How to Ditch Your Drugstore Umbrella and Invest in a Well-Made One

What you need to know when buying a top-quality brolly.

Buy luxury umbrella Photo; Joshua Scott

Enough with those cheap drugstore umbrellas. Phil Naisbitt of London’s famous James Smith & Sons shop makes the case for finally investing in a proper “brolly.” And, he should know since his company has been hand-making and selling umbrellas since the original James Smith established his first shop on Regent Street in 1830. Nearly a century later, it’s still a go-to source (no longer just for Londoners) for a wide range of umbrellas from the fancy bespoke models to everyday styles, and they ship globally. Buyer be warned: You will want to keep tabs on your investment umbrella and not leave this one in a taxi.

How do you choose the right umbrella?

Practicality is key. Will your umbrella double as a walking cane? Do you need a small brolly that can fold down into a bag? Some of our customers want lightweight brollies; some want the strongest windproof design available. Some want hardwood umbrellas because they’re the smartest.

What makes a proper umbrella?

There are three things that make an umbrella. One: the quality of its components. Two: how well it’s made. Three: how it makes you feel to use it. It feels very satisfying to hold one of our Solid Sticks—they’re handmade objects, built to last from traditional materials.

What’s the best material to withstand the elements?

We work with fine nylon twill nowadays because it’s reliable and folds nicely when the umbrella is down, but we do offer handmade silk canopies, too. Silk is the traditional choice, and we’ll treat it with a waterproof coating to make sure it does the job.


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