Hermès Haut à Courroies: The Original Birkin Bag
Hermès’ first ever bag, the Haut à Courroies, or HAC for short, was originally designed in the early 20th century for carrying a saddle and a pair of riding boots with elegance. Still loved today by Hermès aficionados everywhere, the HAC has gone through many transformations over the past century, though always maintaining that special timeless element that is integral to all Hermès products. Today the Hermès HAC is generally preferred by male buyers and often replace briefcases or backpacks as the daily work bag. The larger HAC is also popular as a travel or weekend bag for men.
Haut à Courroies translates to high-belt in French, in reference to the closure sangles that latch around the top of the bag. What makes the HAC so important in Hermès’ history is its connection to the world-famous Birkin bag. When Jean-Louis Dumas sketched out a design for Jane Birkin on the back of an air-sickness bag on that well-known flight between London and Paris, his starting point for design inspiration was the HAC. Around the time the first Birkin was produced, Hermès also began creating smaller HAC bags.
While the first Birkins were 35 and 40cm across, the first small HACs undercut this at just 32cm wide. Later on in the 2000’s Hermès would also produce HAC bags (which are often referred to as HAC Birkins) in 28 and 35cm sizes. A distinct difference between the HAC and the Birkin can be found on the hardware. Most (though not all) feature a square-tipped spindle and tubular pontets, though HAC 32s from the late 1990’s to early 2000’s are an exception to this rule.
Limited Edition Hermès HACs
In recent years, Hermès has produced a number of limited edition HACs. These special bags have emerged with unique details including embroidery, leather marquetry, hand-painted coloration, new materials, and added design elements. While most limited editions are found in either 40 or 50cm, other HACs can also be found in 45, 55 and 60cm sizes. The most recent version, the Rock HAC, takes its inspiration from a classic biker jacket, featuring exterior pockets and chains hanging over the smooth black leather.
The Smallest HAC of All
Not long ago the Hermès transformed the Haut à Courroies into a minute crossbody. Dubbed the HAC a Dos, this new design features the classic HAC hardware paired with an adjustable Amazone canvas strap. Produced in two sizes, PM and GM, the HAC a Dos is an exciting development in the history of Hermès’ longest lived design.