A Fun History of Promotional Products: The Umbrella

Woman holding rainbow colored umbrella
Woman photo created by freepik – www.freepik.com

Whether a Spring shower, Summer squall, or Autumn rain, a quality umbrella is handy to have any time of year.  We’re used to seeing umbrellas in all colors and sizes, from 60” vented golf umbrellas to cute, cartoon festooned parasols for kids. Umbrellas may be commonplace, but where did they come from? And why might you use a logoed umbrella to promote your brand?

Unusual Umbrella History

Chinese painting featuring umbrellas
Umbrellas have been a part of culture for centuries and are depicted in many ancient artworks.  

Did you know that umbrellas were originally reserved for those of wealth and high status? Their first recorded use was in Ancient Egypt. Egyptian nobles used parasols to protect them from the desert sun. In fact, the word “umbrella” comes from the Latin umbra which means “shade or shadow.”

What began as basic assemblies of branches and palm leaves became ever more elaborate as the culture of the umbrella developed across the ancient world. In the 11th century BC, the Chinese developed the first waterproof umbrella, adapting the parasol to a new climate.

With the fall of Rome in the 5th century, umbrellas and parasols disappeared. It wasn’t until the Renaissance that the umbrella returned as a fashion accessory. While in ancient times both men and women of noble rank used parasols, umbrellas in 16th century Europe were only carried by women.

That changed in the mid-18th century, when an Englishman named Jonas Hanway began carrying an umbrella in public all the time. While he faced ridicule initially, his actions brought umbrellas into the mainstream as an item that could be used by anyone.

Suppliers began crafting umbrellas of higher quality and more durable materials to protect carriers from the elements. Over time, manufacturers swapped out wooden and whale bone frames for steel supports, that made the umbrellas lighter weight and easier to fold.

Modern Day Branding Tool

Two Tone Umbrellas
Top of umbrella with branding

From the beginning, umbrellas were used to make a statement. That remains true today. Umbrellas provide a large visual canvas for design, color, and branding.

Annually, 33 million umbrellas are sold in the U.S. They continue to be in high demand, which makes them a useful and appreciated promotional giveaway. Some popular markets for umbrellas include:

  • Golfing: Golf umbrellas are one of the most common styles available for branding. With wide coverage and optional venting, a golf umbrella is a must-have to protect any golfer from hot sun or driving rain.
  • Travel: A compact pocket umbrella is ideal for travelers or adventure seekers short on space who don’t want rain to ruin their vacation.
  • Schools & Universities: Perfect for a rainy game day or Spring walk across campus, umbrellas are popular for academic and sports team branding.
Blue Umbrella with Logo

Interested in promoting your business with a branded umbrella? Choose from several styles in our online catalog, and contact Sarah, our Promotional Specialist, for help with all your promo needs.

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