Umbrella’s Long History of Fashion and Tradition

June 1st, 2012

Brolly, the known slang of umbrella is widely used in Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and African countries like Kenya and South Africa. Nevertheless, it is generally known to most countries as plain umbrella, a derivation from the Latin term “umbra”, which means shadow or shade.

It is best known for its shade during a sunny day and at the same time its water-proof quality during rainy season. It is commonly mistaken as same with parasol. However, parasol’s materials are just for sun protection. Though some parasols can be hand-held like umbrella, most of them are fixed in outdoor furniture. The canopy-like nature of both parasol and umbrella made them a timeless form of protection from sun and rain in so many centuries. In fact, it was believed that umbrellas hailed from the same concept that parasols were made for in the ancient period.

Looking at the documentation and some sculptures, there is a considerable proof that it had been widely used in the past for one reason or another. Some sculptures that showed the umbrellas’ significance in the past were coming from various world cultures and civilizations.

In the Persian history, a sculpture showed a Persian king attended by a servant carrying an umbrella, while the same was being depicted by a statue of a king looking at a hunted deer while having an umbrella borne over his head. These pictures were said to be 12 centuries old.

Umbrellas were also believed to be ornamentals in the form of parasols attached to Egyptian chariots. Some paintings also showed parasols attached to a stout pole rising in the center over a figure of a god during a procession.

Within centuries, umbrellas were closely associated to women. Its femininity initiated from the Greek lady-fashion dating back the 5th century. Moreover, Roman cultural history emphasized how honorable it was for maid-servants to be able to bear an umbrella over their princess or mistresses.

For quite some time, the use of umbrella becomes a mark of effeminacy for most men. But with modernization and the growing need of protection, this perception had lost its meaning. Both men and women now enjoys the shade that umbrella brings. It then became ubiquitous to any class in the society.

In the modern fashion, umbrella becomes the most essential accessory. The oldest reference of the most fashionable collapsible umbrellas dates back the 21 year A.D., and is said to be an original China tradition. With this, China became the world’s largest producer of umbrellas today. Shangyu, a city in China has more than a thousand factories producing the best umbrellas in the world, as well the most affordable.

Other use of umbrella in the fashion world includes that of the photographers’ reflective tools. Umbrellas are considered good diffusion devices since its shade can be used as shield from glares in pictures taken in some photo studios, and even for outdoor pictorials.

With the exception of the 1978 incident where a modified umbrella was transformed into a deadly weapon killing a Bulgarian dissident writer, the umbrella otherwise brought forth a pleasant history to mankind.

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