Umbrellas in the City

Words by: Andrew Watson

Umbrellas, from left to right: black leather crocodile print handle by Fox Umbrellas, £118; stripped cherry handle by Swaine Adeney Brigg, £245; navy with white spots and chocolate leather handle by Drake’s London, £225

The past few weeks have seen a few days of quite heavy rain. They are gloomy in the extreme, and made considerably worse by the insidious use of umbrellas as a kind of evil, eight-spoked pavement clearing tool. If you want to avoid serious retinal damage you need to be on constant lookout for stray umbrella rods at eye level. The only safe option is to join the umbrella brigade yourself. But not just any old umbrella will do – here is my selection of three of the best brolly makers around.

Fox Umbrellas
Fox Umbrellas have been keeping Londoners dry since 1868, and are credited with having made the first nylon-covered umbrella in 1947. I’m particularly taken with the leather crocodile print handle model that’s currently available from their online shop. Would be great with a dark navy or green canopy.

Swaine Adeney Brigg
Swaine Adeney Brigg are perhaps most famous for supplying felt ‘poet’ hats to Harrison Ford for the Indiana Jones films. However, their range of Brigg umbrellas features a sublime collection of wooden-handled beauties that will last you a lifetime. A stripped cherry handle with black canopy is a timeless choice.

Drake’s London
Though better known for their ties and sumptuous cashmere knits, Drake’s accessories range has come on in leaps and bounds over the past few years. Out of the three umbrellas currently available my eye was most taken by the Italian-made one shown above (far right). The chocolate brown leather handle, light wooden stem, and white-on-navy spots canopy make it stand out from the crowd.

Umbrella etiquette

Of course, Men’s Flair readers are far more considerate than your average brolly-wielding pleb, and are well aware that umbrella use on crowded streets demands acute spatial awareness. Try to abide by the following unwritten rules (sadly, you’ll be shocked at the number of people who don’t):

Open with care
Before opening your umbrella check your surroundings. A normal-sized brolly takes up a fair amount of space around you: make sure that nobody is occupying it.

The taller man goes over, the smaller man goes under
Picture the scene: the pavement is narrow. To your left you have a brick wall, to your right a railing that separates the pavement from the road. Coming directly towards you is a rather large, umbrella-using gent. You both have to get past without spoking each other’s eyes out. The solution? The over-under rule: if you are taller than the oncoming pedestrian, raise your umbrella high over their head; if you a smaller, lower and tilt your umbrella to one side.

Don’t stop to close your umbrella
When entering a building you’ll obviously need to close your umbrella, but in busy locations, such as a train station entrance at rush hour, unaware umbrella-closers can cause problems. Stopping to close your umbrella will cause a jam that’s as annoying as getting your rail pass ready right in front of, rather than before, the ticket barriers. Instead, bring your brolly down in front of you and close it as you walk in.

Don’t swing your closed umbrella
If you walk with a closed umbrella don’t hold it down by your side like a machete, especially when ascending a busy flight of stairs. The tip will lurch backwards at every step, and can give those walking behind you a nasty poking.

Don’t leave your umbrella to dry in the middle of the office floor

This one is plain common sense. If you’ve got a hundred people working in an office and they all decide to dry off their umbrellas in the hallway, the place will look like a vast experimental mushroom-growing facility. A good umbrella won’t be permanently buggered by being furled up wet for a few hours. If you want to dry it off, unhook the fastener and hang it somewhere inconspicuous or, better still, wait till you get home and unfurl it in the garage.

Don’t drip water over other people’s feet
A closed umbrella that’s wet is going to drip water for several minutes. Take care not to dangle it over other people’s feet during this time, especially when you’re on a busy train or bus.

Leave the golf umbrella at the golf club
People will hate you with a passion for using a golf umbrella in the city. They’re way too big.