When it comes to symbols of status, an Hermès Birkin bag is high up there on the list of luxury items the wealthy (new and old money) seem to eagerly covet.
Crafted in the ’80s, the bag, named after English actress and the sartorially sophisticated Jane Birkin, has grown to prominence in fashion circles, costing on average for a new one, at least, north of $9,000. This hefty cost is because the bags are handcrafted with some of the finest of materials. The most expensive one for example, a Matte Himalaya Niloticus Crocodile Birkin 35, is made of croc skin as well as 18k white gold and diamond hardware. It was sold for more than $300,000. That being said, most people can’t simply walk into an Hermes boutique and get one.
However, as of late, more and more people are getting their hands on them. Specifically, a bevvy of women, and yes, even men in Hip-Hop and pop culture. They’re getting them as gifts from their romantic interests, they’re splurging on them on their own, and even famous kids are getting one (hey Kulture!). Cardi B, in a giving mood after scoring her fourth #1 hit with “WAP” this week, bought a customized Birkin bag for friend and collaborator, Megan Thee Stallion, who just purchased a mustard yellow Birkin of her own.
What once seemed extraordinarily elusive is becoming a must-have item for all those who can afford it. That’s a good thing, right? It is in many ways inspiring to see people from backgrounds similar to our own, sometimes even a bit tougher, get to a place professionally where their success allows them to buy Birkin bags and things for themselves and their loved ones that they may have once thought they could never get.
But I’ve noticed there are a number of people who aren’t so impressed. They’re actually annoyed that something so exclusive is becoming more of a common sight. The fashion set have hit up pages like Fashion Bomb Daily to question the financial health of the women who own them (“Hope they all own house and properties walking around with 30,000 bags”). Some can’t believe the Saweeties and the Dreamdolls and the Alexis Skyys and the Jordyn Woods of the world are getting them (“Birkins used to be harrrrd to get!”). They believe the bags are fake (“check the stitching and condition of the leather”). Even Yaya Mayweather, who owns a Birkin and whose father owns quite a few, called out some of the bags she’s seen and claimed they were fake since they’re supposed to be so hard to get.
“Wait a minute… This is getting out of hand! I’m starting to see too many people on this app with Birkins like their just some regular bags that you can go buy,” she said on Instagram Stories. “Some of these Birkins gotta be fake and I’m not saying everybody’s is fake, but let’s make somethings crystal clear for one you can’t just walk into an Hermès store and buy a Birkin you have to be like a member in order to buy them.”
This, may I add, is coming from a 19-year-old who hasn’t worked a job a day in her life to actually earn one, but I digress…
All these attempts to police who has a real Birkin and who must not is very similar to the way people have treated a whole host of popular and sometimes pricey handbags (though drastically less expensive when compared to a Birkin) and items over the years, from the Michael Kors bag to Coach. The stance is, the more people who have a certain thing, the easier it is to get, so the less swanky it must be. Therefore, when an item that was once a hot or rare buy becomes something an increasing number of people are getting, the allure fades. On top of that, the questions arise about who is splurging when they must not be able to afford it, as well as claims that what some have obtained might be fake. Folks from all walks of life get real high-brow, and all of a sudden, the item, even a Birkin, is declared “tacky.” This only happens when Black people become consistent buyers of said item.
It’s pretty discouraging to see, specifically so when Black women treat fellow Black women who get their hands on the bag of their dreams as people who are somehow cheapening the item. It’s especially frustrating when you consider brands and fashion houses have been caught over the years saying that they don’t want certain groups buying their product, from Cristal and Herve Leger to a brand as basic as Abercrombie & Fitch. Whether it be due to lack of wealth, curves or the hip-hop set being seen as low-class, the things we show adoration and admiration for don’t seem to be made for us. With that being said, we don’t need to regulate who is worthy of a bag and who isn’t among our own. If we don’t do it to Victoria Beckham and Kim Kardashian, why are we so suspicious or critical with Cardi B and NeNe? Let people have their bags without having to prove they’re worthy to carry it to anybody else.