Hermès: 10 Things To Know About The Iconic Birkin Bag



Calling this the be-all and end-all of all knowledge Birkin may be a stretch, but it promises to be a good start, especially for those who are new to one of Hermès’ most iconic bags.

Chronologically, the Kelly was created in the 1930s, the Constance in 1959, and the Birkin in 1984. Essentially the baby of the family, and boasting worldwide appeal, here’s why ladies (and men) everywhere covet the Birkin.

01 - The Birkin came about during an in-flight conversation between former Hermès CEO Jean-Louis Dumas and British actress Jane Birkin. When the latter accidentally dropped her bag, spilling its contents, it attracted the attention of fellow passenger, Dumas, who suggested that she “should have one (a bag) with pockets”.

The actress replied that she had been looking for such a bag, describing a roomy tote with “pockets and seals”. Dumas offered to make one just for her and together they began designing onboard the Air France flight.

02 - The very first Birkin that resulted from that chance meeting came in black, and took design references from the Haut À Courroies (HAC). Essentially a smaller, lighter handbag version of Hermès’ first-ever bag. 40 years on, the bestselling sizes amongst the ladies are still the B25 and B30, while the men covet the larger ones like the B35 and the B40.

03 - Several key features make up the anatomy of the Birkin. For starters, the double top handles, twist-lock Hermès plaque and signature flap. The Pontet refers to the two pointy latches holding onto the front straps.

Each piece is also furnished with a lock and clochette which houses the keys. Four Clou studs equip the base of the bag, so if you find one with five or even six studs, that’s a clear sign of authenticity issues.

04 - The Birkin comes in a wide array of materials. Starting with leather, the common skins are Clemence, Epsom and Togo, all featuring hardy grained finishes.

Then those with a fine leather grain include Evercolour and Chevre. For smooth leather surfaces, there’s Barenia, Box Calf and Swift, which are increasingly rarer to spot these days. Other options include Veau Doblis (suede), or even a mix of leather and alternative materials like canvas.

05 - Of course, Hermès’ iconic bags are also available in exotics like lizard, crocodile and ostrich. Popular colour schemes include Himalaya White and Himalaya Gris Cendre, which involves an intricate dyeing process to mimic the appearance of the Himalayan mountains.

For something lush and super rare, look for either Ombre Lizard or Grand Marriage. The latter combines an extravagant crocodile body with lizard handles and ostrich trims.

06 - Birkin bags also come in alternative styles that play on the original silhouette. Take, for example, the Birkin Ghillies with extra trimmings on the flap and base, and the Fringe Birkin, which packs fun leather ‘bangs’.

07 - Then there’s the Shadow Birkin, whose flap and straps integrate seamlessly into the body. Another is the Shoulder Birkin, with elongated top handles and a shorter but wider base, from Jean Paul Gaultier’s reign as creative director.

08 - Certain Birkin bags also come with extra blind stamps next to the Hermès logo. There’s the horseshoe stamp, for example, which signifies a Special Order, a customisation service reserved for those lucky enough to be offered the chance.

Exotic skins also get their own stamps: square for alligator, two dots for crocodile, and a single dash for lizard.

09 - As if prices for a Birkin aren’t high enough at boutiques (and even higher at resellers), the record selling price stands at USD450,000 at a Sotheby' auction for a Diamond Himalaya Birkin 30 in 2022.

10 - That said, the average price of a Birkin is constantly increasing. Many liken owning one to be a form of investment, with a value higher than gold. A piece that you purchase today can be worth so much more just three or five years down the road.

For more information, do visit HERMÈS.com