No Man Should Be Caught Without an Umbrella
Nope, you will not look like the lovely Julie Andrews floating away as Mary Poppins. A raincoat can do a half-assed job of keeping you dry that’s good enough for trudging across the street for coffee runs, sure, but what of your briefcase? What if this cafe appointment is an important meeting? Just like the handkerchief and the pocket knife, the umbrella remains to be essential in a modern gentleman’s arsenal, and not only for keeping you dry.
Invest in good workmanship that can last you a decade and you get bonus style points. A well-made brolly doesn’t just look better. It guarantees dryness for you and your duds, and when the time comes, you can extend it to a lady—or the elderly—before they are summarily drenched with confidence. A P200 convenience store special has left the stingiest—or the most desperate—of us blown back and wet. Now, that’s not a good look on anybody.
Maybe except Gene Kelly.
Kelly comes from that last few generations of dapper gentlemen who accessorized with an umbrella, hardly ever unfurling it. Then came grunge—suits for every day and the umbrellas that came with it were deemed impractical, frivolous even. Now, it's just like in 17th century London, when parasols were reserved for royalty or ladies shielding their delicate made-up looks, the Englishman Jonas Hanway got ridiculed for being the first man to ever use an umbrella. Everybody else had to hail a coach to get out of the rain. Imagine having to do that in Manila traffic.
For the modern Manila man, with clear skies turning into merciless downpour without so much as a cautionary sprinkle, in a time of automatic foldables that can be easily stowed on your car’s trunk or bag and menswear shops that have made the best traditional umbrellas readily accessible, doing without an umbrella is an even bigger impracticality, isn’t it?
Full-sized or foldable?
It depends on your lifestyle or what you’re doing today. Out for a walk? The full-sized umbrella can double as a walking stick and a weapon against scalawags, in the unfortunate event that they accost you out in the street.
We like manual umbrellas with a solid wooden hook handle for hanging over your arm while walking. The full-sized umbrella has better coverage when it rains not only because it has a wider horizontal reach but also because of its deeper dome. Its longer stems also prevent it from folding back in a strong gust of wind.
If convenience is your priority, the automatic collapsible/foldable umbrella won’t have the same panache as a traditional umbrella, but it is compact, convenient, and can be tucked neatly into your briefcase for unexpected showers. Not to be confused with cheaper models, well-crafted foldable umbrellas open effortlessly with the touch of a button.
How to shop for a good umbrella:
Open the umbrella and hold it up to the light to look for any holes on the canopy. To be watertight, it should be tight on the umbrella’s ribs. Flick the segments with your fingers to test for tautness.
Check the rivets (those where the ribs connect and bend). If you can see through them, it’s a no-go. Solidity ensures that your umbrella will endure years of being opened and closed.
Look for frames in a material that can stand up to the wind without collapsing: nickel, brass, fiberglass, or tempered spring steel. Aluminum frames may be cheaper and lighter, but will crumple in the face of a strong wind, which is the stuff of tropical typhoons.
For full-sized umbrellas, get the right length of umbrella for your height so it is comfortable to carry around and use.
The standard black ones are a classic, but you're likelier to lose them too. If you're one of those guys who got called out for carrying an umbrela (“Is that your mom's/girlfriend's?”), maybe it was in an unbecoming shade or print? Since we're talking about investing in a well-made umbrella, get it in a color or a subdued print that you'll actually like for a long time.