To many, umbrellas are seen as a disposable product - something that is picked up at the corner drugstore as it begins drizzle, and is ultimately left in an Uber or blown inside-out a few rainy days later. But for those that like to invest in quality and longevity, umbrellas can be a functional and beautiful extension of a good wardrobe. Not only that, but they can bring some pleasure to an otherwise difficult scenario - being stuck out in the rain.
Umbrellas are composed of three main parts, each of which will affect the overall appearance and performance. The first - and perhaps most noticeable - is the shaft and handle. Many mid-tier umbrellas will have a wooden handle attached to a metal tube, but the most traditional styles will have a single piece of wood, which is shaped with steam (a process that can take several months). The end result is essentially a cane - handsome, sturdy, and with a good amount of heft. Solid-stick umbrellas can be made with a wide variety of woods, each of which has its own unique character and color.
Then there’s the canopy, of course, which is the part that’s going to keep you dry. Using a highly water-resistant material is critical here, which is why most umbrellas use 100% polyester. But beyond being waterproof in and of itself, the canopy must be built well to be effective. It should be tight like the head of a drum, and the stitching should be secure and small in order to reduce the number of holes and weak points in the fabric.
Lastly, there’s the frame - the part that holds everything together. While aluminum is light and inexpensive, it’s not strong enough to withstand the heavy winds that often accompany rainy days. Tougher metals like steel will keep umbrellas from turning inside-out, which is the unfortunate scenario that plagues many dollar store umbrella customers.
All told, the cheapest umbrella will be the one that lasts the longest. Not only do you only have to purchase it once, but you get the sense of enjoyment that comes from using a well-made product. Think of it as the silver lining on the rainclouds that are gathering outside.