The gold standard in luxury craftsmanship, Hermes has come to be a top coveted pick in designer handbags and accessories. From the daily Birkin tote bag, to the elevated Kelly top handle, the casual Evelyne crossbody to the unique Lindy, the Hermes handbag sits at the top of most collectors' wish lists. Known to incite quite the high price tag, and incredibly long waitlists at the retail shops, Hermes on the secondhand market has become a much more viable option. Still, when buying preloved, there are many factors to consider. The obvious is of course, authenticity. Be sure to buy from a trusted source, and do some of your own research into Hermes authenticity and Hermes date stamps. Beyond that; however, it's important to understand the nuances of the bags and accessories in order to ensure you're getting what you really want. While true of most preloved buying experiences, with Hermes in particular, there are a multitude of possible leathers, each presenting subtle, but noteworthy differences in their aesthetic, feel, and durability. Below, we will discuss the top five common Hermes leathers, and have a look into the five less prominent specialty leathers.
Commonly Used Hermes Leathers
Currently Available: Hermes Black Box Calfskin Chaine D’Ancre Vintage Top Handle Bag
One of the original leathers used at Hermes, Box Calf, or Box Calfskin, was introduced in the 1890s. Named after Joseph Box, an English shoe craftsman, Box Calf is still used by Hermes today and extremely common for many vintage Hermes Kelly Bags. Sturdy and able to hold its shape well, Box Calf can develop a glossiness with wear and age, often referred to as a “patina”. Due to its extremely delicate nature, this leather is not waterproof and very susceptible to scuffs and scratches. These scuffs and scratches; however, can be buffed into the leather’s texture by most leather craftsmen when using the proper polishing tools.
One of the most popular leathers at Hermes, Togo gets its name from the Togolese Republic in Africa. First used in 1997, Togo is known for its supple, matte, naturally irregular grain. Lightweight, it holds the shape of bags well and can develop a slight sheen over time. Often confused with Clemence, Togo has a finer, raised grain with the possibility of veining. A soft pebbled leather, the upkeep for Togo is very simple and it can be restored easily in cases of excessive wear.
Another of Hermes’ most used leathers, Taurillon Clemence was introduced in 1992. Made from bullskin, Clemence has a wider, and flatter grain than Togo, consistently without veining. Also favored for being supple and the irregularity of its grain, Clemence offers a semi-matte finish. Over time, Clemence can develop a slight sheen, though always maintaining an overall matte appearance. A heavy leather, authentic Hermes Clemence is notorious for giving more structured bags a slouchy, and somewhat casual look. Prone to blistering when exposed to rain, Clemence can also develop cracking at the edges over time if not conditioned properly.
Introduced in 2004, Epsom is arguably the most durable of the Hermes leathers. Replacing the now discontinued Courchevel leather pulled from collections that same year, Epsom is famed for its laminated appearance. Semi-matte, the heat-pressed, cross-hatch grain is manmade, whereas the grains in leathers such as Togo and Clemence are natural. Rigid in nature, Epsom is able to hold the structure of bags over time and has an extremely easy upkeep; just simply wipe down with a cloth.
Currently Available: Hermes Green & Blue Swift Leather Reversible Hapi 3 Double Tour Bracelet Size M
Beloved by many, Swift is actually named after Jonathan Swift, the author of “Gulliver’s Travels”, originally published in 1726. Added to collections in 2005, Swift replaced Gulliver leather, which was discounted earlier in 1999. The reason for this was mainly due to the retirement of the craftsmen who worked with and specialized in these leathers. Playing off of this theme, Hermes also introduced Veau Jonathan in 2018. All three leathers are extremely similar and almost indistinguishable, relying heavily on the year of manufacture to decipher which leather is in fact being used. Buttery soft and smooth with a microgram texture, this semi-matte leather tends to show its wear more quickly than others. Over time, Swift will soften and develop a minor sheen, similar to the other leathers used by Hermes. Perfect for bold colors, this leather is also known to absorb dyes well.
Infrequently Used Hermes Leathers
Hermes Capucine Evercolor Roulis 23
Evercalf; the parent leather to Evercolor, is stiff and similar to Box Calf, and has a sub-categorized leather known as Evergrain, with a finer grain and softer touch. While Evercalf and Evergrain are used mostly in neutral colorways, Evercolor, introduced in 2012, is known for its color vibrancy and hue saturation. The soft, satin-like appearance has a tight, pressed grain. While it is similar to both Epsom and Togo, Evercolor is less rigid than Epsom, with a pressed grain similar to the naturally-grained Togo texture.
Currently Available:Hermes Cumin Chevre Mysore Lemon Key Chain Bag Charm
Another leather that Hermes has consistently used since the 1990s, Chevre Mysore is similar to the iridescent, slightly grained Chevre de Coromandel. This leather originates from goatskin sourced from the Karantaka region of India, adjacent to the city of Mysore. With a more visible grain and noticeable veining, Chevre Mysore has been known to have an almost “wet” appearance. Resilient and largely resistant to scratches, Chevre Mysore displays color extremely well, resulting in a supple, vibrant complexion.
Heavy, durable, and velvety, Fjord is an extremely reliable leather, resistant to both water and scratches. Holding up well to everyday use, this adult cowhide is a perfect casual leather with its soft and matte appearance. Featuring a flat and wide grain, vertical veining can show through from far away on the rare Fjord leather.
Often categorized as a mix between Box Calf and Swift, there are no visible grains in pieces crafted from Tadelakt leather, though some vertical veining is visible. Silky in texture and soft to the touch, there is a semi-glossy finish to this special calfskin.
Currently Available: Hermes x Apple Fawn Barenia Double Tour Attelage Watch Band 40 mm
Barenia was originally used by Hermes for horse saddles, though it is still used today in bags and leather goods; often with a white top stitch. A high-quality calfskin, the oil-absorbing material is naturally smooth and glossy. Resistant to scratches and water, Barenia is also known for developing a patina over time with wear and age. Double tanned in chrome vegetable dyes and then soaked in a mixture of nine different oils over a five to six week timeline, Barenia has an instantly recognizable neutral shade. It does; however, also come in a few select colors, sometimes referred to as Fauve leather, such as black, vert olive, and indigo.
Never one to use anything less than the very best, Hermes handbags and accessories are a surefire guarantee of a quality designer purchase, regardless of the leather you choose. While not all Hermes handbags and accessories are available in all leathers, most will have a few options, and a large array of colors which will switch from season to season. When buying secondhand Hermes handbags in pristine condition, the exact seasonal color/leather combination you're looking for may be hard to come by. We recommend thinking in broader terms — a color family, and a smooth vs grained leather preference. If you have your heart set on THE bag, feel free to leave that information right here, and we'll email you right away when it arrives!