Are Umbrellas Effete?

Umbrellas are a very useful object to have on hand when it starts to rain, whatever your gender may be, but many men avoid using them as they think doing so is in some way considered effete. These men would rather be soaked down to the bone than risk the humiliation of being seen in public with an umbrella, but they are missing a trick. Let’s look how umbrellas have been used by men throughout history.

Man Holding Inverlla Umbrella


Umbrellas as we know them were originally invented as a way to protect against the sun rather than the rain. The umbrella was first called a parasol and is documented as being used as early as the 4th Century B.C. in places such as ancient Rome, ancient Greece, ancient Egypt, India and the Middle East. Their design was very close to that of the umbrella as we know it now.

It appears that is was women who mostly used these early umbrellas/parasols (from para “stop” and sol “sun”), though evidence exists that proves it was used by kings, clergymen, and other members of royalty as well.


Umbrellas became popular in England in the early 1750s when an Englishman called Jonas Hanway returned from a trip to France with an umbrella, which he used to guard himself against London’s incessant rain. Passersby were shocked at seeing a man committing such a social faux-pas, but Hanway was not bothered by their reaction and carried on using his rain defense.

At this time in England, the use of the umbrella by a men was considered effete and seen as a character weakness; it was far more desirable to be soaked than to carry such a thing. However, Hanway’s umbrella caught on and became increasingly more popular towards by the late 1700s as a way to protect both men and women from the rain. By 1881, it was rather common for men to use umbrellas.


After the U.S. Navy allowed its men to wear umbrellas while in uniform in 1987, after on-and-off debates since 1969, it sent the message loud and clear that it is no longer considered feminine or effete for a man to carry an umbrella.  It seems that while parasols may have had a feminine edge, though one that Royalty embraced, the modern rain umbrella is considered more of a necessity.