The Hermes Birkin Guide

Hermes Gold and Black Birkin handbags

The Hermes Birkin is the most sought after, impossible to find and collectible bag ever made. The standard Birkin design we know now and love was created jointly between Hermes CEO Jean-Louis Dumas and the actress Jane Birkin. Jane complained that her Kelly bag was not very practical and Jean-Louis Dumas suggested he come to their workshop and make her a custom bag. Jane’s Birkin bag was modified from an existing Hermes design, the Haut À Courroies (more on that later) to be shorter and smaller, but with handles for toting over the arm. Jane Birkin was gifted the first 40cm Birkin bag in 1984, and the rest is history.

Unlike other handbags, a single highly-skilled craftsman works on one Birkin at a time with the construction of each Birkin bag consuming somewhere between 18 and 30 hours, depending on the specifications. The bags are handmade in France by expert artisans using the company’s signature saddle stitching, developed in the 1800s. One single artisan takes complete responsibility and ownership of the Birkin they are creating. Hermes is still family owned and values craftsmanship above all else.

Birkin retail prices range from $10,500 to $150,000. Due to the fact that each bag is handmade and no two bags are alike, prices vary according to the type of leather and hardware. Hermes “Special Orders” (SO) allow VIP clients to customize nearly every aspect of their Birkin from size, color combos, leather, and hardware. The bags are distributed to Hermes boutiques in very limited quantities, creating scarcity and exclusivity. Birkin bags are investment pieces that hold or increase their value over time.

As of June 2017, an Hermes Birkin was the most expensive handbag ever sold. For the outstanding price of $379,261 (2,940,000 Hong Kong dollars), a matte White Himalayan Niloticus crocodile Birkin with more than 240 diamonds on its 18-karat-gold hardware could be yours at a Christie’s Auction.

Due to their exclusivity and Hermes’ affinity for secrecy, the information you find about Birkin bags can be pretty limited. The sizes, measurements, terminology and colors can leave you feeling lost–but Yoogi’s Closet is here to help guide you on which Birkin to add to your closet. This guide will cover the sizes and differences of the classic Birkin, the HAC Birkin, and the Shoulder Birkin.

Shop Hermes Birkin Bags

Hermes Birkin in orange Box
Hermes Birkin Infographic

Anatomy of a Birkin

The classic Birkin bag has a very distinct design that has inspired thousands of handbags across the world. Birkin bags have two handles, a flap closure, two leather buckle straps and a turning knob with a loop for a padlock. The names of Birkin bags references the length of the base measured in centimeters. Birkin bags have four feet on the bottom to protect the leather base, though larger sizes (50cm, 55cm) will have six.

Signature ‘H’ Padlock – The ‘H’ padlock for locking the contents of the bag
Turnlock – the turning knob that the lock hooks on to
Clochette – leather lanyard and bell to hold keys
Sangles – two leather buckle straps that help fasten the bag
Pontet – metal brackets on the bag that hold the buckle straps
Plaque – metal hardware on each leather strap (sangle) that clasps over the turnlock
Four feet- the four feet at the bottom of the bag that protect the base of the bag

Hermes Birkin Bag Sizes:

25cm: 10″ L x 5″ W x 8″H
30cm: 12″ L x 6.25″ W x 9″ H
35cm: 14″ L x 7.5″ W x 10.75″ H
40cm: 16″ L x 8″ W x 11.25″ H
50cm: 19.5″ L x 10″ W x 14.5″ H

Birkin Size Comparisons + Model Shots

Compare Hermes Birkin Sizes 25cm 30cm 35cm 40cm

How do you open and close a Birkin bag?
A Birkin is closed by closing the top flaps over buckle loops, wrapping the buckle straps, then closing the lock on the front hardware. Open the Birkin bag by undoing the lock, turn the turnlock, undo the buckle straps and open the flap.

How do you style a Birkin Bag?
There are many ways to actually style a Birkin itself. The most popular way (and easiest for accessibility) is to tuck the top flap into the bag then fasten the buckle straps or leave them loose.

How do you wear an Hermes Birkin?
The Birkin is a versatile bag that can be carried for most occasions but is usually worn during the day or when traveling due to its larger size and capacity. Birkin bags are usually carried in hand or on the crook of the arm. The 25cm Birkin bag is popular as an evening bag.
Hermes Blue Birkin Bags

The OTHER Birkin Bags: What Is A Birkin HAC, JPG, Shoulder Birkin or Birkin II?

Aside from the standard size “square” Birkin bags, there are several variations on the market. The taller HAC Birkin, which was actually introduced well before the Birkin we know now; and the JPG Shoulder Birkin, named after its designer, John Paul Gaultier.

Hermes HAC Birkin

Hermes Birkin HAC vs Birkin
The Hermes Haut À Courroies (or HAC for short) Birkin has taller proportions with handles that are slightly shorter than standard Birkins. The Hermes Haut À Courroies (which literally translates to “high belts”) has been in existence since 1892, created by Émile-Maurice Hermes who designed it after visiting South America and seeing totes used by Argentinian cowboys.

Hermes HAC Birkin Sizes:

32cm: 12.5″ L x 6.5″ W x 10.5″ H
40cm: 16″ L x 9.5″ W x 14″ H
45cm: W17.75″ x 10″ W x 15.75″ H
50cm: 19.5″ L x 10.5″ W x 16.5″ H

Hermes Shoulder Birkin

There are two versions of the Shoulder Birkin: the old model and the new model, which is referred to as the Shoulder Birkin II. The new model has interior pockets, a more slender base, the standard Birkin circular turnlock (the old model had a square lock).
Hermes Shoulder Birkin new model vs old model

JPG Shoulder Birkin

Hermes Blue Jean JPG Shoulder Birkin

Original production year: 2005
Designed by: John Paul Gaultier
Design: Slouchy, long design with longer handles to be worn on the shoulder
Interior pockets: none
Hardware: jumbo-sized padlock, square turnlock
Discontinued (replaced with Shoulder Birkin II)
Size: 16.75″ L x 8″ W x 9″H

Shoulder Birkin II

Hermes New Model Shoulder Birkin II

Updated version of JPG Shoulder Birkin
Interior pockets: one zip pocket, two flat pockets
Hardware: traditional Birkin style with circular turnlock
Other features: lighter in weight, slimmer base
Size: 16.75″ L x 7.5″ W x 9″H
Shop Hermes Shoulder Birkin Bags

If you’re interested in learning more about Hermes, be sure to check out our Hermes Information Guide; or if you’re looking to authenticate Hermes products, read our Hermes Authentication Guide.


3 thoughts on “The Hermes Birkin Guide


  2. Pingback: Why Do Some Herms Birkin Bags Have Horseshoe Stamps? - Yoogi's Closet Blog

Leave a Reply