When wintery weather hits in a drizzly destination such as Melbourne, the prospect of rain is ever-present in one’s mind. Even when a clear blue paints the sky, it’d be a foolish Melburnian that assumes rain isn’t mere seconds away. Therefore the question is posed, do I reach for an umbrella, adorn a hooded raincoat or simply take comfort in blissful ignorance?

Those who fall into the latter camp need not read further. The following conversation is so incredibly far from your radar and frankly, taking two minutes out of your day to read about umbrellas is an absurd concept to you.
Instead, this read is for those who want to understand how to best prepare for inclement conditions, and then act accordingly.

For romping around the streets, completing chores and running errands, throwing on a waterproof garment with a massive hood is perfect. However, If you’re headed out for dinner or dressing up slightly, a waterproof raincoat may keep you dry but will concurrently dampen your style. That is the major slight on the raincoat. It is a prominent addition to an outfit that would otherwise have gone without if it weren’t for the downpour. In other words, the entire outfit has now been changed due to external factors. This then leaves us with an umbrella.

Ahhh the umbrella, an eternally helpful but much maligned accessory. For six months of the year it remains untouched, propped up by the front door or living in the third-drawer-down of your kitchen. Then come July, once needed it suddenly gains hero status.

We need to stop viewing the addition of an umbrella as an inconvenience to our journey, but instead as an extra accessory that we have been afforded. This is the attitude to lean on when shopping for a suitable brolly. Though not as blatantly obvious, an unsuitable brolly can draw away from one’s outfit just as the overbearing raincoat does.

As I’m sure you’re all aware, umbrella’s intended for rain (rather than its cousin the parasol) fit neatly into two categories; traditional and retractable. I won’t insult your intelligence with a pros and cons list of the two styles of umbrella. We are all across umbrellas and their many forms. Furthermore, I’m not going to be even handed with my assessment of which is the better brolly either. In fact, I’ll be rather bullish. Traditional umbrellas are far and away the better option.

Now, does the retractable umbrella have a purposeful place in one’s bag as they head out for the day?
Yes.
Will I, regardless of my previous admission and ownership of said retractable umbrella, spend the next few lines deriding them completely?
Yes.

The retractable umbrella will fold like Kenny Rogers at the craps table after even the gentlest puff of wind and unfortunately is just as timid in the aesthetics department. You wouldn’t walk up to someone using a retractable umbrella and ask them for directions. Nor would a doorman use a retractable umbrella to shield foreign dignitaries from miserable weather as they move from chauffeured limousine to high-end hotel. The retractable umbrella, by prioritising convenience over form, has forgotten its sole purpose. To reliably shield its user from the elements.

So, we’re left with only the traditional umbrella remaining as the go-to for rain protection this winter. The final step is to decide on which umbrella to purchase. In my humble opinion, I’d advise on steering clear of logos and overly busy prints.
We have to be honest with ourselves. Living in Melbourne we will undoubtedly have to reach for our umbrellas semi-regularly over the coming months. Therefore an umbrella that seamlessly compliments a wide-array of outfits is the way to go. Plain black, navy or subtle patterns, are safe bets. Strive to find one that looks equally elegant whilst not in use. 

There is an element of the umbrella that I myself had overlooked in the past, but have a new found appreciation for. That being the style of handle. Recently I was waiting for a train and next to me on the platform was an impeccably outfitted gentleman who stood stoically, arms crossed, with his umbrella’s curved wooden handle hanging off his forearm. It was quite the sight to behold. This admiration from an onlooker is proof enough that a curved wooden handle for your umbrella really takes the cake. 

I know there is trepidation to fully embrace the perceived formality of a traditional umbrella over its compact alternative, but I maintain that there is no such thing as overdressing. It is a myth constructed by those who are underdressed. Every pedestrian is aware of the high likelihood of precipitation whilst strolling the streets, so it isn’t as if carrying an umbrella will draw curious stares. Besides, whether you’re intentionally emulating detective-inspectors of yesteryear or the parallel simply happens by happy accident, it is a look that is bound to open doors. 

George Davies

Well-Dressed Background Noise

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