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A Gentleman’s Guide to Whangee

The British umbrella’s already the pinnacle of rainy-day style, but we’d like to nominate a particular detail as especially crucial. We’re thinking of that notched handle known among connoisseurs as the whangee.

Make no mistake—this is advanced-level British nostalgia. (The icon, if we had to pick one, would be The Avengers’s John Steed.) But it’s also the kind of grace note that separates the standard article from the full trad. Especially if you happen to know the backstory...

Aside from Steed, you might recognize it from Chaplin’s Tramp, who used a whangee cane as one of his signature accoutrements. But for all the British style, it’s a wholly colonial item. The material is actually the root of a certain kind of bamboo, so even as the empire has rolled back, you’ll still see plenty of whangee handles in the hands of the eastern hemisphere’s more traditional gents. It’s a true combination of British design and Chinese materials—one of the world’s earliest genuinely globalized products.

Of course, mostly it’s handsome. The notches should fit right into the different sections of your hand, and the details put simpler Malacca or hardwood handles to shame. Naturally, the best come from old-school outfits like Swaine Adeney and Brigg, but you can still find a cheap version if you look, and even more playful designers have started to work the classic whangee handle into their repertoire for an added bit of English style.