6 facts you didn't know about umbrellas

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As a rain-loving umbrella brand, how could we not write a post that honours ‘the umbrella’, which is one of the most important and oldest accessories for someone living in a rainy location. In fact, umbrellas were first invented by Egyptians to create shade from the sunlight for royalty, and it was the Chinese who first utilised umbrellas against rain by covering their wooden parasols with wax and lacquer. We now use these shielding objects almost every day in the winter, yet there is so much we don’t know about them. So, here are a few facts to bring you and your umbrella closer to each other…

1. We must start as we do with people: by introducing names. The name ‘umbrella’ comes from the Latin word ‘umbra’ which means shade or shadow, which means that umbrellas are in fact not only associated with rain, but also sunlight and the shadows the sun creates- which is why we, at Beau Nuage believe that your rainy days should be just as bright and happy as the sunny ones!

2. Secondly, you might not know that umbrellas have come a long way since their invention, which was in fact almost 4000 years ago by the Egyptians, who used parasols to create shade from sunlight. Alongside other groups and objects, the umbrella was also highly discriminated and stereotyped during the 18th century, used predominantly by women, and looked down on by men as they were purely an object to flaunt ‘femininity’ until the 18th century. It was in the 18th century that Jonas Hanway, the first man to use an umbrella in the streets of London, broke this stereotype, and commercialised the umbrella for the whole population. Without him, we would also not have ‘The Gentleman’.

3. To carry on with our sociological analysis of the umbrella, we can also notice the umbrella is not only important to protect you against rain, but in many cultures, it serves as other far-reaching, influential roles too. In Chinese cultures, paper umbrellas (like the ones in the picture below) symbolise good luck, protection against wars and evil spirits and even attractors of longevity- so if you don’t have an umbrella, it might be time to invest in one ;) . However, different cultures also find innovative uses for umbrellas, which might be seen at a range of ceremonies, including weddings of course! In the neighbouring Tibetan culture, they respect umbrellas so much that they worship the Buddhist goddess ‘Sitatapatra’, who when translated to English is called ‘the white umbrella’. As with Chinese cultures, ‘the white umbrella’ goddess represents protection against supernatural danger.

Now that we know some foundational facts about how umbrellas have become household accessories, we can uncover the dark side of umbrellas and explore their shadows…

4. If you have read our blog post “Umbrellas In Movies”, you might remember the section “Umbrellas and Combat” where we depicted how umbrellas are often used in movies as secret weapons, using the great example of the movie Kingsman, where the spies used umbrellas for elegance and power. Although, it appears that movies like Kingsman were actually inspired by real life events concerning spies and assassins, who really do use umbrellas in combat! For instance, there is a famous case from 1978, when an assassin used a poisoned-tipped umbrella to eliminate Bulgarian defector Georgi Markov on Waterloo Bridge in London!

5. However, it doesn’t stop there- umbrellas can be used as weapons, but at the end of the day, they will always remain loyal to their main task, which is to protect us from rain, or from dogs; attackers; bullets; knives; acids; rocks and even fire, if you are Nicolas Sarkozy! Yes, you read it right, in 2011 French presidential bodyguards gained a new weapon-the umbrella. Except their umbrella is coated with Kevlar and weighs 2.2kg compared to our heaviest umbrella, The Gentleman, which is only 500g. It is said that the umbrella is so strong that when they threw a champagne bottle at it, the bottle smashed into pieces with no trouble. See! Umbrellas can do anything…

6. As we have demonstrated how incredibly multifunctional umbrellas are, they clearly need some appreciation, which is exactly what they get from Nancy Hoffman, who opened the first ever Umbrella Cover Museum in the USA and now in Bristol, England too, showcasing more than 700 umbrella covers. Nancy’s inspirational mission statement on the website reads: “The Umbrella Cover Museum is dedicated to the appreciation of the mundane in everyday life. It is about finding wonder and beauty in the simplest of things, and about knowing that there is always a story behind the cover.” There is certainly a story behind our patented triple-layer absorption technology covers, so maybe one day you’ll find a Beau Nuage umbrella cover amongst the collection too…

Now that you have all the ‘need-to-know’ facts about umbrellas, only one question will forever remain unanswered… what’s not to love?

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