Can you carry a parasol without looking super dumb?
June 7, 2016 4:55 PM   Subscribe

I'm a heliophobe looking for some extra sun protection, and I'm really tempted by the idea of carrying a parasol occasionally but don't want to look like a complete ass. Are there hip fashionable parasols that won't make me look like quite as much of a fool?

I already know about and use sunblock. I'm just interested in the aesthetics of parasols and if it's possible to make one work from a fashion perspective. I don't dress like a gothic lolita or a retro model (more like your average slightly-edgy 20-something hipster type) so I'm worried it will come across as the equivalent of the casually dressed dude in a fedora.
posted by vanitas to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (36 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I live in hip, fashionable New York City and I sometimes see women carrying parasols. However, I more often see them carrying plain old umbrellas. No one seems to look askance at it, particularly since pale is all the rage after the Twilight series. (I am dead serious [sorry] about that last part.)
posted by holborne at 4:58 PM on June 7, 2016 [7 favorites]

As long as it's a nice parasol or umbrella, I think it's fine. You want to look deliberate, not like a castaway or something.
posted by Sara C. at 5:09 PM on June 7, 2016

I have open on my phone several links to sun umbrellas. I was looking this up last night.

uv blocker

posted by ilovewinter at 5:13 PM on June 7, 2016 [5 favorites]

Umbrellas and parasols (they resemble umbrellas but are clearly made of UV blocking fabric) are quite popular with the East Asian students on campus. And also the Jehova Witness ladies manning the pamphlet stand on the corner. Unless you go full Gothic Lolita with frills and doilies, I don't think anyone would look at you funny here.
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:31 PM on June 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

I've long been fond of DiCesare parasols. They can be pricey, and some of them are definitely Gothic Lolia-wear, but many of them are just interesting shapes coupled with versatile fabrics. You may find something that will work with your general aesthetic here.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 5:48 PM on June 7, 2016 [9 favorites]

I live in a decidedly non-hip area of NYC, and plenty of women carry regular umbrellas during summer.
posted by gaspode at 6:03 PM on June 7, 2016

I really regret not buying one of the beautiful umbrella for sale in the umbrella stores (!!) in Japan. I wish I could find a web site that sells them, but googling japanese umbrellas just or parasols just gets me a bunch of the stereotype of a japanese umbrella (straight wood ribs, sometimes paper or in the same style as a paper parasol). If you can find a place that sells the kind of umbrellas or parasols they carry in japan (regular umbrella structure but pretty fabrics/patterns/trim), then that's your best bet.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 6:07 PM on June 7, 2016

The US isn't a culture that's all about parasols, which means 2 things: First, there's not a right way to do this, so we can't recommend something that will make everybody immediately understand and think you're super-fashionable. Second, there's not a wrong way to do this, so you can do what you please. Most people I've seen with sun umbrellas seem to carry regular folding umbrellas, because they're convenient to pack away and carry around, and cheap to lose. The fashionable ones pick a nice color or subtle pattern (just liek for rain umbrellas). Personally, I would not judge you at all for being practical, but I might secretly judge you a bit if you go over-the-top frilly like Mary Poppins in the animated sequence. Because seriously, that's not a sunshade, that's a costume.
posted by aimedwander at 6:09 PM on June 7, 2016 [9 favorites]

People seem to think there's a big distinction between parasols and umbrellas, but I can't agree. Parasol means protecting from the sun, so if you're using an umbrella in the sunshine, it is a parasol.

I mentioned this recently on MF, but I work on a big campus in an extremely hot and sunny city. Today alone I probably saw 5 or so women carrying parasols. It's very much a daily occurrence here during the summer.

I never look at these women and think "what fools!" Sounds like it's less common where you live, but anyone looking at you can see you're intent in carrying a sunshade. I don't think you even need a hip fashionable parasol - just something to your own taste.
posted by Squeak Attack at 6:19 PM on June 7, 2016 [4 favorites]

If you live anywhere with a significant East Asian diaspora or lots of tourists from that region, carrying a UV blocking umbrella will be totally unremarkable. I see lots of people in my town (which meets both the above criteria) who have picked it up as a habit. Most just carry normal looking black umbrellas, but I definitely see prettier ones.

Anecdotally, when in desperate need of a rain umbrella on a trip to Osaka, I had trouble finding a waterproof umbrella rather than one purely intended for sunblocking. Japanese sources will probably have the widest range of interesting/unique designs for you.
posted by olinerd at 6:22 PM on June 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

If your parasol isn't waterproof, it's not an umbrella, and holding it in the rain won't make it one.

Here are some Japanese umbrellas that are not walking stereotypes of Japanese umbrellas but are generally more interesting than what you can pick up at the drugstore.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 6:23 PM on June 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

Another vote for using an umbrella, maybe a lighter colored one (that collapses to fit in a purse or backpack) so it "goes" with summer outfits. I live in a small midwestern city and would not give a second thought to someone using an umbrella for shade.

Fedoras are impractical hats with a douchey reputation. Umbrellas on sunny days at least have a purpose. I think you're good to go!
posted by thewestinggame at 6:26 PM on June 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Umbrellas on sunny days are a dime a dozen in Southern California.
posted by cecic at 7:13 PM on June 7, 2016

If you call it a sunbrella and don't try to evangelize everyone else into carrying a sunbrella, you'll be cool with me. Okay, calling it a sunbrella is actually optional.
posted by ktkt at 7:18 PM on June 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

I use regular umbrellas for this purpose, but only because I've been too cheap to buy a parasol (made for the purpose). Once you use it a few times you will stop feeling so self-conscious. Just get a parasol that you like!

Millions of people use parasols. There is no reason not to be confident and matter-of-fact about your use of one. If anyone gives you a look for it, you can look at them right back because you're not the one who's wrong.
posted by zennie at 7:20 PM on June 7, 2016

Yes, it'll look weird. Who cares - people are all weird.
posted by crankyrogalsky at 7:21 PM on June 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Carasol is another brand of UV parasol that looks like it would work well with a 20-something hipster wardrobe, especially if you're a bit femme.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 7:22 PM on June 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

life is 100% more satisfying when you realize you can do whatever the heck you want and you won't "look dumb" because who gives a shit what other people think. in nyc i see people with regular umbrellas hiding out from the sun all the time in the summer and all i think when i see them is "i bet they have like 50x less boob sweat than i do right now, good for them".

just do what makes you happy/less sweaty/cancerless
posted by poffin boffin at 7:25 PM on June 7, 2016 [10 favorites]

I just deploy a regular folding umbrella for sun protection when needed. I'm visibly pale so I figure it's obvious what I'm doing. I'm an outlier but whatever, sunburn hurts.
posted by travertina at 7:28 PM on June 7, 2016

Don't carry one of those 5-foot wide golf umbrellas in a crowd, then you won't look like an ass. There are lots of umbrellas available in different colors. If you are using them for sun, then they magically become parasols -- but you'll have more results in searching for them if you call them umbrellas.
posted by yohko at 7:34 PM on June 7, 2016

imo, carrying an unfolded umbrella on a sunny day will indeed make you look like a complete ass no matter how you do it.

But, if it makes you happy, it doesn't really matter if people think you look like a complete ass.
posted by 256 at 8:19 PM on June 7, 2016

imo, carrying an unfolded umbrella on a sunny day will indeed make you look like a complete ass no matter how you do it.

Counterpoint: I see people all the time with parasols or even unfolded umbrellas on sunny days and I think they look rather clever for keeping the accursed fire orb off their face. Just asked my wife and she said "why would anyone think that looked stupid unless they'd never heard of skin cancer?" so there you are.
posted by Sternmeyer at 8:39 PM on June 7, 2016 [9 favorites]

Aussie, I use a parasol my sister bought for her wedding party but never used - it was from ebay I think. It's plain white with wood ribs. It's less foldable than some of my actual umbrellas but I think the white helps with the heat reflection. I know it looks slightly odd (I am usually schlepping about with jeans and a tee and a buzzcut) but it is super useful for keeping the sun off. My main problem is leaving them behind - some way of attaching it to a handbag would be useful.
posted by geek anachronism at 8:56 PM on June 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

I used to be a goth who carried a parasol, now I am a fairly averagely dressed 42 year old who carries a parasol, and I say go for it. My personal choice would be to go for something that looks definitely like a parasol as opposed to an umbrella as experience tells me this reduces the likelihood of comments about the lack of rain, but I have generally found using a parasol gets little attention and the vast majority of that is (what I am taking to be) admiring glances, and I live in the UK where there is not a great deal of need for a parasol most of the year.

I have several parasols ranging from Victorian to traditional Japanese lacquered paper but mostly often use cheap nylon-type fabric parasols with wooden ribs, the type with a simple flower or branch design painted on them, often available in Chinese or Japanese food shops/supermarkets, because they are cheap, come in a range of colours, are not too big and are at least showerproof.
posted by kumonoi at 11:12 PM on June 7, 2016

Anecdata: I'm in EU, parasols certainly aren't a thing in this part of it. A while ago, during an outdoor event with a big crowd in a blistering sun, I finally say "f*** it" and unfold my plain black folding umbrella, which I always carry in my handbag. Immediately I can hear people around me going "Wow!", "Smart!" and one girl turns to her boyfriend and says: "Why didn't you think of that?!"

YMMV, but I wouldn't worry about fashion/hipness too much.
posted by gakiko at 1:57 AM on June 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

The best way to accessorise is a great gaping lack of fucks to give.

You will be comfortable and cool. My only advice is to make sure whatever you opt for is waterproof so you can get twice as much use out of it, rain and shine.
posted by Jilder at 3:01 AM on June 8, 2016 [4 favorites]

Don't use a regular umbrella, you will look like a weirdo shut-in! (I'm kidding, no one cares.) If you want a nice one, get a pagoda umbrella.

Japanese paper parasols, thai or indian fabric ones, or Battenburg lace are the main alternatives that are not waterproof.

You'll be fine. Just do it, wear sunglasses, and act like you have someplace important to be. If you don't, be prepared to be hit on extravagantly by 'gentlemen' who appreciate your 'sensibilities'. Sunglasses are really key to avoiding that.
posted by ananci at 3:01 AM on June 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Outside of the US people use parasols. It is a thing. Not good in the rain, but if it's going to be rainy you bring an umbrella that day instead.

A friend of mine was going through what you describe, and she just started this parasol company - I think they're gorgeous!
posted by Mchelly at 3:57 AM on June 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

Western-style parasols at rakuten, the humongous Japan shopping site.
posted by sebastienbailard at 6:05 AM on June 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

okay so I think we can prettu much all agree that yes, parasols are a great idea. All of the ones suggested have been ridiculously priced. So from one average slightly-edgy 20-something hipster type to another, here's some I picked out:

Orange and tan stripes, pagoda style

Vintagey tan pagoda with anchors

Clear bubble-style with an ivy leaf print

"Country" vintage green and yellow floral pattern

Retro green brown blue daisies

Weird retro boho thing

AMAZING vintage pink and green disney umbrella with weird birds and monkeys carrying watermelons (this is a childrens umbrella, fyi)
posted by FirstMateKate at 7:54 AM on June 8, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm currently waiting for my kraken parasol to arrive. I totally think you can pull off a parasol.
posted by Specklet at 10:44 AM on June 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: FirstMateKate -- I did not think about looking on Etsy! So many cool vintage options.
posted by vanitas at 11:46 AM on June 8, 2016

True Story: Just this very morning as it was sunny I witnessed a very heterosexual-looking MAN walking around with a large parasol. The friend that was walking beside him did not have one. No one really cared. I just figured the guy probably was on some medication that made his skin sensitive to sunlight. ( I live in NYC)

If a guy can do it without anyone caring than I'm assuming you can.
posted by manderin at 4:35 PM on June 8, 2016

I am Taiwanese and used to feel weird about using my UV umbrella on sunny days in the US but eventually stopped caring once I realized that people honestly don't care. Have never gotten any questions or undue curious looks.

I have learned the hard way though from borrowing one of my mom's Taiwanese sun visors that people do notice/comment on those and they scare young children ;)
posted by raw sugar at 6:49 PM on June 8, 2016

I've only ever seen people just carrying regular compact umbrellas.

I live in the bumfuck rural South, so no one cares about being hip here.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:33 PM on June 8, 2016

A recent discussion among AT hikers led to this lightweight umbrella they call a Chrome Dome -- waterproof, UV protection, black bear shoo-er
posted by maggieb at 11:05 PM on June 8, 2016

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