History of the bag: Hermès Birkin

History of the bag: Hermès Birkin


“A Birkin bag is a very good rain hat; just put everything else in a plastic bag.” - Jane Birkin

The ultimate fashion symbol, the bag every woman dreams about; the Birkin Bag. This insanely popular Hermès bag is on many wishlists all over the world!


It all started in 1981, when English actress Jane Birkin and Jean-Louis Dumas, the then chief executive at Hermès, met on a flight from Paris to London. Jane Birkin expresses how she can’t find the right bag to carry everything she needs, and so they start to design the first ever Birkin bag. Jane Birkin told Telegraph in 2012 that they drew the first designs on a ‘sick-bag’ from the airplane. Three years later, in 1984, the first Birkin bag was introduced, which Hermès describes as; “a deep and supple holdall, with distinguishing features such as a polished plaque, a swivel clasp, and, of course, the house’s signature saddle stitching.”

Jane Birkin and the first anatomy of the Hermès Birkin bag

Jane Birkin and an anatomy of the Hermès Birkin - Pinterest

Within ten years (+/- 1990), the Hermès Birkin bag grew to be the ultimate fashion symbol, available in cowhide, ostrich leather and calfskin, as well as in different sizes; 30 and 35 centimetres. In the following years the Birkin became even more popular, and Hermès started to release several limited editions of the bag. For example the “Birkin shadow bag”; with optical illusions, or the “Birkin One Two Three and Away We Go”; that was inspired by the famous scarf print of Hermès.


The original design of the bag has hardly changed, however there have been a lot of variations. Different types of leather, materials, sizes, colors, accessories, and more. Around 2008 Hermès started using precious metals and diamonds on hardware, meaning even more unique variants of Birkin bags became available.

“The Birkin varies, yet never changes” - Hermès

No two Birkins are alike, because every single one is handmade. Is a ‘normal’ Birkin not special enough for you? It’s possible to place a “Special Order” (SO), where you can customize almost every aspect of your Birkin. Unfortunately, Hermès only allows their VIP clients to place these ‘Special Orders”. 

Different colors of the Hermès Birkin bag and the Hermès Kelly bag
Different colors of Hermès Birkins and Kelly bags - The Chic Selection


Next to the original Birkin, and it’s variations. Hermès released some other different versions such as the JPG Shoulder, and the Haut á Courroies. The JPG Shoulder, which was designed in 2005, is a smaller, more casual Birkin, with long handles so it can be worn on the shoulder. This bag was discontinued for a while, after being replaced by the JPG Shoulder II. This model is slimmer, light-weighted and has a padlock like the original Birkins. The Haut á Courroies, also known as the HAC, was designed in the 1800s to carry horse riding equipment. Even though it looks a lot like the original Birkins, it’s bigger, taller, and has smaller handles for wearing it by hand instead of on the shoulder.

The Hermès JPG and the Hermès HAC

The Hermès JPG and HAC - Bagaholic Boy & Jewelry HA


Next to the design, the size of the Birkin has also changed over the years. Nowadays, the bag is available in four different sizes known as B25, B30, B35, and B40. The names are determined by the width of the bag in centimetres. Even though the original Birkin was a B40, this size is now less available, and more used as a travel bag instead of a handbag. The standard sizes are B25, B30, and B35, with the 30 and 35 being the most popular sizes. The mini Birkin; B25, was introduced in 2004.


B25 (mini)



B40 (travel)

  25x20x13 CM  

  30x22x16 CM  

  35x25x18 CM  

  40x30x18 CM  

The four different sizes of a Hermès Birkin bag

The four different sizes of the Hermès Birkin - Yoogi's Closet

What makes it so special

“Birkins are the most sought after bags in the world, and have been for a long time.” - Matthew Rubinger, director, luxury accessories at Heritage.

Everyone knows; to get your hands on a Birkin, you’ll need to have a lot of patience (and some money). The retail prices of a Birkin ranges from $10,000 to $150,000, depending on the design of the specific bag. The scarcity and uniqueness of the Birkin has a lot of influence on the price. One bag is made by one single artisan in one of Hermès’s ateliers, which will take them around 48 (!!!) working hours. When bags are finished they’re distributed to a Hermès boutique, which will have a very limited quantity, making the Birkin quite exclusive. Hermès is also known for refusing to give away products for free, even to celebrities.

Fun fact: there are 5 Birkin bags (and 2 other Hermès bags) in the top 10 most expensive handbags in the world! 

It’s not as easy as walking into a Hermès boutique and buying a Birkin... The Birkin is in such high demand, that you will be put on a waiting list. Which is more like a wishing list, because you won’t know for sure when and if you’ll get the bag. The length of the waiting lists depends on the design of the Birkin you request, for example; black Birkins are in higher demand, making the waiting list a lot longer. In some of the boutiques it is possible to buy a Birkin without a waiting list. The boutique in Paris, for example, is known to sometimes have Birkins available. However, when this is the case, there will be a line to enter the boutique as from the early morning, before they even open.

The scarcity in new Birkin bags makes the vintage market a lot bigger. This often means that vintage Birkins will be sold for a much higher price than a new one. So when you decide to invest in a Birkin, you know that they will definitely hold or increase their value over time.

Want to know more about the Birkin? We also wrote a blog about why buying a Birkin is worth the investment. From time to time we have some Birkins in store, together with more great vintage Hermès items.
Send us an email or a message on Instagram to find out more. You can also check if we have a Birkin available on our webshop at the moment via this link.

With love, Jessica

Telegraph Uk

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