and are known as "Red Hatters," while those under 50 wear pink hats and lavender clothing and are known as "Pink Hatters." This red-and-purple tradition is immortalized in the Jenny Joseph poem "Warning," which celebrates living life to the fullest while "wear[ing] purple / With a red hat that doesn't go."

RHS says, "Members empower each other to pursue their passions and discover all that life has in store. Members support one another through all of life's challenges and celebrations. The RHS is comprised of women from all walks of life who are committed to joyful living, growing, exploring new interests, having fun and creating new friendships." If this sounds like you, you might want to explore the Red Hat Society chapters in your area—or start one of your own!

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Are you a member of a chapter of the Red Hat Society? What groups do you and your friends enjoy participating in?