Kelly This, Kelly That
“Completely iconic” and “totally chic” are two of the phrases that immediately pop to mind when the Kelly bag is brought up. The Hermes Kelly bag has been a stalwart of the fashion illuminati since its lustrous debut from a saddle bag to a handbag during the first part of the 20th century. Today, the Kelly bag is the perfect choice to make an incredibly elegant sartorial statement.
We’ll walk you through the history of the Kelly handbag, give you the 411 on the bag itself and let you in on some super-chic styling tips, especially for men rockin’ the Kelly. Lastly, we’ll finish up with some Kelly gems from the FASHIONPHILE vault that will be sure to make your jaw drop in the most fashionable way possible.
The Evolution of the Hermes Kelly Bag
This storied handbag, from the legendary French maison of Hermes, traces its bespoke origins back to 1852 with the launch of the Haut a Courroies (HAC), an equestrian saddle holder – a necessity at the time. Later, in the 1930s, the bag was re-imagined as the elegant Sac a Depeches, created by Robert Dumas, son-in-law of Emile Hermes. The Sac a Depeches featured a noticeable trapezoid shape with two triangular gussets, a cutout flap, a handle, and two side straps. Dumas, known for a sense of boldness and modernism, brought the house into a subsequent period of a creative renaissance with the launch of this iconic staple. Of course, he was later chairman of the Hermes group from 1978 to 2006 and his creative imprint on the brand has been nothing short of noteworthy.
In the late 1950s, Grace Kelly, the Hollywood starlet turned princess of Monaco (and by the way, who doesn’t love that story arch?) was photographed holding the Sac a Depeches over her nascent baby bump to conceal the early signs of pregnancy. Overnight, the Sac a Depeches sky-rocketed to international fame and recognition. The handbag was renamed the Kelly, in a very apropos manner. And, the rest, as they say, is history.
Today, Kelly bags come in a whole rainbow of colors, luxe materials, gorgeous patterns, and a variety of special editions with unique, artistic flair. Pink, light blue, lime, black, white, brown, and so many more! Oh my! The Kelly comes in an array of sizes, numbered via the base measurement in centimeters: 35, 32, 28 (the most popular), 25, and 20 (small and chic).
Hermes Kelly Styles & Design
In terms of styles and design, there are two main variations of the Kelly bag – the Retourne and the Sellier styles. One may ask…. well, what is the main difference between the two? We did a deep dive on comparing Hermes Kelly Sellier vs. Kelly Retourne previously. For starters, the Kelly Sellier (French for “Saddler”) is the original made famous by Princess Kelly herself. Typically the more expensive (and lust-worthy) of the two, the Sellier has a more box-y appearance with sharper edges and often features more hefty and sturdy leathers, such as Epsom.
Fun Fact: The very coveted and quite tiny Kelly 20 only comes in the Sellier style.
The Kelly Retourne (French for “Reversed”) actually starts its life as a Sellier in the Hermes workshops, but the bag is turned inside out, hence the namesake and the lack of visible stitching. The Retourne features a softer, slouchier feel compared to it’s more upright counterpart and is often made of more supple leathers such as Chevre, Togo, or Clemence.
Sometimes regarded as somewhat of a second fiddle compared to her legendary sister, the holy grail Birkin Bag, the Kelly, nonetheless is a must-have in terms of collecting and fabulosity. Especially for men, the Kelly is an underrated and incredibly elegant way to make an unexpected style splash. Though traditionally reserved for women, the Kelly bag is having a renaissance moment when it comes to men’s fashion. In terms of styling, try taking a tried and true color like Blue Hydra in a classic Retourne construction and 28 sizes. Pair it with a monochrome athleisure set from your favorite street-wear brand and you have the ultimate ultra-chic look from grabbing coffee on Melrose to turning heads at brunch in Camden.
These Are Not Your Average Kelly Bags
Some recent special editions that have caught our eye on FASHIONPHILE include a Lizard Togo Kelly Retourne Touch 25 in Black. This beautiful handbag is expertly handcrafted of luxurious black calfskin leather and lizard trim, with a rolled leather top handle and polished gold hardware. We also love the Swift Kelly Padded Sellier 25 in Etoupe. This classic Kelly handbag is crafted of luxuriously textured calfskin leather in taupe and highlights gorgeous white stitching details.
In terms of exotic skins, one can’t beat, for instance, a structured Kelly bag in Rose Scheherazade crafted of glossy Fuchsia crocodile skin. It features a looping crocodile handle, a short front flap, and a silver-plated crocodile leather-covered Kelly signature turn lock. Talk about jaw-dropping! Additionally, there is the Ostrich skinned Kelly in Terre Cuite and Gris Agate. This handbag is crafted of salmon-colored ostrich and features a gray top handle and gold hardware. A collector’s dream!
Other Additions to the Kelly Squad
Long story short. Kelly bags come in many different colors and textiles. But that’s not all! The Kelly also comes in a wallet style, necklaces, bracelets, and other bespoke accessories. For men, we particularly love the Matte Enamel Men’s Kelly Bracelet – the chic level, honestly, it’s just passed 100!