Henry Ford once described his Model T as available in any color so long as it was black, and much the same can be said for the canopy of a man's umbrella. Oh, there are colored canopies available, and some of them are even appropriate for golf (though I have never understood how to reconcile the golf umbrella with the prohibition against carrying umbrellas in the country). They can also be very nice when carried by a female, umbrellas with colored canopies that is, but for a man anything other than black is A Step Too Far.
I think that the black umbrella does make aesthetic sense, since umbrellas are carried only in the city. The black canopy complements city clothing in gray and blue, and is consistent with the color of the sky when it rains which keeps it in line with the good practice of wearing or carrying things with a palette that complements the environs and the season.
Now when it comes to choosing an umbrella, there are only a few choices, those being the inexpensive sort that blow out at the first gust of wind and the expensive kind from one of the handful of renowned makers (among them Thomas Brigg and James Smith in London and Talarico in Naples) that will usually survive two or three gusts before turning themselves inside out (the exception being the ten rib umbrella, a design so strong that it threatens to lift the person carrying it a la Mary Poppins).
Ten ribs or eight, the other thing that determines the sturdiness of an umbrella is whether the shaft is a single piece or not. Umbrellas made from a single piece of wood are as strong as a walking stick and can be used as one. Unfortunately, that construction precludes two of what are considered the best types of handles, those being Malacca and whangee.
Since all canopies are black save for those carried by the unfortunate patrons of certain Italian umbrella shops that shall remain nameless here, the principal way to differentiate one umbrella from another has been the handle and, to a lesser extent, the shaft. Various hardwoods are used along with the occasional silver plate but the aforesaid Malacca and whangee are usually considered the crème de la crème. Whangee is nothing more than the root of a type of bamboo, and very distinctive looking indeed, while Malacca is a species of rattan that has been referred to as the King of Canes (the handle of the umbrella in the photo is Malacca). Unfortunately neither of them is useful for the umbrella shaft and all umbrellas with Malacca or whangee handles have separate shafts, which slightly weakens the construction proving once again that nothing is perfect.
These meanderings would be incomplete without mentioning that in certain very strict circles the umbrella is carried but never unfurled, a prohibition that strikes me as somewhat unclear on the concept. But then few things about the umbrella are entirely logical (see, for example, How to Carry an Umbrella).
Just be certain your canopy is black.
Photo: Sterling & Burke