Having a passion for men’s clothing is a bit of an infectious disease; it begins with trying to understand the basic principles of fit and function, but if left untreated it can spread to an aesthetic affliction that applies to every possible purchase. Before you know it, every piece of furniture or kitchen appliance you acquire must be held to the same stringent criteria that are applied to your shoes and suits. Such is the case with me, and this is why I began looking for a handsome umbrella that would meet the trifecta of aesthetics, quality, and price; the “good deal” that we all strive to find.
A high-quality umbrella had been on my list of upgrades for a couple of years now, and after a bit of research I decided that I would go with either Howard Yount or Kent Wang, both of which are known for offering solid pieces at fair prices. I included both umbrellas at the top of my holiday gift list, in hopes that a loved one would see the hint and act accordingly. Fortunately for me, my girlfriend has a keen eye and was able to pick out my not-so-subtle hint with great finesse.
The shaft of the umbrella is made of a single chestnut stick; this is the part of the umbrella that I feel differs the most from your typical drugstore model. The wood handle is incredibly handsome, and feels great in the hand. Now, the finishing is a bit drippy in some areas and some of the notches in the wood are a tad rough; these imperfections would probably not be present on a top-tier umbrella like a Brigg or Maglia (or at lest the ones I’ve examined)**, but either of those options will cost significantly more. Moreover, I think that most people looking at Howard Yount umbrellas are looking to try a high-end solid stick umbrella for the first time, not add to their existing collection; these ones are definitely a huge step up from the common plastic and metal variety.
**EDIT: Vox says that in his experience, Howard Yount’s umbrellas are on par with the brands I mentioned when it comes to finishing and quality. He knows his stuff, so his opinion is worth taking into account.
The canopy is navy polyester, which may draw a gasp from some that have deemed synthetics unfit for anything, but I think this is a perfectly good use of the material. Natural fiber canopy umbrellas do exist (see the Maglia Francescos linked above), but they are heavier, don’t always perform as well as their synthetic counterparts, and still require a synthetic waterproofing coat. The umbrella shown here is the navy herringbone, and has a subtle ribbed texture. The fabric is well-attached and aligned to make a pleasing dovetail pattern along the ribs.
As for performance, the umbrella does exactly what it is supposed to do and keeps me dry. So far it has performed well in moderate stormy conditions, but as of now I have not used it in any severe gusts. Umbrellas are prone to self-destruction in harsh winds, and I can’t yet say for sure whether this one will perform better than others in strong storms. The metal ribs seem to be strong, but there is certainly no high-tech gust-proof technology in place. If you live in an area where high winds are a serious problem, it may be worth looking at Davek, who designs their umbrellas with this in mind and includes a lifetime warranty. I don’t think that the Davek umbrellas are as handsome as this one, but the warranty might be good for those that are prone to destroying umbrellas.
Also, it is worth mentioning the size of the umbrella – although I think the 42″ canopy is fairly standard for cane umbrellas like these, it is larger than many other common umbrellas, especially the ones that fold up into a small bundle. It is definitely large enough to keep two people dry.
All told, it seems that this umbrella does what many of Howard Yount’s products do – combine many of the qualities of high-end products, but at a more competitive price. I do think that Briggs and Maglias are a bit better, but not by much; as far as I’m concerned, this is as deep as I need to go into high-end umbrella territory.
As I mentioned before, it is worth noting that Kent Wang also has umbrellas available at this price. They are also built to the same specifications and in the same country; in fact, I have a hunch that they are identical products. I mention this because both e-stores are often sold out, so if the umbrella you’re looking for is unavailable at one then it may be worth looking at the other.