Hermes 101: the Birkin vs. Kelly

model comparing an hermes birkin and hermes kelly together side by side by FASHIONPHILE

If you ever find yourself having to choose between a Hermes Birkin or a Kelly bag, here’s what you need to know.

 

In the realm of ultra-luxury, Hermes is famous for the Birkin and Kelly bags. Though both styles enjoy global recognition, the Birkin and Kelly stand apart for a few reasons. Named after Jane Birkin and Grace Kelly, respectively, the Birkin and Kelly bags have variations in size, shape, and anatomical features, which set them apart as unique creations. This Hermes guide delves into the differences between a Birkin and a Kelly, shedding light on what makes these bags truly exceptional in their own right. 

A Brief History of the Hermes Birkin & Kelly Bags

The story of the Birkin bag began in 1981 when actress and singer Jane Birkin met the Hermes CEO on a flight, expressing her desire for a practical yet stylish handbag. This encounter led to the creation of the iconic Birkin bag, renowned for its spacious interior and practical design.

The Hermes Kelly bag traces its roots back to the 1930s when it was initially introduced as the “Sac a Depeches.” Its popularity soared after Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco, a loyal Hermes customer, was photographed shielding her pregnant belly with the bag. In her honor, it was later renamed the Kelly bag.

Today, both the Birkin and Kelly bags blend heritage, artistry, and celebrity appeal and make excellent luxury investments. 

Hermes Birkin Sizes vs. Kelly Sizes

comparing the hermes kelly bag and hermes birkin bag side by side by FASHIONPHILE
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Hermes Kelly
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Hermes Birkin
Hermes Birkin Sizes

The Birkin bag comes in several sizes, from smallest to largest: 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 42, and 50. The Birkin 42 is a shorter but elongated version of the traditional Birkin, and the Birkin 50 is the largest (and tallest) of the Hermes Birkin bags known as the HAC Birkin. Regardless of the size, Hermes Birkin bags are a little bit larger than Kelly bags. 

HERMES Togo Birkin 25 in the color Magnolia by FASHIONPHILE
25
HERMES Togo Birkin 30 in the color Etain by FASHIONPHILE
30
HERMES Togo BIRKIN 35 in the color Orange by FASHIONPHILE
30
HERMES Epsom Birkin 40 in the color Rouge Vif by FASHIONPHILE
40
Hermes Kelly Sizes

The Hermes Kelly bag comes in several sizes, too. From smallest to largest, the Kelly sizes are 20, 25, 28, 32, 35, 40 and 50. There was once a micro mini Kelly 15, but that size was discontinued. The larger Kelly sizes, like the 40 and 50, are pretty rare sizes. The more popular Kelly sizes such are the Kelly 25 and the 28. The Kelly 40 is not discontinued, but this a size that has some referring to it as “resting,” meaning Hermes didn’t discontinue it but it’s not made very often. The same goes for the Kelly 50. 

HERMES Epsom Mini Kelly Sellier 20 in the color Rouge Grenat by FASHIONPHILE
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HERMES Epsom Kelly Sellier 25 in the color Gold by FASHIONPHILE
25
HERMES Epsom Kelly Sellier 28 in the color Bleu Saphir by FASHIONPHILE
28
HERMES Box Kelly Sellier 32 in the color Black by FASHIONPHILE
32

Design Differences Between the Birkin & the Kelly

Although belonging to the same prestigious brand, the Birkin and the Kelly bag possess differences in their designs. The Hermes Birkin is more square in shape, whereas the Hermes Kelly is more trapezoidal. Although they both Hermes bags have top handles, the Birkin bag has two top handles, whereas the Hermes Kelly only has one top handle. Kelly bags also have a removable shoulder strap, whereas the Birkin does not come with a shoulder strap; the Birkin is strictly a handle bag.

Looking on the inside, the Birkin bag has one large patch pocket and one zip pocket. For most Kelly bags, there are two patch pockets on the inside and one zip pocket. Both bags come in Sellier and Retourne versions; however, Birkin Sellier bags are discontinued, making them harder to find. 

comparing the hermes kelly bag and hermes birkin bag side by side by FASHIONPHILE
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Hermes Kelly
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Hermes Birkin

The Birkin and Kelly bags are internationally acclaimed Hermes designs, yet they exhibit numerous distinctions. Their individual histories, size and shape differences, and unique design features set them apart from each other and other Hermes bags.

For more information, check out this guide to iconic Hermes Kelly bag styles and learn more about how to authenticate a Birkin bag in our authentication guide.