Skip to content


Your cart is empty

Signup for our newsletter

Discover more about Swaine London's new products and heritage history.

Article: The Best Umbrella Types

The Best Umbrella Types

Brigg & Co. have been royal umbrella makers since the company’s founding in the 19th century and remain the most decorated umbrella manufacturer in the UK.

Handcrafted at our workshops in Cambridge, the handle of a Brigg umbrella is formed from a solid piece of precious wood; gently steam curved and finished with a gold plated or sterling silver collar. When choosing a Brigg umbrella, understanding the history and symbolism behind our wide range of woods is vital when selecting the perfect umbrella for you, as this choice will form the spine of your umbrella that you will keep for decades.

For both ladies and gentlemen, Brigg umbrellas are often purchased for seminal moments; for a marriage, for a graduation or for any other significant achievement that requires a symbolic gift – and are meant to be treasured for life. These traditions are tokens that have become somewhat lost in our modern world – and often within our client base. Brigg is designed for a specific purpose, and each wood, therefore, belongs to a specific person.


Polished Cherry Umbrella 

Polished Cherry is often given by a husband to his wife at the birth of their first child. It reminds a woman to be virtuous and to have faith that she will blossom at a time of the year when there is nothing but frost and dark nights. She may suffer loss and hardship, but with endeavour she will blossom again in the spring without any interference or maintenance; constantly giving freely without asking for anything in return. Even after its death, a cherry tree will be turned into an ornament, a decoration or a beautiful piece of furniture that will remain at the heart of the house forever, in the way that the memory of a mother will in the hearts of her family.



Chestnut Umbrella 

Sweet chestnut is relatively new as a wood and it is principally inspired by the umbrellas that were made for the Kingsman franchise that required an umbrella to be crafted to resonate with the character. For the army, we use malacca and whangee, and for the civil services, for example James Bond, it tends to be oak or hickory. Therefore, it was not quite appropriate to apply the inherent nobility of these woods to the Kingsman. He is more of an unexpected gentleman: an ‘honour among thieves’ scenario. The sweet chestnut is not usually considered to be a noble wood; it is instead primarily a tree that children play at the base of – making weapons from the branches, and conkers to use against their unsuspecting opponents. This playful nobility – the willingness for sweet chestnut to adapt to the needs of its proprietor – seemed appropriate as a sword stick for the character in The Kingsman, giving the umbrella a rather cheeky nobility that seemed in keeping with the character. When choosing a chestnut, it is most appropriate for a younger person who is stepping outside of the mould; maybe the first to go to university or the first to pass the bar: the unexpected gentleman who is playful and suave.




Hickory Umbrella 

Hickory is formed from a tree that grows solidly in the ground with a large and sturdy taproot. As such, it has the strength to weather any storm when others surrounding it are at risk of breaking or snapping. A hickory stands strong, evolving to be a symbol for one who has the strength and resilience for tempering what life throws at them. An usher, for example, is given a hickory umbrella to remind them to stand true in the face of adversity. He has a belief in himself and he is there to defend. So at the six o’clock moment, following the working day, when you might think of having another pint of beer, your usher or best man should remind you of your responsibilities at home, and that it is now time for you to obey and honour, and not have that fourth beer.



Maple Umbrella 

When ladies were historically ‘passed out’ into society, they would be given woods that resonated with and celebrated their graces and their virtue. A young lady might be given a maple, as the tree itself is always incredibly well turned out, and throughout the seasons of its life will always present the best face and the sweetest core. It reminds a young lady that, whether in her verdant youth or her russet days of old, she should always be well presented, full of grace and have a kind and sweet soul.


Oak Umbrella 

Oak, the oldest indigenous wood in England, has a central point in English law, mythology and history. It is the most noble of trees: the oldest and grandest in our forests. It only lives for about eight hundred to one thousand years these days, but oaks have historically lived for hundreds of thousands. They have been the refuge and sanctuary for kings and queens in times of trouble. The English naval fleet – historically the largest serving defender of the nation – would have been principally made from oak; defending our shores from invading threats, such as the Spanish Armada. The wood is used for its resilience, nobility and strength in defending liberty and freedom. The roots of oak trees run very tight to the surface of the earth, making them easily blown over. As such, they have evolved to sacrifice their branches to save the whole. The oak handle umbrella is given to somebody that has defended, cherished and nurtured you; often a gentleman who is retiring, or to a younger gentleman stepping up to take the title, who will become the bastion of your family or business, to remind them that they may need to sacrifice a limb when times get tough.



Malacca Umbrella 

Similarly with Malacca, which is also a palm, this wood is also recommended for the military gentleman principally because of the scale of the furl, but also because it would show the reverence to gentlemen who had served England in the far east for extremely long periods of time. Career soldiers would often be in Hong Kong, for example, for twenty or thirty years and it would demonstrate an indication of heritage value and a recognition for their loyalty, their hard work and their sense of duty.

Incidentally, the Prince of Wales which uses a Malacca handle would have given the Prince of Wales at the time, in the 1800s, the impression of carrying a sword stick rather than an umbrella. It has a silver nose cap; representing the silver chalice of the holy grail and the Church of England, symbolising the blood spilled defending our nation’s freedoms. The Prince of Wales also has a silver collar, usually engraved with a motto used to denote the respect he had for the nation, showing that – despite being quite the dandy – he was paying respect to a population who had lost family members in war, and he showed his gratitude to them, symbolically, using the Prince of Wales umbrella.


Whangee Umbrella

Whangee is not a solid stick, but a palm. We have established that a gentleman always has an umbrella, and during Imperial rule, crafting umbrellas of solid stick in India, for example, was impossible. So the bamboo crook was an indigenous wood easily adapted for the English gentleman abroad – foreign officers, ministers, ambassadors who would always have carried an umbrella. A gentleman embarking on a career in the army who needs to use a sword stick as part of his civilian uniform will use a whangee for its slimmer furl, replicating the appearance of a sword more accurately. The whangee pays homage to the work, the time, the investment of ancestors who established the reach that England was famous for.  


Read more

Gentleman's Etiquette: Umbrellas - Swaine

Gentleman's Etiquette: Umbrellas

AN ETYMOLOGY  Brigg umbrellas are more than the sum of their components. Fundamentally, we at Brigg do not make an umbrella, we make a canopy. From the Norman conquest onwards, canopies were used ...

Read more