I have lost more than a dozen umbrellas over the years. I say ‘lost,’ but aside from the handful I’ve forgotten in shops, bars, restaurants and other people’s houses, the rest have been reduced to a sad, useless tangle of wires and nylon. Typically, the umbrellas I’ve owned have been those mini black ones you find by the entrance in Boots, rarely more than a tenner and indistinguishable from everyone else’s (which of course makes them much easier to lose). Once it inevitably packed in — usually when I most needed it — I simply huffed, tossed it in the bin, and bought another. I vowed that one day, I’d invest in a solid brolly. I pictured myself with one of those tall, gentlemanly umbrellas that doubles as a walking stick from somewhere like James Smith & Sons. But realistically, each trip out of the house for me involves juggling a phone, AirPods, a water bottle, a book, keys, a mask, and who knows what else at various stages of the journey. I needed something sturdy I could stash away.
Internet searches for good-quality, British-made umbrellas led me to the website of London Undercover. The name had been on the outer reaches of my radar for a while, and it’s very possible I’d passed its Lamb’s Conduit Street store, which was round the corner from my second-year uni flat back when their wares were out of my price range (more on that later). I’ve always been drawn to independent brands with thoughtfully designed products, and its pages spoke of time-honoured techniques, the highest standards of craftsmanship, and 100 percent recycled fabrics.
I immediately found what I was looking for in the Whangee Cane Crook Telescopic umbrella. With its handmade, ridged-bamboo handle, it offered all the old-world appeal of those traditional English styles I fancied but in a practical foldaway form. It promised a ‘strong’, ‘built to last’ frame and came in a decent array of colours. I settled on a dark olive, which felt a tad more exciting than black but inconspicuously stylish all the same. I can safely say I’m absolutely in love with it. Not enough to be thrilled at the prospect of wet weather, but if there’s rain on the forecast, I’m slightly cheered knowing I get to whip out my most handsome find. I’ve found it to be markedly sturdier than all the other umbrellas I’ve owned, and it has yet to do any gymnastics on me.
The nearly metre-wide diameter of the canopy means it offers decent coverage for both you and that friend who never seems to have their own. It measures 45 centimetres when closed, so it’s not the sort of umbrella that can be tucked away furtively in the depths of your handbag. Rather, its handle curls elegantly over the side of my handbag, which I find only adds to its charm. In fact, it’s in this resting place, semi-concealed, that my umbrella has attracted the most compliments. And I never have to root around for it in a flash flood only to find myself counterproductively drenched in the process.
At £75 (though I purchased mine for £65 in October 2020), it’s certainly dearer than the old unfaithfuls. However, my shopping philosophy in my mid-20s has been to spend a little more on well-made items that I absolutely love, knowing I’ll be inclined to take better care of them. True enough, nearly a year and a half in, I’ve managed not to abandon my London Undercover umbrella in the dark recesses of a Soho restaurant or under my seat at the cinema. (Although, to be entirely fair, I haven’t had quite as many chances to do so.)
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