In the grand city of London, it is said one can always rely upon the weather to be unreliable. In the morning it may be beaming with sunshine, but come lunchtime and the dark clouds cast gloom over ones head. Likewise, a soggy morning can lead one to don raincoat, stout shoes and perhaps even a daring sou’wester and yet one may feel ridiculous in the afternoon glow as the clouds drift away.
Quite unsurprisingly, London offers a massive range of umbrellas for the man about town. You can find them everywhere, and they are carried by everyone from barrow boy to baron. And when Londoners hide beneath their many thousands of black canopies, the sturdiest and most handsome umbrellas will offer the owner most comfort.
The gentleman’s umbrella is something that has been little altered over time. The design is simple, sturdy and practical and nothing has replaced it in terms of strength or style. Compact umbrellas may be smaller to fit into bags, but after the brolly becomes wet, this convenience seems to become irrelevant as many have no wish to squeeze soaking nylon into a work bag. The crook handle umbrella is an elegant accessory for men. Since the elegant days of the past, when men of stature and wealth carried with them wooden canes often with silver or gold cappings, nothing has finished off a gentleman’s outfit in that most refined way except a well-made umbrella.
James Smith & Sons have been manufacturing umbrellas of the highest standard since 1830. They are sleek, thin and sturdy for the winds one might battle against along city streets. Built to the lasting standards of the past rather than the disposable standards of the present, they are available in a number of handle options for the gentleman who wishes to express a little personality. They are comparatively expensive, but they will give the user more satisfaction, and due to the stylish construction, will never let him down in the sartorial accessory stakes. I think the most striking handle is the “whangee” or bamboo handle.
Another famous manufacturer of umbrellas, established in 1750, with HRH the Prince of Wales among their customers, is Swaine Adeney & Brigg. Their umbrellas are also smart, sleek and are available in a range of handles and finishes. And like James Smith umbrellas, the unruly canopy is kept smartly inline when not in use by a thin elasticized material. Cheaper versions of city umbrellas are often made with a piece of Velcro attached to a non-elasticised band, which wraps around only once and unfortunately, does not keep all of the canopy tight to the shaft of the umbrella, thus producing a rather untidy silhouette. Brigg manufacture with extraordinary attention to detail and although they are even more expensive than James Smith, are considered the Rolls-Royce of umbrellas. I like the solid oak handle umbrella and the Malacca silver capped Prince of Wales version (used by HRH). For real individualism, one might choose a dark grey, navy or dark green canopy.