this thing's incredible

The Best Umbrella Is a Lopsided Dutch Umbrella

Photo: Hester Blankestijn

Last fall, I visited Amsterdam for the first time. As anyone who’s visited the capital of the Netherlands can tell you, it’s (maddeningly) always raining, or about to rain there. And sure enough, on my first day there, it was pouring. I was ready to spend the afternoon happily eating Gouda in bed, but my guide Joe insisted we go out, and handed me an umbrella as he led the way with cheery Dutch efficiency.

When I got outside, and I opened the umbrella, I didn’t quite know what to do. Instead of the expected dome shape, this one was weirdly angled, with one shorter side and one longer one connected at a 135-degree angle — it looked like an upside-down check mark.

“Wait, how am I supposed to use this?” I asked Joe. “Oh, you haven’t seen one of these before?” he asked, without waiting for my reply. “The shorter end is the front, and the longer part is the tail. You basically keep your head underneath the part where the canopy angles.” As we circled our way from Anne Frank’s house to Dam Square to the Rijksmuseum, I gave perfunctory nods; what I really wanted to know about was the umbrella. “Why does it look like this? Why am I not getting wet? Do I get to keep it?” The Senz, Joe explained, was created by a Dutch industrial designer who wanted to make an umbrella that was storm- and windproof. Unlike that of ordinary umbrellas, the shape is virtually impossible to blow inside out. “They’ve gotten really popular with the Dutch,” he said, and, indeed, I noticed that nearly two-thirds of the umbrellas people carried on the street were shaped like mine.

When I got home and found the company’s website, I discovered the Dutch designer was named Gerwin Hoogendoorn and that the umbrella works so well because it mimics the aerodynamic shape of a stealth bomber. Someone smarter than I am can explain it, but I do know that it’s never turned inside out like my Duane Reade Apt. 5 umbrella has, or that Core Club umbrella I inherited from a boss that came apart on my way to a work party, or that far-too-expensive Brooks Brothers one that was impossible to close. Because of the Senz’s funky canopy, there’s less fabric to wrap up, too, so the umbrella travels surprisingly well.

Senz Umbrella

Note: There’s also a smaller ‘Smart’ version available on Amazon for $40.

The Happy Umbrella
“I like how small and compact this umbrella is, which means of course that it’s ultra portable. And if you know Marimekko, you’re already familiar with their super-peppy Finnish designs. It’s like the turned-up version of Ikea. When you’re holding a bright and bold pattern like this flower (one of their signatures), how can you help feeling anything but happy even on the grayest rainy day?” — Patrick Mele, Designer

The Gentelman’s Umbrella
“There’s something incredibly solid about the quality of the London Undercover City Gent umbrella — it has a malacca wood handle (which is used to make the finest canes), a beech-wood shaft, gunmetal spokes, and a bronze ferrule. I’m absurdly partial to the color orange so I like that version, but I understand that most people would go for the black. It’s pricey but worth it.” — Christopher Mason, Writer

Note: This has sold out—more to come soon, but here is a similar version.

The Money-Is-No-Object Umbrella
“I like Talarico solid stick umbrellas because they’re basically walking sticks with an umbrella frame built onto them. I love how seamlessly they’re built. They have the handle and shaft as one piece, which is why it’s called a solid stick. It’s really just a delight to handle, and the canopy locks in with a satisfying thunk too. Personally, I like hickory for the wood the most because it just feels the most luxurious.” — Mark Cho, Owner of The Armoury

Note: The blonde hickory version is unavailable, but another version with dark chestnut wood is.

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The Best Umbrella Is a Lopsided Dutch Umbrella