The Umbrella - a Great British icon
It has been said that there are only two certainties in life – death and taxes. But if you’re British, you’ll know that there’s actually a third.
Yes, that’s right. Living in Great Britain you know it’s a dead cert that at some point or other, you’re going to find yourself slap bang in the middle of an almighty downpour. But all is not lost! Being British, you know that there’s only one thing that’s going to save you from a total washout.
An umbrella, of course!
Being a British-made clothing and accessories brand, we know how important it is for you to stay dry when rain inevitably strikes. From coats to gilets, we have a whole selection of showerproof items to keep you out of the wet, but we knew to keep you truly protected from the Great British weather, we had to take it one step further.
Made in the East End of London at one of the oldest established umbrella makers in the country, this duo deliver classic British charm teamed with long lasting quality. Both designs feature a leather crook handle, navy polyester canopy and spring-loaded opening mechanism, and are finished off with our signature Teddy Edward label to fasten.
So now you know a little bit about our luxury umbrellas, let’s find out the facts behind that trusty Great British staple!
History of the umbrella
So, how exactly did our favourite rainy-day accessory come about? Well, apparently early umbrella use can be traced back to Egypt in around 1000 B.C, where they were originally intended to be used as parasols (not much rain in Egypt, to be fair).
The first designs were made from feather and lotus leaves attached to a stick and were mainly used to offer shade to the richer folk. As other countries cottoned on to this new style of shading (or sheltering) oneself, umbrellas soon became a status symbol – particularly in China.
Back over in Blighty, umbrellas didn’t really catch on as a thing until about 1700 and even then, were only reserved for women. Apparently, men wouldn’t have been seen dead toting a brolly around London way back when. That is, apart from Philanthropist, John Hanway.
Having seen the benefits of the umbrella from his time abroad, John started carrying an umbrella with him wherever he went. Turns out people didn’t like his portable canopy though, least of all coachmen who saw it as a threat to their business and pelted poor old John with rubbish. Nice.
John died in 1786 (clutching his brolly, no doubt) but he would’ve been pleased to hear that after that, the umbrella started to catch on with other men. Turns out he was a bit of a trendsetter!
Soon, umbrellas became the ultimate accessory across Europe, and the design evolved from silk or oil cloth canopies (not very waterproof) and whalebone/wood handles (ugh, heavy) to be a little bit more practical. Samuel Fox invented the steel-ribbed umbrella in 1852, further reducing the weight and strengthening the frame, and the silk or oil cloth canopies were soon replaced with nylon.
The telescopic, folding umbrella that we know and love today wasn’t invented until the 20th century, but that soon led to umbrellas of all shapes and sizes being designed – travel sized, golf, clear, walking stick style, patterned, kids… you name it, these days there’s a brolly for everyone!
Umbrella fun facts
What’s a post on umbrellas without a few fun facts about our favourite rain protector?
- Word umbrella comes from the Latin word "umbros" which means shade or shadow.
- The first working "folding umbrella" was introduced in 1969 by Bradford Philips.
- During the 19th century, European fashion demanded that umbrellas be held in the middle of their shaft, with the handle pointing toward the ground.
- The umbrella cover museum in Maine, USA boasts the largest collection of umbrella covers in the world.
- Over 33 million umbrellas are sold in the United States each year (and we thought us Brits liked a brolly…)
- The largest umbrella ever made was 24.5 m (80 ft 4.56 in) in diameter and was created by Khalifa Empowerment Program in Abu Dhabi, UAE, on 24 March 2018
- The most expensive umbrella in the world was created by Billionaire Couture went on sale in 2008. Made from black top-quality, water resistant crocodile skin, this umbrella cost an eye-watering £36,000 – ouch!
Umbrellas in pop culture
Surprisingly enough, the humble umbrella has featured in many a film, music video and on the arms of adored celebs around the world. So, what are the most famous instances of brollies popping up on our screens?
Think umbrella, and you probably think of good old Mary P. That magical, parrot handled umbrella sure had its uses! Namely, guiding unruly children and helping Mary float across the rooftops of London. Chim chiminey!
Singin’ in the Rain
Another film synonymous with the umbrella was Singin’ in the Rain, which starred Gene Kelly. Apparently, the iconic umbrella/rain scene took more than two days to shoot, and Kelly was constantly soaked causing him to get a fever of 39.5. Probably should have made better use of that umbrella…
Danny Devito played the Penguin in 1992 film Batman Returns and boy, did he love an umbrella. Not content with being creepy enough, he decorated his home with an assortment of umbrellas that doubled as weapons. Why umbrellas, you ask? Apparently, his father died in a storm thanks to pneumonia and we’re guessing he wasn’t wise enough to carry an umbrella… hence our pal the Penguin saw them as a symbol of protection.
The Fab Four seemed to have a thing for umbrellas because they often opted to use the humble brolly as a prop at photo shoots. The Eleanor Rigby scene in The Yellow Submarine film featured animations of men in bowler hats who were carrying, yep you guessed it, umbrellas. Perhaps it was The Beatles who helped the umbrella become such an iconic symbol of Great Britain!
Queen Elizabeth II
Our gal Lizzie has long been an umbrella fan, but did you know she’s particularly keen on a clear umbrella? She chooses those so that she can see and be seen. Clever! But even more impressive is the fact that she has a vast selection of clear umbrellas that have a coloured band around the bottom edge which carefully coordinates with each of her typically vibrant outfits!
If you tell us you can say the word ‘Umbrella’ without following it with ‘ella, ella, eh, eh’ then we know you’re lying. Barbadian singer Rihanna released one of her most famous songs, Umbrella, in 2007 and it soon became synonymous with swinging an umbrella round whilst dancing in the rain. It seems that Rih Rih had quite the influence on her fans who soon started bringing their own umbrellas to shows to recreate her dance. Turns out umbrellas at a gig is quite the hazard, so on her UK leg of the tour, Rihanna’s team had to ban anyone who tried to bring a brolly inside. An umbrella ban in our country? Oh, the irony!
So, now you’re clued up on all things umbrella, it’s surely the perfect time to invest in your own rainy-day companion? Not only are Winston and Mary super chic and the ultimate British fashion statement, they are practical too and promise to keep you safe whenever the heavens open (which is a lot, right?)
Head over to our website to see for yourself!
Already toting round your very own Teddy Edward umbrella? We’d love to see how you style them so don’t forget to tag us in your photos on social media @TeddyEdwardClothing!