Umbrellas: Cheap, Expensive, and Everything In-Between

We’re back in rainy season again, and here in San Francisco, the weather was a bit wet this weekend. That reminded me of how useful it is to own several umbrellas. Not only does that ensure that you’ll always have something if one of your umbrellas breaks or gets lost, but it also allows you to have several options to choose from depending on your mood.

When buying a good umbrella, it’s tempting to get something unique and different, but I’d suggest your first purchase be one with a solid black canopy. These will go with anything, and in some cases – say if you’re wearing a somber suit – it’s the only appropriate choice. After your first good, black umbrella, you can get one with a navy or tan canopy if you’d like something conservative, or go with something dotted, checked, or striped for something more fanciful. 

The upside to decent umbrellas is that they come at almost every price point. Belt Outlet sells some basic black Totes for $15 after you apply the coupon code belt10. Fulton and Gustbuster are a bit more expensive, but remain reasonable affordable. Decent tartans can be bought through Orvis and Brooks Brothers. Those cost about $70, but they often go on sale. Wingtip, for example, has the Barbour version at 30% off with the coupon code TAKEACHANCE.

For a little more money, Howard Yount and Kent Wang sell some handsome single-stick options. Single stick means that the umbrella’s shaft and handle are all made from the same piece of wood. It’s a nice, artisanal touch, I think. (Note, whangees are not single stick because you can’t have the bumpy ridges on the handle go up the shaft for obvious reasons). London Undercover and Passoti are two other good options in this price tier.

Finally, for some of the best umbrellas in the world, you can turn to Swaine Adeney Brigg, James Smith, Fox, Francesco Maglia, Talarico, and Le Veritable Cherbourg. Those are made from better materials, often have single stick constructions, and are just beautiful sights to behold (as shown above). They typically run a few hundred dollars, but sometimes you can find “deals” (relatively speaking). J. Peterman occassionally discounts their Swaine Adeney Briggs, for example, and Grunwald sells Maglias at good prices (actual price is lower at checkout because of VAT discounts). Even on sale, they’re not cheap, but a look at some of those handles is enough to make a man dream. 

(Photos by fk118, Voxsartoria, and me)

Drying Off
It started raining in the Bay Area this weekend. Really turbulent winds and heavy showers meant that every time I went out even for a few moments, I came home soaking wet. In such weather, it’s good to remember how to properly take care of your possessions.
For jackets and coats, you can brush off most of the water with your hands or a Kent clothing brush. Don’t stick your clothes in the closet afterwards just yet, however. You want to put them in an area with some good circulation, so they can dry properly. The risk with wet clothes is that they might develop mildew, which is really difficult to get rid of. A night out on a coat rack or something should be enough time to let them recover. After that, hang it in the closet with a hanger that has thick, moulded shoulders. I like the ones from The Hanger Project, but there are other merchants as well, such as A Suitable Wardrobe and, more affordably, Wooden Hangers USA.
Likewise, umbrellas should have time to dry before being furled up again. I shake mine off gently before coming in, and then open it again once I’m indoors and set it on its side. The material used for umbrella canopies are usually quick drying, so this shouldn’t take more than an hour or two.
Finally, for shoes, I brush off the big drops, stick in cedar shoe trees, and then lay my shoes on their sides, like I’ve pictured above. I used to think the last step was kind of unnecessary, until I noticed that my wet shoes were sitting in puddles when I left them on their soles. Moisture can really weaken leather, so you need to make sure your shoes are completely dry before wearing them again. Setting them on their side helps aid that for the parts that are likely to be most damaged.
Whatever you do - whether for clothes, umbrellas, or shoes - avoid the temptation to hasten the drying process by setting things near a heater. You’re likely to over-dry your items, which can crack leather and make wool brittle. Heaters can rob these materials of their natural oils, so make sure you leave everything to dry at room temperature. Being patient, as usual, is the way to go. 

Drying Off

It started raining in the Bay Area this weekend. Really turbulent winds and heavy showers meant that every time I went out even for a few moments, I came home soaking wet. In such weather, it’s good to remember how to properly take care of your possessions.

For jackets and coats, you can brush off most of the water with your hands or a Kent clothing brush. Don’t stick your clothes in the closet afterwards just yet, however. You want to put them in an area with some good circulation, so they can dry properly. The risk with wet clothes is that they might develop mildew, which is really difficult to get rid of. A night out on a coat rack or something should be enough time to let them recover. After that, hang it in the closet with a hanger that has thick, moulded shoulders. I like the ones from The Hanger Project, but there are other merchants as well, such as A Suitable Wardrobe and, more affordably, Wooden Hangers USA.

Likewise, umbrellas should have time to dry before being furled up again. I shake mine off gently before coming in, and then open it again once I’m indoors and set it on its side. The material used for umbrella canopies are usually quick drying, so this shouldn’t take more than an hour or two.

Finally, for shoes, I brush off the big drops, stick in cedar shoe trees, and then lay my shoes on their sides, like I’ve pictured above. I used to think the last step was kind of unnecessary, until I noticed that my wet shoes were sitting in puddles when I left them on their soles. Moisture can really weaken leather, so you need to make sure your shoes are completely dry before wearing them again. Setting them on their side helps aid that for the parts that are likely to be most damaged.

Whatever you do - whether for clothes, umbrellas, or shoes - avoid the temptation to hasten the drying process by setting things near a heater. You’re likely to over-dry your items, which can crack leather and make wool brittle. Heaters can rob these materials of their natural oils, so make sure you leave everything to dry at room temperature. Being patient, as usual, is the way to go. 

Gilt has travel- and full-sized Davek umbrellas on sale right now for about $45 and $69 respectively. Davek’s aren’t hand-crafted or anything, but they’re certainly leagues above the cheap $15 variety you might find at a drug store. They’re a bit more modern looking than the “classic” options, which may or may not be to your liking. One thing I really like about them is that the company provides a lifetime guarantee. Nice to see a manufacturer stand by their products. 

If you’re one of the few people left in the world that doesn’t have a membership to Gilt, you can use our invite here

Find Cover
It’s beginning to drizzle where I live, so I’ve been thinking about umbrellas a lot. The Chinese are said to have invented the first version during the Xia Dynasty, and there is some evidence that the Greeks had them as well. It wasn’t until the mid-18th century, however, that umbrellas were first used in England, and when they were introduced, they weren’t terribly popular. Nicholas Storey once recalled an anecdote by John MacDonald, who said that when he ventured forth with an umbrella in 1770, he was greeted with a heckle - "Frenchman, Frenchman, why don’t you call a coach?!" 
Today, an umbrella can be considered an essential for most men, and there are three general classes to choose from. The first class is the cheap, flimsy variety you find at places such as CVS for about $10. Those should be avoided. They only last a season or two, and even when they’re new, they’re unpleasant to use. It’s much better, I think, to pay the extra money to get something from the second class - reliable, industrially produced umbrellas. These start at about $16, but can go as high as $150. On the low-end of the spectrum, there’s Totes, which costs about $16 (use the discount code belt10). The handle is made out of a dark plastic that’s made to look like wood. It’s not the most elegant of materials, but it’s not terrible for the price. It’s also reasonably sturdy, and quite a good value for $16.  
A slight step above are Brooks Brothers and Barbour. These have slightly better finished wood handles, nicer detailing, and tastefully patterned canopies. Brooks discounts theirs by 25% every mid-season, and about 50% at the end of the season. At their sale prices, they’re especially good buys. A step above still are Davek and London Undercover. Davek’s umbrellas are especially nice in that they come with a lifetime guarantee, and should you ever lose yours, they’ll replace it for half the retail cost. They also have a slightly more modern feel than the other umbrellas discussed here, should you prefer that. 
The third class are artisanal or luxury-end umbrellas. In England, these include James Smith and Sons (the first umbrella shop in England), Swaine Adeney Brigg, and Fox Umbrellas Ltd. In Italy, there’s Mario Talarico, Francesco Maglia, and Passotti. These umbrellas tend to be handmade out of the best materials and constructed to the highest standards. The shafts and handles are made from Malacca, whangee, ebony, chestnut, rosewood, or sometimes even animal horn. Many come with full stick constructions, meaning that the handle and shaft are made from a single piece a wood. This is achieved with a lot of pressure, time, and steam. These are the finest umbrellas you can buy, and they’re a joy to use, but they’re also quite expensive. Most of them start around $175, and they can go as high as $1,000. Should you be in the market for one, you can visit any of those makers’ websites I linked, or check out the options at Shrine, Howard Yount, Under Knot, and Rain or Shine.
In the end, whatever you choose - either a $16 Totes or $1,000 Brigg - these should keep your dry for many seasons to come. And if someone calls you a Frenchman, you can probably be sure they read Nicholas Storey or Put This On (or you’re an actual Frenchman). 

Find Cover

It’s beginning to drizzle where I live, so I’ve been thinking about umbrellas a lot. The Chinese are said to have invented the first version during the Xia Dynasty, and there is some evidence that the Greeks had them as well. It wasn’t until the mid-18th century, however, that umbrellas were first used in England, and when they were introduced, they weren’t terribly popular. Nicholas Storey once recalled an anecdote by John MacDonald, who said that when he ventured forth with an umbrella in 1770, he was greeted with a heckle - "Frenchman, Frenchman, why don’t you call a coach?!" 

Today, an umbrella can be considered an essential for most men, and there are three general classes to choose from. The first class is the cheap, flimsy variety you find at places such as CVS for about $10. Those should be avoided. They only last a season or two, and even when they’re new, they’re unpleasant to use. It’s much better, I think, to pay the extra money to get something from the second class - reliable, industrially produced umbrellas. These start at about $16, but can go as high as $150. On the low-end of the spectrum, there’s Totes, which costs about $16 (use the discount code belt10). The handle is made out of a dark plastic that’s made to look like wood. It’s not the most elegant of materials, but it’s not terrible for the price. It’s also reasonably sturdy, and quite a good value for $16.  

A slight step above are Brooks Brothers and Barbour. These have slightly better finished wood handles, nicer detailing, and tastefully patterned canopies. Brooks discounts theirs by 25% every mid-season, and about 50% at the end of the season. At their sale prices, they’re especially good buys. A step above still are Davek and London Undercover. Davek’s umbrellas are especially nice in that they come with a lifetime guarantee, and should you ever lose yours, they’ll replace it for half the retail cost. They also have a slightly more modern feel than the other umbrellas discussed here, should you prefer that. 

The third class are artisanal or luxury-end umbrellas. In England, these include James Smith and Sons (the first umbrella shop in England), Swaine Adeney Brigg, and Fox Umbrellas Ltd. In Italy, there’s Mario Talarico, Francesco Maglia, and Passotti. These umbrellas tend to be handmade out of the best materials and constructed to the highest standards. The shafts and handles are made from Malacca, whangee, ebony, chestnut, rosewood, or sometimes even animal horn. Many come with full stick constructions, meaning that the handle and shaft are made from a single piece a wood. This is achieved with a lot of pressure, time, and steam. These are the finest umbrellas you can buy, and they’re a joy to use, but they’re also quite expensive. Most of them start around $175, and they can go as high as $1,000. Should you be in the market for one, you can visit any of those makers’ websites I linked, or check out the options at Shrine, Howard Yount, Under Knot, and Rain or Shine.

In the end, whatever you choose - either a $16 Totes or $1,000 Brigg - these should keep your dry for many seasons to come. And if someone calls you a Frenchman, you can probably be sure they read Nicholas Storey or Put This On (or you’re an actual Frenchman). 

Dealing with Bad Weather
Every year starts off with a few months of bad weather. First there is snow, then the snow turns to slush, and finally the slush gives way to showers. Depending on where you live, these conditions can put a real beating on your clothes, so it’s good to know how to best take care of them.
Salt Stains on Shoes
The best care is preventative. There are a number of treatments that can give your shoes a superficial layer of protection. Use a thin layer of wax polish on calf leather dress shoes and mink oil lotion on work or hiking boots (you can buy both at most shoe repair shops). Note that you don’t want to use mink oil on dress shoes; if you do, your shoes will never take a proper shine.
For added protection, use a pair of overshoes. Swims makes an attractive flocked version that slips on easily, while Tingley makes a very affordable (albeit less attractive) model. You can read Jesse’s review of Tingley here.
If you’ve picked up salt stains despite these measures, however, you need to treat them as soon as you get home. Mix one part vinegar to two parts water (or half and half for more serious stains). Brush off your shoes with a horsehair brush to remove any dirt, then dab a soft towel in the solution and gently use it to wipe off the stain. Once you’re done, use a clean damp towel to wipe off any vinegar residue. Leave it to dry for 30 minutes and repeat as needed. You want to work through this slowly, patiently, and gently; rubbing too hard can also damage your shoes. Once you’ve gotten the stain out, apply leather conditioner, polish, and wax again so that they’re protected next time you use them.
If the salt has raised the leather on your shoes (ie given it a welt), use a bottom end of a spoon and press down on the leather.
Drenched Shoes
If you’ve been going through a downpour, your shoes are probably soaked through. Again, the best care is preventative, so follow the steps above. You can also spray a suede protectant on suede. Suede should be fine in the rain, though I wouldn’t advise using it in the snow.
Once you get home, stuff your shoes with newspaper and lay them on their side (as the soles need to dry the most). You may want to change the paper every few hours just to make it effective. After they’re dry, stick unvarnished cedar shoe trees in them and leave them alone for two days so they can fully recover. Resist any temptation to set them near a heater. Doing so will only dry out and crack the leather.
Mold
If wet clothes or umbrellas aren’t allowed to dry properly, they’re at risk of developing mold. Once mold grows, they can develop a smell that can be very, very difficult to get out.
To prevent this, brush off your jackets or coats with a clothes brush once you get home. I use a separate brush for this from the one I regularly use to clean my clothes. Once the snow or water has been brushed off, hang your garment on a sturdy wooden hanger (ideally with wide shoulders) and leave it in an area with good air circulation.
For umbrellas, gently shake them out a bit, but be careful not to ruin the ribs. Once you’ve gotten most of the snow or water off, leave them completely open and let them dry in a place with good air circulation. Again, don’t set them near heaters, however, as you risk damaging the canopy. Most umbrellas are made with materials that are designed to dry quickly, so this shouldn’t take too long. Once it’s dry, neatly furl the umbrella and store it away.

Dealing with Bad Weather

Every year starts off with a few months of bad weather. First there is snow, then the snow turns to slush, and finally the slush gives way to showers. Depending on where you live, these conditions can put a real beating on your clothes, so it’s good to know how to best take care of them.

Salt Stains on Shoes

The best care is preventative. There are a number of treatments that can give your shoes a superficial layer of protection. Use a thin layer of wax polish on calf leather dress shoes and mink oil lotion on work or hiking boots (you can buy both at most shoe repair shops). Note that you don’t want to use mink oil on dress shoes; if you do, your shoes will never take a proper shine.

For added protection, use a pair of overshoes. Swims makes an attractive flocked version that slips on easily, while Tingley makes a very affordable (albeit less attractive) model. You can read Jesse’s review of Tingley here.

If you’ve picked up salt stains despite these measures, however, you need to treat them as soon as you get home. Mix one part vinegar to two parts water (or half and half for more serious stains). Brush off your shoes with a horsehair brush to remove any dirt, then dab a soft towel in the solution and gently use it to wipe off the stain. Once you’re done, use a clean damp towel to wipe off any vinegar residue. Leave it to dry for 30 minutes and repeat as needed. You want to work through this slowly, patiently, and gently; rubbing too hard can also damage your shoes. Once you’ve gotten the stain out, apply leather conditioner, polish, and wax again so that they’re protected next time you use them.

If the salt has raised the leather on your shoes (ie given it a welt), use a bottom end of a spoon and press down on the leather.

Drenched Shoes

If you’ve been going through a downpour, your shoes are probably soaked through. Again, the best care is preventative, so follow the steps above. You can also spray a suede protectant on suede. Suede should be fine in the rain, though I wouldn’t advise using it in the snow.

Once you get home, stuff your shoes with newspaper and lay them on their side (as the soles need to dry the most). You may want to change the paper every few hours just to make it effective. After they’re dry, stick unvarnished cedar shoe trees in them and leave them alone for two days so they can fully recover. Resist any temptation to set them near a heater. Doing so will only dry out and crack the leather.

Mold

If wet clothes or umbrellas aren’t allowed to dry properly, they’re at risk of developing mold. Once mold grows, they can develop a smell that can be very, very difficult to get out.

To prevent this, brush off your jackets or coats with a clothes brush once you get home. I use a separate brush for this from the one I regularly use to clean my clothes. Once the snow or water has been brushed off, hang your garment on a sturdy wooden hanger (ideally with wide shoulders) and leave it in an area with good air circulation.

For umbrellas, gently shake them out a bit, but be careful not to ruin the ribs. Once you’ve gotten most of the snow or water off, leave them completely open and let them dry in a place with good air circulation. Again, don’t set them near heaters, however, as you risk damaging the canopy. Most umbrellas are made with materials that are designed to dry quickly, so this shouldn’t take too long. Once it’s dry, neatly furl the umbrella and store it away.

It’s On Sale: Swaine Adeney Umbrella
Over at J. Peterman, they’re offering Swaine Adeney Brigg umbrellas at close to half price - just under $200. If you’re not a man who loses his umbrellas, this is about as good as it gets for as good a price as you’ll find.
$187 from $350 at J. Peterman (use code jpten for 10% off)

It’s On Sale: Swaine Adeney Umbrella

Over at J. Peterman, they’re offering Swaine Adeney Brigg umbrellas at close to half price - just under $200. If you’re not a man who loses his umbrellas, this is about as good as it gets for as good a price as you’ll find.

$187 from $350 at J. Peterman (use code jpten for 10% off)

Brooks Brothers “Friends and Family” sale starts in just two weeks, on May 5th. It’s unclear what the discounts will be, but you should expect them to range between 25% and 40%. If you open a Brooks Brothers corporate card, you’ll also get an additional 15% discount. Thus, there will be some good deals to be had. 

In searching for items for myself, I thought I’d write a bit about some items you might also want to consider. In addition to these linen shirts I covered last week, they also have other summer staples, such as a mariner striped sweater, cotton blazer, and some slim fit chinos. I also really like these glen plaid trousers, their pink OCBD, and this Gregory trench coat

I think chukka boots make for great year round wear, but I especially like them in the summer and fall seasons. Brooks has some that are a bit less blobby looking than Clarks desert boots, and I think at steep discount, they’re quite a steal. You can get them in calf leather, suede, or canvas

Lastly, I recommend taking a look at some of their accessories. This leather watchband is quite handsome, as is their engined-turned tie bar and plaid umbrellas. I also think every man should have an engine turned slide buckle. My father gave me his, and it has his initials engraved on it; it’s one of the nicest things you can pass on. They also have some of the best summer belts - a braidedsurcingle, and woven-surcingle. I have the braided one and couldn’t be happier with it. 

Stop by a Brooks when you have time and see if anything strikes your fancy. If you do find something, ask a sales associate if they’ll hold it for you until the sale starts. I’ve had reasonably good luck with that strategy, and it’s a great way to make sure you get the items you want, at a price that’s affordable. 

About two months ago, I wrote about Francesco Maglia, a bespoke umbrella maker based out of Milan. After my post, a few people sent me messages asking if I had suggestions for more affordable options. Buying a $700-1,000 umbrella isn’t practical for most people, after all. So, I wrote this piece, which covered four different umbrellas at various price tiers, and I thought it was received with some success. 

A month after I wrote that round up, I came across a Totes umbrella at a local boutique. It was $16, full-sized, and looked handsome enough. I already have four umbrellas, but I decided to purchase this Totes just so I could write about whether there was a good $16 option to be had. 

So for the past month, I’ve been using this Totes, and I can say - it’s surprisingly good. At $16, most of the options you’ll find are crappy, compact umbrellas that neither cover very much of you or last for very long. This Totes, on the other hand, is big enough to cover your back and sturdy enough to last a few seasons. 

Belt Outlet is selling it for $14.40. Punch in belt10 for a 10% off discount, and with shipping, the total will be $17.  Now, I still think the upper tier umbrellas I wrote about in my original round up are better. If you live in a very windy area, I recommend you opt for one of those instead. However, if you’re not suffering through high winds, or if you’re prone to constantly losing things, this $17 Totes might be your best option. 

If you decide to get one, read this article by The Armoury on how to properly furl a full-sized umbrella. Doing it the right way will not only help keep your umbrella intact, but also look infinitely better.

It’s On eBay
Swaine Adeney Brigg Umbrella with Custom Canopy
OMG you guys. This is basically the greatest umbrella ever.
Buy It Now for $250

It’s On eBay

Swaine Adeney Brigg Umbrella with Custom Canopy

OMG you guys. This is basically the greatest umbrella ever.

Buy It Now for $250