March 24, 2010

An Elegant Weapon for a more Civilised Age

Yesterday I was almost decapitated by an umbrella, twice. In truth, the second occasion was more of a narrow escape from having my eye skewered. The first incident caused me to limbo in the most ungainly fashion, and it really wasn’t the weather for limbo. Both assailants were cursed, roundly and loudly. Neither paid the slightest attention.

What is to be done? I regret that I was not carrying my own umbrella at the time, for this would surely have acted as my force field. But I am having umbrella difficulties at present, exacerbated by my having to keep on crossing international borders. The gentleman’s umbrella, for all its dignity and refinement, has a pointy metal bit at the end and looks too much like an offensive weapon for most carriers. This is a gross prejudice. As I have discovered, the crass and wholly unpleasant common-or-garden umbrella, in pastel shades and pretty patterns, destined to blow out and crumple at the slightest puff of wind, is also a lethal weapon! And for all its look-at-me-I’m-compact-and-modern glibness, this is a brute of a device. When closed, it is more akin to a police baton than to a rapier; when open, it bespeaks Medieval torture device, rather than rain shield. With their short shafts and inadequate canopies, they obscure the vision of their carriers, who lead with spokes primed, ready to assail the unsuspecting eyeball. And really, nobody looks where he is going anymore. Walking is just one big imperialist adventure, with territory conceded only at a high price.

I must make a plea for a return to gentlemanly standards of rain protection (and ladies, for you too there really are preferable options to the aforementioned unfurling truncheons). A proper umbrella will last a long time; it will be too big to forget in every taxi, pub, restaurant, etc.; it will not be so big that walking down the street is an impossibility (golf umbrella wielders take note: you belong on a golf course); it will allow you to see while you walk; it will allow you a companion, with a reasonable expectation of staying dry. Back when we knew how to be civilised, a man would not be without such a device in periods of inclemency. And if the need arose – let’s say, a young oik threatened to encumber your way with his inadequate brolly – when properly furled this instrument served very nicely as an idiot deterrent. The next time I am assailed by walking imperialists with no style and much less manners, I shall give them cause to say touché.


  1. Excellent post on the art of the umbrella!
    Don't know why it has taken me so long to come visit you here, just love it! I make it a habit of not keeping gems like this to myself, so I have added you to my blogroll as well.

  2. I like the Star Wars reference in the title.
    Obi-Wan Kenobi now there's a gentleman !

  3. Please kindly advise where I may buy a quality gentleman's umbrella. I'm currently residing near Washington, D.C. , and have had no such luck. I located one in Brooks Brothers. However was not impressed with the quality. Thank you.

  4. The online world is your best bet, but I do note that there is a purveyor of Swaine Adeney Brigg umbrellas in DC. Sterling and Burke's online umbrella presence is here:
    Since you're local, you might want simply to go to:
    1025 Connecticut Ave, Northwest Suite 1012
    Washington, DC 20036.
    Their number is 1 800 205 7739.

  5. Thank you very much. Very kind of you. I am quite fond of your excellent blog. I contacted classic luggage today, and was told that they would contact me when the 27" models arrive from London. What would you recommend for my first umbrella? I'm considering a one piece model in either cherry, oak or hickory. Thanks again.


  6. You are most welcome, and indeed the thanks go to your for the compliment, and for reading in the first place. Since you are about to acquire an umbrella of unimpeachable quality, I doubt you could go wrong. My instinct, however, would be in the direction of hickory. They used to make golf-club shafts out of hickory, before the days of steel, for it is famed for its strength under torque. Still, I would listen to the experts on this one. Whatever you acquire will last you a lifetime.


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