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A Gentleman’s Guide To: Umbrellas

The very first incarnation of the umbrella was the parasol. It was designed to shade the user from the sun rather than keep the rain off their heads. The parasol dates back to numerous ancient civilisations in which it was employed by slaves and servants in order to shade the heads of kings and other members of the ruling class.

Now, despite this tie to masculine royal power, over the centuries the parasol and the umbrella would come to be mostly associated almost entirely with women, who use these handheld canopies to temper the heat, keep the sun off their skin and prevent rain from ruining their hair, clothes and makeup.

When looking for a proper gentleman's umbrella, check these several factors before making your purchase.

Canopy: The canopy is obviously the most important and central part of an umbrella. If it’s not watertight and well made then, to be honest, it serves no purpose. Check to be sure that the canopy does not sit loosely on the ribs of the umbrella. Open and check the segments and test for tautness, then hold the umbrella open up to the light to look for any really obvious defects.

Frame: A quality frame is made to stand up to the wind without collapsing. Aluminium frames are cheap and light but if faces with a strong wind will just crumble and become useless. Ideally look for a nickel, fibreglass or tempered spring steel in order to avoid this in the future.

Rivets: Rivets are used where the ribs connect and bend. Hollow rivets that you are able to see through are subpar. A solid rivet ensures that your umbrella will last for many years and many rain showers.

Shaft: The shaft is really only an issue on the more full sized umbrellas (not the compact/telescoping variety)

It’s important to get the right length of umbrella for your height so that it's far more comfortable to carry around and use. Higher end umbrella stores will have you experiment with a walking stick in order to find the very best length for you. They then will saw a chunk off the shaft of the umbrella you have selected to get the height just right.

It’s also important to keep in mind that the shaft will come in various builds.

Solid Stick (1 Piece): A solid stick umbrella is made just like the name suggests-of one continuous piece of wood. Compared to a metal shaft, the solid shaft is a lot heavier and thicker and you won't be able to furl up the canopy as tightly. But the solid stick is a lot more sturdy and allow the gentleman to use his umbrella as an occasional walking stick.

Fit Up (2 Piece): Fit-ups are made of pieces of wood and are much lighter than the solid stick.

Tube: The shaft of the tube umbrella is typically made of steel and as the name does suggest, is hollow. A tube shaft is much lighter and allows the umbrella to be wrapped tighter than the wooden varieties. But it’s also more prone to bending than a more solid stick.

A gentleman's umbrella is commonly black or very dark neutral colours. However, there are fabrics and style choices that will suit any taste. One must, of course, feel the umbrella and consider it not only for its purpose but also how it will impact your style and possibly even heighten your rainy day.

So, while a traditional, well-made umbrella is the most appropriate choice for a gentleman's brolly, sometimes it might be nice to have something with a little flair and sense of fun. Especially that makes you feel like a spy.

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