Parasols were invented 4,000 years ago making them one of the oldest fashions still in existence today. Even pants are only about 3,000 years old, which means people were using parasols for 1,000 years before anyone was worried about missing a belt loop.
While pants may now outnumber parasols on the store shelves the parasol is still just as amazing a fashion accessory as it was four centuries ago. Not only is a parasol an excellent way to add a touch of elegance to your ensemble but it is a fun, eco-friendly way to protect yourself from harmful UV rays.
History of Parasols
The very first parasols were simply made, typically created with palm branches or tree leaves to give you access to a bit of shade in the scorching heat. Slowly throughout the years the designs for parasols became more sophisticated and eventually in 9 BC (not long after the invention of those aforementioned pants) paper umbrellas were officially being made in China.
Due to the difficulty and expense that went into making them the paper parasol was only really used by royalty and other nobles, but as time has passed they have become one of the cheapest parasols to manufacture and can be purchased for just a few dollars online.
Parasols continued to be popular among the aristocracy for millennia because the shade of your skin was an indicator of class. Pale skin tones were considered the most desirable because peasants were forced to work in the fields and thus tended to be tan while the upper classes tended to be indoors for much of their day making them much paler by comparison.
To keep their skin pale and unblemished as a way to separate themselves from the lower classes most noble women in Ancient Greece and Rome used parasols to shield themselves from the sun. After the fall of the Roman Empire the parasol fell out of favor in the West until trade routes with Asia were established, once again putting this gorgeous accessory back in the hands of the European aristocrats.
Soon thereafter the parasol became the equivalent of the modern-day handbag with wealthy women often owning a dozen or more with different designs to match specific outfits. In Victorian era England the parasol became a must have for the wealthy elite and subsequently became a fashion staple of the time.
At the turn of the 20th century parasols slowly started to fall out of favor as factory work became standard for the poor. Once a pale skin tone was no longer an indicator of poverty its value decreased sharply and the rich opted instead for a sun-kissed look as a way to show that they didn't have to work and were able to lounge on the beach instead of work on an assembly line.
Today parasols tend to be popular in alternative fashions. Given the heavy focus on Victorian-era styles in Goth and Steampunk outfits, parasols are especially trendy in those areas. There are hundreds of parasols available in dark colors covered in an assortment of lace, ribbon, and other decorative items to give them a truly Victorian feel for someone looking for a Goth look. You can even find them with cogs or other metal designs to complete your Steampunk ensemble.
People who are looking to accent a Kawaii outfit might consider a paper parasol to help block the sun. Paper parasols come in thousands of different colors and patterns making them the perfect accessory for a bright Kawaii look.
Paper parasols are also relatively cheap, often less than $10 a piece, which means it is possible to own multiple parasols to guarantee you'll be able to complete any outfit.
There are even some modern parasols that are designed to collapse down to fit into your purse! From the original palm fronds held above your head to an accessory you can tuck in your bag when you aren't actively using it the parasol has been helping people look fashionably chic for thousands of years.
Parasols Provide Sun Protection
According to the most recent data available through the CDC cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States. More than 80,000 people were diagnosed with Melanoma and almost 9,000 people died because of skin cancer in 2015.
Sunblock seems like the obvious solution to preventing Melanoma but it has a major environmental drawback - the chemicals in sunblock are destroying our oceans. It takes a shockingly small amount of oxybenzone, the active ingredient in most sunscreens and sunblocks, to cause severe ecological damage and we are filling the oceans with it at an alarming rate.
You don't even have to be swimming in the ocean directly to contribute to the problem. Experts recommend switching to a zinc-based sunblock and wearing long sleeved sun shirts to protect yourself without damaging the environment and Hawaii is officially banning traditional sunscreen in hopes of protecting their coral reefs.
If you want to protect your skin without damaging the environment parasols are an excellent way to prevent exposure to the sun while protecting our fragile ecosystem. A standard parasol will provide you with protection from sun damage but there are also parasols designed with specially treated fabrics to prevent UV exposure as well, making a parasol an effective and environmentally friendly way to protect yourself from Melanoma.
Parasols have been around forever and are ready to make their triumphant return to the fashion industry. What is your favorite way to use a parasol?