“Investment” is a pernicious little word. Marketers and salespeople like to use it to placate customers who balk at prices, especially female customers. Oh, that bag might be expensive, but it’s nice leather! And it’s a functional shape! And a neutral color! Totally an investment piece. Should I grab you a fresh one from the back? Except, of course, we all know that, in almost every instance, that bag is going to depreciate in value as soon as it leaves the store, just like a new Mercedes driven off the lot. There’s nothing wrong with admitting that and buying the bag anyway.
We all know what an investment is: something into which we put money in anticipation of measurable gain, monetary or otherwise. Sometime in your relative youth, your parents probably told you that cars are a bad investment, and they were right. They serve a utilitarian purpose, and although some do it with enormous style and panache, it’s the exception that one ever gains a dollar in value, or even retains a significant portion of the original purchase price. For every model that collectors will clamor for in a few decades’ time, there are hundreds that will go to the trash heap of history having served their purpose. Many of those were beautiful and expensive when they were first made.
Cars are a good analog for handbags for a few reasons. First, they’re both examples of what happens when you take a functional, everyday tool and try to make it aesthetically pleasing. Second, their recognizability and exterior use makes them ideal possessions for telegraphing wealth and success to those around you; at the top of the market, they’re total status acquisitions. More than anything, though, they’re a fitting comparison because their values function in much the same way, but men are never required to justify the purchase of a sports car to those around them by cooing over what a useful investment it is.
Our culture looks at fashion as superfluous nonsense, by and large, and when it appeals to women, the very people to whom it is aggressively marketed, we’re often made to feel bad for succumbing to the urge to buy ourselves something nice. (Over 100 of you chimed in with your own tales of bag-shaming when we asked, after all; this is not an isolated phenomenon.) The marketing language around bags and other stalwart fashion pieces as an investment is tailor-made to provide a response to that shaming if you buy the right kind of thing, as well as to make you feel a little bad when you spend money on something trendy or affordable. You’re throwing your money away when you could be putting it toward an investment piece you’ll have forever! (Or, you know, until you find something else you like better.)
There are, of course, a couple bags that retain their value. Hermès Birkins and Kellys, as well as Chanel Classic Flap Bags and Reissues, will give you the best bang for your buck on the resale market; if you time things just right with price increases, keep your bag pristine and sell it yourself without any middle man to take a big chunk of the price, you might even make a small profit. Relatively few consumers buy things with that exact endgame in mind, though, and none of us should be functioning under the yoke of “investment shopping” unless it fits our personal styles anyway. (It doesn’t fit mine.)
Instead, invest in yourself. Buy the things that move you, that capture your attention, that you love to look at, that make you feel like you. If those things are also timeless pieces that will look just as good in 10 years as they do now, great. If they’re silly, fun things that will not age well under any definition of the phrase, also great. It’s your money. Either way, you’re probably going to use what you buy for about the same amount of time before you move on to the next thing, so don’t be shamed into keeping your freak flag under wraps. Fashion doesn’t always have to be purely functional, and you don’t always have to be well-behaved.
[The bag above, by Shourouk, is super fun and definitely not an investment. If you want one of your own, pick it up for $1,204 via MATCHESFASHION.COM]
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