Finding the Best Umbrella

Find a quality cover.

nicholas-mccarvelby nicholas-mccarvel

With umbrellas, we all know the drill: you head to the drug store three times a year to pick one up. Why? You lost one at the bar you met friends at the night of an epic thunderstorm, another was savagely torn apart by the wind and the third…Well, you can’t quite remember where that one went.

But such a habit could cost up to $500 over a five-year period if you’re nabbing a $12 to $15 umbrella that are available at many Rite Aids, Walgreens and practically any other pick-everything-up-here stores. Yet there’s an entire niche industry that exists that curates and cultivates long-lasting, high-quality umbrellas that last nearly a decade and cost somewhere between $100 and $200.

Rain or Shine, a specialty umbrella and walking cane store in New York City, has been open for just about the length of time that it’s owner, Peggy Levee, says a stick umbrella can last: ten years.

“Virtually every store seems to carry some kind of umbrella. You can find a cheap umbrella pretty much anywhere,” Levee says, rolling her eyes. “But we carry high-quality umbrellas that we’ve carefully selected from around the world.”

So how can you seek out an umbrella that will last longer than a few weeks but not cost you a few week’s pay? Levee says it’s all about the strength of the stick.

“The most important thing is to have a good frame,” Levee says. “Generally the folding umbrella that has an automatic open and close is what is popular. Those folding ones are going to last you two to five years.”

Such umbrellas are easy to find. Rain or Shine has an online shop where they carry a myriad of options at various prices. Levee says a folding umbrella like Fox’s Maple Crook Handle ($85 online) can last from two to five years because of its folding mechanism and is compact enough to fit in a backpack or brief case.

The subtle designs that Rain or Shine offers within their selection of umbrellas for men still doesn’t win out over the classic black, which Levee says is still the most preferred for her male customers. Plaid or stripe prints can add a bit of aesthetic to a long black or brown-hued rain coat, especially on a gray and rainy day.

It’s not just Rain or Shine that offers such products. Nationally-known names like Brooks Brothers and Ralph Lauren all have online marketplaces for umbrellas while stores like Bloomingdales and Nordstrom have above-average stick selctions. Our name-brand favorite? Brooks Brothers’ Tatersall, which retails online for just $70.

Levee says that it’s about caring for the umbrella after you choose to buy one that costs more than a fancy lunchtime salad.

“Letting your umbrella properly dry is a sure way to make sure it lasts,” Levee suggests.

She also understands that umbrellas are easily forgotten. So, she says, carry an “emergency umbrella” in your bag or car that is ultra compact and will serve you during an unexpected blast of precipitation.

Once the money is spent on a high-quality, long-lasting umbrella, however, Levee thinks that you’ll be certain to take good care of it.

“I’ve had my favorite umbrella for ten years,” she says. “And Ramon [Rain or Shine’s repair man] has had his for 20 some years. As long as you take good care of it.”

Her final recommendation? “Don’t go too cheap. You get what you pay for.”