ESSENTIALS

44

An Umbrella Nice Enough Not to Forget

Quality gear isn't just more fun to use—it's a lot less likely to get left in the back of a cab.
Photo: Everett Digital

Alan Bates wielding a proper gentleman's umbrella in 'An Englishman Abroad' (1983).

Men everywhere are rediscovering that great shopping ideal: Buy it once, buy it for life. (Buy it on Gilt and you may well be able to buy two at once, for life.) But even as we are saving up for the pair of Leffot double-monks that we will one day hand down to our firstborn, we’re still toting around that bastard exploding plastic umbrella on rainy days. Duck into a wine bar for a quick drink with friends and it isn’t until the next day you realize you’ve left it dangling from the hat rack. And you know what? Who cares! It cost three bucks and was a piece of crap to begin with.

But imagine if you were rocking the Leffot of umbrellas. You’d be a lot less likely to forget it after a few drinks with dinner. Hell, buy one that’s nice enough and you’ll be unlikely to forget about it during dinner. There are two ways to proceed in this direction (unless you count that perilous third path—the golf umbrella, which, though totally awesome, won’t win you any friends on the sidewalk). The first is the cutting-edge modern marvel of fiberglass, aluminum, and carbonized polymer ligaments, made by brands like Senz and Davek New York. These hi-tech, aerodynamic puppies (often made of solid steel with a microfiber canopy) have been tested in wind tunnels up to 60 mph by MIT and proven fit. Or you can opt for the atavistic gentleman’s umbrella, long and sturdy enough to use as a walking stick (or as a lance when navigating the Meatpacking District at rush hour). Classic British brands like the hallowed James Smith & Sons, or Swaine Adeney Brigg, who made Gene Kelly’s hero prop for Singin’ in the Rain, know from howling gales and build their models accordingly. A sturdy waterproof canopy drawn taut over an adamantine stainless-steel frame with at least eight ribs and “single stick” construction (meaning that the handle and shaft are of one piece, carved from a single chunk of wood) will be your best bet against crazy cross currents and the ever-dangerous up-draft.  Whether you go high-tech or trad—it shouldn’t be hard to guess which is my preference—just get a good one. Will you forget it in a cab anyway? I’m not going to lie to you: You might. But at least you’ll enjoy using it till that sad (and wet) day arrives.

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