Hermes Birkin 101 Guide: History, Sizes, Latest Prices

All About The Hermès Birkin

Without a doubt, buying a Birkin bag directly from Hermès can be a pretty difficult task. But you know what can often be even more difficult? Finding information on the bag online! Hermès doesn’t really share much info about their bags (or pretty much anything else) on the internet. Hence why there is always a lot of mystery surrounding their items, including, of course, the legendary Birkin. However, fear not – today we are going to unveil that mystery together in this ultimate guide to the Hermès Birkin bag, where we are going to discuss everything from its fascinating history to its current retail prices and resale value.

Hermès Birkin Bag History

Did you know that the World’s most sought-after handbag was first imagined in the sky? Yes, you heard it right! The story of the Hermès Birkin bag begins in 1984 when a British-born French singer and actress Jane Birkin coincidentally met Jean-Louis Dumas, the Executive Chairman of Hermès (1978-2006), on her flight from Paris to London. Basically, the two were sitting next to each other on that flight, and started talking after the contents of Jane Birkin’s straw basket have spilled onto the floor. 

Birkin was known for taking a straw basket everywhere with her. It was sort of her signature look. But during a conversation with Dumas, she confessed that the bag doesn’t really suit her needs anymore as a new mother. And that’s how the Hermès Birkin Bag was born.

Hermes Birkin 101 Guide: History, Sizes, Latest Prices
Media Credit: Instagram @wendyswan

Dumas, being a true visionary, ended up immediately sketching out a spacious rectangular holdall with a burnished flap and saddle stitching on the back of a sick bag. He based the design on another Hermès style – the Haut à Courroies, which the brand has created in the early 20th century. The very first Hermès bag, Haut à Courroies, was designed as an elegant and functional bag for horse riders, meant for carrying a saddle and riding boots. Actually, the Haut à Courroies (HAC) bag is still being sold to this day. But interestingly, it’s not as popular as the Birkin, which ended up being introduced later in 1984.

Hermès Birkin Bag Design

Hermes Birkin Bag Design
Media Credit: Instagram @misschangeychang

Unlike other handbags that dominated the 1980s (say, for example, the Chanel Classic Flap with its prominent CC logo, or Louis Vuitton’s monogram bags), the Birkin was fairly simple, devoid of any loud design elements or shouty logos. The bag was characterized by a semi-structured silhouette with two rolled top handles, four feet, as well as a turnlock closure with an accompanying padlock and key. Stylish without a doubt, but at its core a pretty simple bag, the Birkin wasn’t like the handbags of the time. Hence the reason why it wasn’t an instant commercial success.

Right, it wasn’t until the early 2000s that the Birkin became the ultimate status symbol. And guess whom we should thank for that? Samantha Jones from Sex and the City! Basically, in the “Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda” episode which aired on August 5th, 2001, Samantha famously tries to skip the “five year” waiting list for the bag by using one of her celebrity client’s names at Hermès. Obviously, she wasn’t successful. However, after that episode aired, the Birkin’s actual waitlist has tripled in length, elevating its status to the ultimate it-bag. The Birkin was later also featured in Gilmore Girls, which even further cemented its status as the ultimate status symbol.

Hermès Birkin Bag Sizes

Originally released in a 40 size, today the Hermès Birkin comes in an array of different sizes, including the 25, 30, 35 and the previously mentioned 40. Actually, there is also a Birkin 20. However, it was released as a limited edition version that we are going to discuss a bit later. For now, let’s stick to the standard sizes of the bag, which are the 25, 30, 35 and 40.

As you can see from the table below, numbers in the names for the specific sizes of the Birkin bag reflect their actual measurements.

Hermès Birkin Bag SizeDimensions (cm)Dimension (inches)
Birkin 2525 x 20 x 13 cm10” x 8” x 5”
Birkin 3030 x 22 x 16 cm11.8” x 9” x 6”
Birkin 3535 x 25 x 18 cm14” x 10” x 7”
Birkin 4040 x 30 x 21 cm16” x 12” x 8”
Hermes Birkin Bag sizes

Birkin 25

Hermes Birkin 25 Togo Etoupe
Media Credit: Fashionphile

So, the smallest of the standard sizes of the Birkin is the Birkin 25. Often referred to simply as the B25, it measures 25 cm in length, 20 cm in height and 13 cm in depth. The bag is fairly petite, meaning that you’ll only be able to carry your smaller essentials in it, such as a smartphone, sunglasses and a wallet. However, that doesn’t prevent the Birkin 25 from being highly sought-after. In fact, the Hermès Birkin 25 is the second most popular size for the Hermès Birkin bag right now, after the Birkin 30.

Birkin 30

Hermes Birkin 30 Gold Togo Leather
Media Credit: Fashionphile

And talking about the latter. Measuring 30 cm in length, 22 cm in height and 16 in depth, the Hermès Birkin 30 will effortlessly fit in all of your smaller essentials and then some. Arguably the most versatile size for the bag (hence the popularity), the Birkin 30 transitions effortlessly from day to night, pairing fabulously with both formal and casual outfits.

Birkin 35

Hermes Birkin 35 Black Togo Leather
Media Credit: Fashionphile

Then, the next size in the range is the Birkin 35. The second biggest size of the Hermès Birkin bag, it measures 35 x 25 x 18 cm, offering generous storage for all of your daily essentials and possibly even your laptop. Actually, a lot of people use the Birkin 35 as a travel tote. And it certainly can be used for that. However, if you are going to be using your Birkin predominantly for travel, you might be better off by going for the bag in the size 40.

Birkin 40

Hermes Birkin 40 Chocolate Togo Leather
Media Credit: Fashionphile

Measuring 40 x 30 x 21 cm, the Birkin 40 is the largest standard size of the Birkin bag available. It is also the original size of the bag, designed specifically for Jane Birkin. Often referred to as the “Travel Birkin”, the Hermès Birkin 40 is an ultra-spacious tote, which would fit in everything from your day-to-day essentials to a larger laptop. However, be warned – the bag can get really heavy when filled up. Hence the reason why the Birkin 40 is primarily recommended for travel and not for everyday.

Hermès Birkin Bag Materials & Hardware

The first ever Birkin Bag was made in Box Calf leather, which is one of the oldest leathers used by Hermès. The Hermès Box Calf leather is characterized by an extremely smooth, glossy finish which gives the bag that ultra-luxurious look. This leather, however, is known for being prone to both scratches and water damage. Hence why most Hermès lovers prefer to stay away from it.

In fact, the three most popular leathers for the Birkin bag today are Togo, Clemence and Epsom. Introduced by Hermès in 1997, Togo is a scratch-resistant calfskin leather characterized by fine grains and good durability. The bags in Togo tend to hold their shape really well. Furthermore, this leather is also fairly lightweight, making it a fabulous choice for everyday.

Clemence leather is another really popular option for the Birkin. This leather is softer, heavier, but unfortunately less durable than Togo. Hence why the Birkin bags made in Clemence leather often lose their shape over time. But that is not necessarily a disadvantage. A lot of people actually prefer this slouchier, more casual look. And those who don’t typically opt for other options, predominantly Togo or Epsom.

Hermes Birkin 35 Rouge Casaque Epsom Leather
Media Credit: Fashionphile

The Hermès Epsom leather is an embossed leather characterized by a rigid, stamped grain and an appealing sheen. This leather is both water and scratch resistant, which makes it a top choice among those who prefer their bags to be low maintenance. Furthermore, the Hermès Epsom leather is also known for showing color way better than most of the brand’s other leathers.

Over the years, the Hermes Birkin bag has also been produced in a variety of exotic leathers. These include crocodile, alligator, ostrich and lizard. Birkins made from exotic leathers are also considered more exclusive than the standard leather Birkins, hence their higher price point.

Then, as far as the hardware options are concerned, the Birkin typically comes with either gold, or palladium hardware. The Hermès gold hardware is plated with actual 18 karat gold (24-karat gold is used on rarer styles and special orders), whereas the Hermès Palladium hardware is plated with silver. Other hardware options for the Birkin bag include rose-gold, brushed gold, brushed palladium, and permabrass. However, these are primarily used in special order and limited edition versions of the bag.

Limited Edition Versions of the Birkin Bag

Talking about the limited edition versions of the Birkin bag. It’s really difficult to determine the exact number of limited edition Birkins that have been released over the years, as there have been so many. However, we can surely name a couple of the most coveted styles. And when it comes to the limited edition versions of the Birkin bag, those are: the edgy and dramatic Shadow Birkin, the super casual Birkin Cargo, and the fabulous Faubourg Birkin.

Shadow Birkin

Hermes Shadow Birkin 25 Gold
Media Credit: Fashionphile

First introduced in 2009, when Jean-Paul Gaultier was the Creative Director at Hermès and reissued again in 2019, the Shadow Birkin embraces the classic Birkin Bag silhouette with an original take on the trompe l’oeil, which leaves the viewer wondering if the front straps and the flap of the bag are real are not. Spoiler alert: they aren’t. They are just made to look as if they were real. Quite cool, isn’t it? Well, I guess then it should also come as no surprise that the Shadow Birkin is one of the most popular limited edition versions of the Birkin bag to date, highly sought-after for its unique and edgy look.

Birkin Cargo

Hermes Birkin Cargo 35
Media Credit: Fashionphile

The Hermès Cargo Birkin made its debut in 2020, which makes it one of the newest limited edition styles of the Birkin Bag. The bag is said to be inspired by the military and arrives in lightweight canvas with five outer pockets. Likely the most functional limited edition version of the Birkin bag to date, the Cargo Birkin is a bag for those Hermès lovers and collectors who value practicality above all.

Faubourg Birkin

Hermes Faubourg Birkin 20 Sellier

Another honorable mention is the Faubourg Birkin. Released in 2019 as a limited edition style that honors the architectural legacy of Hermes’s iconic flagship store on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore in Paris, the bag features three windows with awnings in signature Hermès orange, as well as the matching Hermès shopping bag which replaces the standard key-holding clochette. So unique and fabulous, the Faubourg Birkin was an instant hit with Hermès collectors (that have also since given it a nickname “House Birkin”). Furthermore, this was also the first ever iteration of the 20cm Birkin produced, which makes the bag even more exclusive and highly sought-after.

Interestingly, Hermès has chosen to make their first ever Birkin 20 in Sellier, instead of the typical for Birkin Retourne. But it isn’t like we haven’t seen the Sellier Birkins done before. In fact, the first ever Birkin Sellier was released in 2014 in the 40 size. Then, in 2020, Hermès began including the Sellier in its standard offering for the bag. For those who didn’t know, Retourne and Sellier are the two bag construction methods used by Hermès. Retourne bags feature stitching on the interior, which makes them look more relaxed. The Sellier, on the contrary, features stitching on the exterior, giving bags a more structured, geometric appearance.

Why is it so hard to get your hands on a Birkin?

You may have heard that acquiring the Birkin bag directly from Hermès can be pretty difficult. And it is. Not only do you typically need to have purchase history with the brand in order to be offered one, but you also need to be open to options, as Hermès boutiques never really know what Birkins are coming in stock. This is because Hermès strictly controls the amount of Birkins produced and only allows a certain number of bags to be sold each year in order for the style to remain exclusive. But honestly, even if Hermès wanted to increase production of the Birkin bag, this would be really hard to achieve, as meticulous craftsmanship is required for making of those bags, with each Birkin taking up to 48 hours to produce by a single craftsman. And here we’re taking about just the standard versions of the Birkin. Limited edition styles require even more time to produce.

With that being said, a lot of people still prefer to get their bags directly from Hermès. However, where some do it for the thrill of the chase and the challenge of securing a rare and highly sought-after item, others choose to go through boutiques simply because they cannot fathom paying the astronomic resale prices. And just so you have an idea of the resale value of the Hermès Birkin: the highest sought-after sizes of the bag, such as the 25 and 30 often resell for double, or even triple the price (granted that the bags are in excellent or like-new condition). Limited edition styles, as well as rarer exotic models, resell for even higher. As a matter of a fact, in 2022, a Diamond Himalaya Birkin 30 was sold for over $450,000 through the Sotheby’s Auction, which makes it the most expensive Hermes Birkin bag ever sold. Actually, back in 2019, a similar bag was sold via Sotheby’s Auction for around $300,000. Goes to show that the Birkin is also an excellent investment and especially if purchased directly from Hermes. But how much will you have to pay for the bag in that case?

Hermès Birkin Prices 2023

Well, at the time of writing this post, the cheapest Hermes Birkin Bag can be purchased for $10,400 plus tax at Hermès. This is the current U.S. retail price for the Birkin 25 in Togo leather (in Europe, the same bag currently retails for €8,050). As you may already know, the cheapest Hermès Birkins come in Togo leather, while the most expensive ones arrive in exotic skins (such as Alligator and Croc).

So, the Birkin 30 and 35 bags in Togo currently retail for $11,600 and $12,700 in The U.S., while in Europe these go for €8,900 and €9,850 respectively. The larger Birkin 40 currently retails for $14,000 in the U.S. and €11,000 in Europe. See all the latest retail prices for the Hermès Birkin Bag in the table below:

Hermès Bag StyleCurrent Price (USD)Current Price (EUR)
Birkin 25 Togo$10,400€8,050
Birkin 30 Togo$11,600€8,900
Birkin 35 Togo$12,700€9,850
Birkin 40 Togo$14,000€11,000
Hermes Birkin Bag Prices as of June 2023

Now, as far as the exotics go, the Shiny Porocus Croc Birkin 25 is going to cost you $52,100 plus tax if purchased directly from Hermes in 2023. The Matte Alligator Birkin 30 – $53,500. Furthermore, the exclusive Himalaya Birkin currently starts from around $62,000 in boutiques.

More Hermès Bag Prices in my 2023 Hermès Bag Price Guide.

Disclaimer: prices in this blog post are listed for information pursposes only. Actual prices in boutiques may vary.

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