Hermès Birkin vs. Kelly: Features and Parts Comparison Guide
The Hermès Birkin and Kelly handbags are the ultimate statements of refinement, style, and class.
Made of exquisite leathers in striking colors and unparalleled craftsmanship, it takes a single artisan up to 48 hours to make one by hand.
If you’re lucky enough to acquire one of these bags and want to know how they compare in features, parts, style, and functionality, this guide is for you.
By the end of this article, you’ll not only know the main differences between the Birkin and Kelly, but you’ll also know which bag is right for you.
Let’s start our anatomy lesson with the key features that distinguish the Birkin from the Kelly, along with diagrams of their parts, followed by a glossary of components.
The Anatomy of the Birkin
The Birkin has a rectangular, tote-like silhouette with a curved top. It has two handles for carrying by hand or in the crook of your arm.
Because the Birkin functions as a tote, it can be carried open for easy access to your contents on the go.
Most Birkin wearers place the front flap inside the bag, laying it against the interior back wall. The two handles, when carried together, keep it securely closed; separate the handles, and the bag is open.
On days when you prefer the bag to be casually covered, you can slide the flap back over the front handles.
And for more security?
You can fasten the flap with the front straps and toggle closure.
Although the bag comes with a padlock, it is not recommended to be used beyond decorative purposes.
Here’s a diagram of essential Birkin parts.
The Anatomy of the Kelly
The Kelly has a boxier trapezoidal shape and features one handle.
It comes in two different styles: the Sellier and the Retourne.
The Sellier, which has exterior-stitched side seams, is more structured and angular with its rigid construction.
In contrast, the Retourne, with interior-stitched side seams, has rounder, softer edges and a slouchier look.
Unlike the Birkin (where the flap can be open or closed), the Kelly, due to its single top handle, always needs to be carried with the flap securely closed. The sangles can be worn over the flap or under the flap for a more casual look.
The Kelly was initially designed to be carried by hand.
However, it now comes with a detachable strap that you can wear over your shoulder or crossbody for maximum versatility befitting your mood, style, and functional needs.
Below is a diagram of essential Kelly parts.
Glossary of Birkin and Kelly Parts
Hermés being a French brand, most of the parts have French names. Below are the English translations where applicable, as well as descriptions of each component.
Sangles (Straps) – Two thin straps, one on each side, that run from the back to the front of the bag. They keep the bag closed when secured on the touret.
Touret (Toggle) – The center metal stem protruding from a metal backplate on which the sangles fasten. The touret has an eyelet opening through which you can place the lock.
Plaque (Plate) – Hardware that lays over the touret and over each sangle. The plaques are held on each sangle with rivets. The left plaque is engraved ”Hermes-Paris,” indicating that the left sangle should be placed over the right sangle.
Lock – The padlock that can be placed through the touret. However, it’s typically worn on the tiret along with the clochette and keys.
Clochette (Bell) – Leather cover for the keys matching the lock, likely named for the shape resembling a small bell.
Tiret – Thin strand of leather attached to the clochette and looped through the handles.
Pontet (Trigger Guard) – On a Birkin, the front hardware brackets that hold the sangles in place.
D-Ring – The rings, shaped like a “D,” that connect the handle(s) to the bag. On the Birkin, there is one D-ring on each side. The Kelly has two D-rings bound together: one to connect the handle and another to attach the optional shoulder strap.
Clous (Feet) – The four studded “feet” on each corner at the bottom designed to protect the leather when the bag is placed on various surfaces.
Birkin or Kelly – Which Style Is Right for You?
Now that you know the key differences in features and parts between the Birkin and Kelly, which bag is right for you?
Of course, it would be nice to have at least one of each in your collection!
But if you had to choose between the two, with all options in size, leather, color, and price being more or less equal… which one will you pick?
We recommend the Birkin if you’re looking for a slightly more casual, everyday, downtown vibe. It provides more space to take all your essentials, with easy access to them throughout your day.
The Sellier style Kelly is your bag if you prefer a more ladylike, more formal, uptown look. It’s perfect for business luncheons, upscale events, and any occasion that calls for a polished image.
If a shoulder strap is a must, but you prefer the more casual feel of a Birkin, then we recommend the Kelly in the Retourne style.
But don’t let these descriptions be anything more than pointers. Choose the bag that speaks to you personally and make it your own!
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