How The Birkin Became The IT Bag

Written By: Abigail Puskas

The Hermes Birkin Bag is one of the most exclusive and expensive purses on the market. Carrying one is a status symbol because of the high price and exclusivity. You can’t just walk into Hermes and say you want one, you have to spend money first and show you are a loyal customer before your sales associate brings you to the back to offer it to you. But how did this bag become so iconic and sought after? 

Jane Birkin is an English-French actress, singer, and model who gained popularity in the late 60s when she became a well-known fashion icon. On the set of Slogan back in 1968 she met Serge Gainsbourg a famous French writer, singer, director, and poet and they were together for 10 years. This relationship along with her talents was what contributed to her rise to fame.

In 1983, Jane Birkin decided to upgrade her flight ticket to first class while traveling from Paris to London. On this flight, she ended up sitting next to Jean-Louis Dumas, Hermes’ artistic director, and CEO. Jane was carrying her signature wicker basket but when she tried to put it in the overhead compartment everything fell out (including her Hermes diary). Dumas helped her collect her belongings and said she needed a handbag with pockets. She replied by saying the day Hermes makes a bag big enough and secure enough for all the belongings a mother needs to carry, she’ll spring for the upgrade. That’s when Dumas made the first sketch of the Birkin bag on an air sickness bag.

One year later the Birkin bag was released and Jane was given the very first one. She got a 40cm black leather Birkin which she then decorated with stickers and charms. The bag really wasn’t a big hit until the 1990s when its popularity soared and it became THE it girl bag. In 2001 the iconic line “it’s not a bag, it’s a Birkin” was said by Samantha in the pilot episode of Sex and The City, and after that episode aired the waiting list for the Birkin bag tripled. The variety of colors and leathers it comes in as well as the 4 different sizes.

Jane sold her original Birkin bag from 1984 in an auction to fund earthquake relief in Japan back in 2011. It was bought for over $162,000. These bags normally range from around $10,000 to $500,000. Half a million dollars seems insane for a bag that really retails for around $300,000 but Dave Oancea or better known as “Vegas Dave” is a well-known gambler and entrepreneur who wants to break records. Back in 2021, he purchased the most exclusive and expensive Hermes Birkin available called the Himalaya Diamond Birkin. This bag is made from the skin of the albino Niloticus Crocodile and the details include 18k white gold hardware and over 200 diamonds. Since then he’s added a few more Birkins to his collection with a lower price tag which he uses because as he said “I put my laptop in it, my wallet, everything in it”. Jamie Chua is a famous influencer from Singapore and she’s well known for her Birkin and Kelly collection which is over 200 bags. 

Due to measures implemented by Hermes, these bags are still difficult to acquire. Along with only offering them to those who are specially chosen, they do not announce how many will be made that year and customers have a limit on how many they can purchase per year to maintain the exclusivity of it even with those who own them.

Men have even gotten their own because of how well it has been proven to be an investment as well as its functionality. Drake collects them for his future wife, Virgil Abloh uses and owns more than a dozen, and Houston Rockets basketball player P.J. Tucker has carried his HAC (Haut a courroies) Birkin with him through the tunnels before games. 

The prices of these bags are worth it to some due to the profit they can make from reselling them. These investment pieces rise 13-15% in price every year which is why people buy them, use them once, or do not use them at all. They want to resell them in mint condition. But recently social media had a lot to say about these bags and their usage. After all, they were made to carry everything and anything which is exactly how Jane Birkin used hers. People have started using them in her honor and using them as daily bags, and even taking them to the extreme of carrying groceries in them. 

Whether you are a man or a woman there is a reason to buy one of these bags in any color and size you can. For some it’s a social status trophy or investment, for others it’s a functional piece, and for a select few it’s a grocery bag. It’s anything you want it to be.

Scroll to Top