Outdoor Umbrella

The Brief History of Outdoor Umbrellas

The omnipresent outdoor umbrellas found in 21st century gardens may be architectural, but their origins take a detour through fashion and onto lifestyle.

Just like outdoor spaces of yesteryear required comfortable amounts of shade, modern umbrellas protect you from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays. But now, instead of stretching leaves, leather, or cloth across tree boughs, Poggesi’s contemporary designs use durable Sunbrella® or Tempotest® fabric on powder-coated aluminum posts. And rather than forcing a cortege to move around your patio umbrella, there are lightweight, yet robust models to suit your every need.

What a relief to be living in current times!

Umbrellas in China.

Ancient China is thought to be the birthplace of the umbrella. (Although Egyptians may disagree and claim that accolade for their ancestors!)

Not in dispute, though, is that the Chinese pioneered two firsts:

  1. Coating parasols (that provide shade coverage) so that they became waterproof umbrellas. The silk or paper panels, bamboo staff, or umbrella pole, and handle were treated with tongyou – plant oil from the tung tree.
  2. The original collapsible umbrella canopy. A Luoyang archeological dig found bronze castings of rudimentary mechanisms for opening and closing traditional umbrellas dating back to the Zhou dynasty in around 600 BC.

Back then, umbrellas were not merely protection from rain and sun, but also an indication of prestige and social standing. Although Chinese people of all classes carried an umbrella, royalty and high-ranking representatives had servants bear theirs for them. In those days, the bigger the umbrella, the more powerful its owner! More shade meant a lighter complexion which was de rigueur at the time. What’s more, only the royal family were allowed a yellow umbrella.

Nowadays you can choose from 200 fabric colors so that your Poggesi umbrella complements your décor.

Umbrellas in Ancient Greece.

The history of umbrellas follows the establishment of trade routes. Non-waterproof parasols (skiadeion) from Egypt made their way to Greece as early as 500 BC.

This type of umbrella was initially regarded as feminine and therefore the purview of women. A parasol even features in Aristophanes’ Birds, a 414 BC comedy, as a disguise for the main male character. In time, though, noblemen of ancient Greek society came round to the idea of donning skiadeions as a symbol of style and wealth.

The status lay in the portability of the shade. This meant that the non-working class were able to maintain a fashionably pale skin wherever they went. Poggesi umbrellas let you adjust the angle of shade so that you get just the right amount for your liking.

The Rebirth of Umbrellas in The Renaissance.

By the late-16th century, silken parasols were fashionable in Europe. The opening of the Silk Road trade routes piqued interest in exotic trends and the Asian aesthetic.

As time went by, dainty sun umbrellas were adapted to suit the other European weather. Unsurprisingly, rain umbrellas, a.k.a. brollies were adopted by British men and women alike.

21st Century: The Need to Protect Our Skin from the Sun.

Thanks to Coco Chanel’s accidental sunburn which she turned into a fashion statement, the 20th century turned away from umbrellas. Darker complexions were coveted – by any means possible, even baking in the sun for hours. Along with a bronze tan, sun worshiping eventually started to be frowned upon as the underlying damage it does became evident. At the same time, fake tan formulations improved, and diverse skin tones were embraced.

Living in the 21st century has taken us full circle to protecting the largest organ in the body, our skin, from harmful UV rays.

Thankfully, we are now driven to seek shelter under Poggesi umbrellas for the sake of our health rather than judgmental beauty standards.

Modern Outdoor and Beach Umbrellas.

Whether for your home entertainment area, a beach restaurant, or country club, having durable umbrellas adds not only to the shade, but the aesthetic too.

For a range of premium Italian crafted residential and commercial outdoor umbrellas, contact Poggesi today.

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