Ever sputtered expletives at an inside-out umbrella? Cursed its crappiness as it lay torn asunder, metal spines poking out like a dislocated elbow, after what what was more a light breeze than a howling gale blows through? Actually asked the umbrella – in your temporarily psychologically unsound state – why it can’t get it the f**k together? Sure you have, we’ve all been there.
The answer is it cost a fiver from the local newsagents and, we hate to break it to you, son, but you get what you pay for.
To put an end to this misery, we’ve asked the experts for their top tips on finding the right umbrella for you. And while it might not sound like the sexiest of topics, unless you want to spend the next six months trudging through sheets of rain, new shoes ruined forever and dignity drowning in a puddle of self-pity (you get the gist), it might be time to read on.
First things first; consider what sort of brolly you’re in the market for. “The main [purchasing] decisions are whether you want a walking length or folding umbrella, automatic or manual opening mechanism, and the size of the open canopy,” says Nigel Fulton, chief executive of Fulton Umbrellas. “The rest then comes down to personal aesthetic preferences such as fabric design, crook or straight handles, and handle material and finishes.”
Whatever you do, steer clear of cheap lightweight folding umbrellas, whether steel or aluminium. You know, the ones that cost about the same as your lunch. Probably on sale where you bought your lunch. “They tend to be made from lower quality frame and fabric materials, and have very little wind resistance and durability,” says Fulton. Avoid.
All About The Frame
If you’re after a portable option that won’t self-implode within 10 seconds of exposure to the elements, there are a few things to bear in mind – including, according to Fulton, the number of ‘sections’ in the umbrella’s frame (which basically means how many times the shaft and ribs fold down when the umbrella is closed).
Aluminium frames are 40 per cent lighter than steel so they make for a good lightweight option, but they’re also more fragile.
Flexibility is key for wind resistance, so opt for brollies with fibreglass ribs (rather than U-shaped ones) for a stronger frame that’s less likely to blow inside out, says Christine Naysmith, director at Brollies Galore. “These allow the umbrella to flex with the wind and will put an end to the days of misshapen umbrella canopies, where the ribs have bent and can never be reshaped without completely snapping them in two.”
Fibreglass and carbon-fibre golf umbrellas are ideal if you’re likely to be out in a storm – because getting struck by lightning is not, and never will be, the one.
Design & Colour
Practical they may be, but the humble umbrella can be a stylish accessory too, provided you pick the right one. That’s to say that even though you might be an ardent fan of pink tartan, some patterns and colours work better as a pocket square than a swathe of material hovering above your head.
Instead, opt for a classic style and neutral colour. That doesn’t mean it has to be boring – pagoda-shaped, square-shaped and check-patterned umbrellas are all in, and the dome is going nowhere either. Just don’t go overboard.
Nylon is commonly used for the canopy – the actual material that stops you getting wet – but Naysmith recommends opting for a polyester pongee fabric for increased strength and water resistance.
And while the vented canopy – designed to let the wind pass through while shielding off the rain – is a popular choice, a single canopy can actually be stronger, she says. So keep things simple and stick with the latter.
There are a few tricks for checking a canopy’s sturdiness, too – like flicking it with your fingers when it’s opened out, shining a bright light on it to ensure there are no defects and checking to see it doesn’t lie too loosely on the ribs intended to secure it in place.
There are several different types of shaft: tube shafts, usually made from steel, are hollow, which means it’s more lightweight but less sturdy. There’s also the ‘solid stick’, made from one long chunk of wood for greater strength but less flexibility, and then the fit-up, somewhere between the two.
Try out different lengths to get one that suits your height, or if you’re feeling flash, choose a brolly shop where they’ll tailor-make it to your size – like Lockwood Umbrellas.
Fulton Shoreditch Window Pane Check Umbrella
The stylish print on this brolly by Fulton is eye-catching without being OTT, and flexible fibreglass ribs mean it’s strong without being too heavy.
Available at Fulton, priced £30.
Hunter Unisex Field Compact Manual Umbrella
Want something less dandy? Try this solid option from wet-weather ware specialists Hunter Boots – simple yet effective.
Available at Hunter, priced £32.
Aspinal Of London Compact Automatic Umbrella
For a portable option that’ll stand the test of time, this burgundy brolly, handmade in Italy, might be just your ticket.
Available at Aspinal Of London, priced £150.
London Undercover City Gent Bamboo-Handle Umbrella
The umbrella equivalent of a pair of handmade brogues, this versatile style from London Undercover is handcrafted in England from bamboo and beechwood.
Available at Mr Porter, priced £125.