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Hermes Birkin vs. Kelly: Is there such a thing as a better bag?

Updated: Jan 28, 2022

Which is which?

The Hermes Birkin and Hermes Kelly.

Ask anyone remotely interested in bags or the fashion industry about these two bags, and their ears would usually perk up.

These bags are undisputed icons of the fashion industry, being beautifully-crafted status symbols with fascinating histories. What do they have in common? You can't simply walk into a Hermes store to buy them. You have to be put on waiting lists that are multiple years long. They both have extravagant prices. They are handmade and take almost a day each to make. They are even used as investment tools.

But what if one were to choose between both of them? What if you could only buy one? Is there such a thing as a better bag?

The answer to these questions has been hotly debated by enthusiasts for decades, and there is no definite answer. However, we'd like to discuss the differences between the two bags, so that you can figure out your own preference. Let's go!


Looking at the bags at first glance, the difference between the two is apparent. The Kelly is designed to be smaller than the Birkin, and it has more of a trapezoid shape as compared to the boxier Birkin. The Birkin lacks a shoulder strap and utilizes dual handles. The Kelly has a shoulder strap, but only has one handle.

They also differ when it comes to their closure system and how it relates to the bag's use. At all times when worn, the Kelly bag requires its flap closed and lock done to ease the strain on its handle. The Birkin doesn't have this restriction, and most Birkin users frequently wear the bag like a tote with the lock undone.


Both bags have a long and illustrious history associated with them, and it's important to know about each bag's story to better understand their design and the public's perception of them today.

The Kelly bag had its humble beginnings in the 1920s as a bag designed for Emile-Maurice Herme's wife, Julie, and later redesigned by his son-in-law. In 1954, the bag was used for Alfred Hitchcock's film To Catch a Thief, which starred actress Grace Kelly. She eventually became enamored with the bag, and soon after her marriage to Monaco's Prince Rainier III, she was photographed using the bag to cover her pregnant belly from the paparazzi's cameras. The photo was then published on Life magazine, and the rest, as they say, is history. This, combined with Kelly's status as Princess of Monaco, allowed the bag to explode in popularity as the Kelly bag.

One of the photos captured of Grace Kelly that made the Kelly bag famous.

The Birkin bag, however, arose from different circumstances some 30 years later in the future. On a flight to London in 1983, Jane Birkin complained to Hermes chief executive Jean-Louis Dumas about the lack of a large, leather weekend bag sparked the creation of the Birkin. Since 1985, the story behind its creation and its association with fame has made the Birkin bag a status symbol worthy of its namesake.


Understanding the differences in design and history between the two bags, it becomes apparent that the Birkin is designed to be for more casual use while the Kelly is designed to be for more formal use. The Birkin's tote-like design allows it to carry large objects such as clothes or shoes alongside usual bag staples like purses or phones, making it a perfect casual everyday bag that goes well with any casual outfit.

The Kelly's smaller, trapezoid-like design gives it a more classy feel, but it comes at the expense of storage space. This makes it a bag to be used for special occasions such as a date or a night out. It's the perfect bag if you want to impress at special occasions, and should be worn with an equally-impressive outfit.

In Summary

Recapping what has been discussed about the Birkin and Kelly, our answer at HC is this: the bag you should go for is the one that suits your needs better. If you need a casual bag, go for the Birkin. Need a bag for special occasions? Go for the Kelly. There is no proper, objective answer as to which is the better bag, and to us, it might be better that way. Both bags are equally deserving of their status as icons of the fashion industry, and deciding one bag might be objectively better than the other might be doing a disservice to both bags.

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