On the Shoulder: 1950s Vintage Hermès Kelly Retourne 32
by Reece Morgan | May 11, 2016
Vintage Hermès Kellys in decent condition are as collectable and lusted-after as Rolex Daytonas from the 60s. Rare designs and limited editions can sell for as much as a small apartment, and take them to an uptown party and they’ll attract attention like a Chow Chow puppy.
Alongside the Chanel 2.55 and the Hermès Birkin, the Hermès Kelly is one of the most coveted handbags of all time. Its timeless design and unrivaled quality mean it sits outside the norms of fashion trends and echoes through the generations without the need to alter a seam.
Hermès hasn’t changed the look of its famous models and only toggles the seasonal colours and varies the leathers. One thing that stays true is the near obsessive commitment to standards; each Kelly takes between 18 and 25 hours of work from a single craftsman.
Amongst the few slight variations over the years are the Kelly Retourne. The Retourne has slightly rounded corners making it a touch less severe than and more suited to a casual look.
Reece was lucky enough to test one from the same decade that it was first nicknamed the Kelly. Unlike the Hollwood star and eventual Princess of Monaco, Reece wasn’t using it to shield a pregnancy, but he did put it through its paces as best as he could without any chance of damaging it. God forbid. Here’s how he got on with it over the course of the week.
Quality - 8/10
Style - 10/10
Value - 9/10
What first attracted you to the bag?
Other than that gorgeous Hermès aesthetic? Well, obviously, I was attracted to the bag’s looks—the leather/canvas mix is perfect for the run up to summer—but it was the age of the bag that actually appealed to me the most.
Despite it being made in 1959, I was amazed at how on trend and chic it remains nearly 60 years on. The leather has beautiful patina and the hardware has the ideal amount of scratching for that vintage look. I like the way the bag has worn over time and probably wouldn’t like it new and boxed.
Is there anything you’re not too keen on?
I’m used to carrying a Birkin, so it took me a while to get used to the delicateness of the bag and its structured opening. I’m not a huge lover of the way Kelly’s look when the flap is completely closed, but I love how they look open! I made a compromise with myself and wore the main flap closed for security and left the straps loose—I quite liked this look in the end, especially when worn on my arm.
How did you feel when you wore it? Was it comfortable?
I actually ended up really enjoying the bag. I’ve never used a Kelly before so I didn’t realise how functional and comfortable they are. I loved the fact I could hold it in my hand, carry it on my arm and even wear it on my shoulder using the strap.
The bag is only small at 32 cm wide and is half canvas, which makes it a lot lighter than my normal Togo Leather Birkin, 40 cm, and so it made a nice change not to have arm ache.
Would you say it was an everyday bag or an occasion bag?
I think Kelly bags work very well as an everyday bag, but I would only wear this particular Kelly on occasions. With its age in the back of my head, I would only take this out for daytime glam—lunches or drinks, as I don’t think it’s heavy-duty enough to handle a shopping trip or night out.
Is there anything you would change about the bag?
Other than the opening, there is not an awful lot I would change.
Who would you recommend this bag for?
As far as style goes I would recommend this to ladies that lunch and professionals with a more relaxed style serving Jackie O realness.
But it’s also a good buy for anyone really, as long as they look after it. Prices of vintage Kellys have risen like gold over the years which means they’re actually fairly safe investments.
Did your feelings towards the bag change over the week?
I actually like the bag more. For aesthetic reasons I would only wear the bag in the summer, but I would definitely consider buying it. That said, I’m still a Birkin boy!
And finally … Overall score out of ten?