Earlier this spring we debated if Valentino’s unmistakeable Rockstuds were considered a classic by now, nearly ten years after Valentino debuted them. While the verdict was of course mixed, many of you brought up the idea of what actually goes into calling something a classic. Commenter Marla asked, “what constitutes a classic?”. Stating that the answer may not be as basic and obvious as it seems. So what does it take for a handbag to earn classic status?
Classic has a few different meanings according to Merriam-Webster. The everyday use of the word is defined as ‘historically memorable’ and/or ‘serving as a standard of excellence ie- a recognized value’. Conversely, the fashion definition of the word describes classic as being ‘characterized by simple, tailored lines’.
The word classic, when applied to fashion, and handbags specifically, is quite objective. I would describe classics as bags and designs that have a timeless appeal, meaning they’ll remain relevant for years to come. Immediately a few bags come to mind that I would consider classic—regardless if I would personally wear them or not. If you were to ask any handbag lover, Louis Vuitton’s Speedy bag, Chanel’s 2.55 and Classic Flap bags and the Hermès Kelly and Birkin would be included in almost every response. When I think of bags that will be around for years to come, these bags have stood the test of time. And if I wanted to purchase a bag that I could pass down to my niece or future child, one of these would be my go-to.
Another point that’s relevant to make is the idea of a classic bag versus a classic style. One could argue that every bag lover needs a black flap bag in their closet because it’s a classic, but what one handbag lover chooses to purchase over another can be vastly different. A classic style, as in a silhouette that can be easily worn, refers to simplicity and wearability in style versus a specific design by a designer. For example, when my collection was lacking a black flap bag that I could wear for the everyday, I chose Gucci’s Marmont Flap Bag. Though it fits the bill and is a simple, everyday black bag, the bag itself is considered more on the trendy side.
A third point that is also notable to make is the idea of an iconic bag versus a classic. Iconic, which is defined as something that is ‘widely recognized and well-established’, is a bit less broad and easier to define. Handbag lovers can likely agree on a bag being iconic (ie well-recognized) whether they like it or not. For example, Dior’s Book Tote has become an icon for the brand in a short period of time. While not everyone would personally wear or purchase one, the Book Tote is instantly identifiable and recognized by handbag lovers around the world, making it a true definition of the word.
While iconic bags may come and go, a classic bag will remain relevant for decades to come. A classic bag to me means a timeless design that I’ll continue to reach for year after year. How do you define a classic and which bags in your closet do you consider your go-to classics?