Makar says StockX doesn’t track customers by gender, though anecdotally she maintains the core customer is female. Still, “given the shift at the macro trend level, and what we know about the typical sneaker consumer, it isn’t a stretch to think that there are an increasing number of male handbag consumers on the platform, including those on the hunt for a Birkin.”
She also points to the growing number of male celebrities carrying the bags. “We’re seeing more and more ballplayers, celebrities and entertainers (particularly in the music space) carrying Birkins or talking about Birkins,” she says. “It’s become the ultimate symbol of luxury and wealth.”
Rhuigi Villaseñor, designer of the brand Rhude, is a proud Birkin fanatic. So unabashed is Villaseñor’s affection for the Birkin that his latest bag, the Jacq, is a direct tribute to it, with his signature triangle cut out of the bottom and braided shoulder strap. Though he initially intended the Jacq as a launchpad for his debut womenswear collection, he decided to postpone the line and release the bag as a gender-neutral offering. It features heavily in his Spring 2021 men’s collection. “I wanted to create something that could live and breathe in its own space,” Villaseñor says, “but also have baked-in nostalgia to some people.”
Those people include himself—Villaseñor counts three Birkins in his own collection, including a black canvas bag with leather trim, a brown leather classic, and another in “blue jean” leather.
Undoubtedly, the “exclusivity and aspiration” of the Birkin have made it “more attractive for men,” Makar notes—and indeed, streetwear’s scarcity mindset, driven by the drop model, has become a dominating motive for menswear enthusiasts shopping at every level from $38 T-shirts to half-million dollar bags.
On StockX, Makar says, the average price for a Birkin is $10,300, with no song and dance required. Indeed, many menswear buyers, like Villaseñor, use a secondhand dealer, many of whom work through Instagram or WhatsApp to make sales. Oancea found his Himalaya through Instagram, but otherwise, “I have go-to [dealers],” he says. “They don’t like me sharing who they are, because they asked me to keep that confidential.”
Besides, Oancea says, if you work with the dealers, you can find some really unusual stuff. When he takes his bag into an Hermès store, he says, “They’ve never seen the bags I have, that are like half a million dollars. I took one, one time, [and] the whole staff shit their pants in Beverly Hills.”
It Bags for It Boys
But scarcity isn’t the only driving factor behind the rise of the Man Birkin—there’s an aesthetic appeal, too. Villaseñor philosophizes that the bag’s rising status in menswear is further evidence of the increasingly gender-neutral nature of fashion, in which hype sneakers often come from womenswear, and menswear designers are zeroing in on the handbag market. (Villaseñor already has a hit with his an oversized garette case crossbody bag.) Bags are now “a recurring theme of genderless design. For the past five to seven years now, I think men’s bags is just more exciting” as a category, Villaseñor says. He adds that many of his peers have been collecting womenswear bags—he also has a collection of Chanel bags, for example, as do rappers like Gunna, Future, and Young Thug.
Before its developing role as a menswear luxury staple, the Birkin’s most familiar countenance was as a kind of shield carried by various villains within the Real Housewives empire—though perhaps that was a sort of blip. On Abloh’s dresser, or in Villaseñor’s palms, or even cozied around Oancea’s feet at the Staples Center, the bag looks more like a briefcase, returning it to its sexy beginnings as a secret weapon for the menswear obsessive in the know. (In fact, Makar says the smallest Birkins—25 centimeters in width—are now the most coveted size among female shoppers.)