Alongside fish and chips, Saville Row, and the Queen, the British have had a longstanding love for umbrellas. This is probably not the most surprising fact, seeing as how Brits like to carry on about the weather. British umbrellas have a timeless appeal, resembling the canes and walking sticks popular during the Victorian era.
Companies like Swaine, Adeney, Brigg, Fox, and James Smith & Sons have been making them as early as the eighteenth century, counting noblemen and royals as their patrons. These umbrellas are made in the traditional way, with the shaft and handle crafted out of one piece of wood, and a manually operated hand spring to spread out the rib.
James Smith & Sons doesn't necessarily brand itself as bespoke, given the upscale associations with the term. The price range of their umbrellas can vary as much as by a factor of 100, but the house nonetheless provides the same level of craft and service regardless.
As reflected in the Kingsman movies, Swaine, Adeney, Brigg pays extra attention to their bespoke process, also printing into each panel in the umbrella fabric. Aside from models made from a single piece of wood, they have quirkier customizations too, like a drinking glass hidden in the shaft, the closest we can get to a secret weapon.
Nimble as their animal namesake, Fox umbrellas are touted as the kings of customized umbrellas, including one that features a handle that can be unscrewed to save space for long hauls. Their sleek, all-black classic design is also highly popular today as it was in the time of Queen Victoria.
With regards to marrying form and function, the English view bespoke umbrellas as the Swiss do their fine horology. British umbrellas are an especially sturdy style statement, given the rainy weather patterns in the United Kingdom, especially in the Greater London area.
Much like suits, umbrellas can be purchased stock or tailored to the user, allowing for a variety of wood finishes, fabrics for the canopy, and metals or horns for the ferrule. Locally, specialty boutiques like The Signet store in Makati distributes a good selection of British Umbrellas of different makes.
This article originally appeared in Vault issue #21, 2015.