Chanel Boy bag or the Classic Flap? That is the question…

Even though the Boy was only introduced in 2011, the style has quickly achieved the status of an icon. Designed by Karl Lagerfeld and named after Boy Capel, the now legendary love of Coco Chanel’s life, the bag encapsulates masculine chic conveyed through rigid structure, boxy shape and sharp corners.

Chanel bag lovers are divided into devotees of either the Flap or the Boy. I am definitely in the latter tribe, but this has not always been the case.

Unsurprisingly, my first Chanel bag purchase was the Classic Flap, which at the time seemed like the epitome of luxury unparalleled by any other design. This love affair continued for some years during which I had very little appetite for adding a Boy to my collection. To begin with, the style seemed too ostentatious and I was rather unconvinced by the loud and ornate chain design. On top of that, I was somewhat unimpressed by the front flap covering the entirety of the bag’s fascia which, to me, created quite an angular and manly look.

The reason why I bought my first Chanel Boy bag was a sheer accident. I only got it because a Classic bag I wanted to purchase at the time was not in stock and I was reluctant to leave the shop empty handed. Even then, I was questioning my sanity, wondering what I would do with such a showy piece and whether it would ever see the light of day.

Predictably, even though I had no intention of liking the bag, the Boy started slowly winning me over. The loud aspects of the design stopped being so bothersome, perhaps because I no longer had to look at the bag when wearing it, and instead, I could just focus on enjoying its function. This certainly marked the beginning of my journey with Chanel Boy bags which happily continues to this day.

In the same way as Classics, Boy bags come in different dimensions but the size I am the fondest of is the Small Boy. Accordingly, I am going to dedicate this post specifically to the Small Chanel Boy bag and share with you my thoughts on why I believe it is one of the best crossbody bags out there.

Boy bag worn crossbody

Aesthetics and details

The Chanel Boy bag is instantly recognisable for its simple, boxy silhouette and sharp corners, embellished only with a contrasting, bold-looking link chain strap which is the main feature of the bag.

The most popular variations of the Chanel Boy are available in either caviar or lambskin, although tweed, patent and exotic leathers also pop up in seasonal collections. There are no external pockets and the sole adornment is the quilted or chevron-patterned fascia. However, some other decorative motifs such as studs, jewels or exotic leather designs are also available once in a while.

A comparison between the quilted and chevron pattern is shown below:

Quilt and chevron finish comparison

The fastening mechanism is relatively simple and easy to operate. It comprises an ornamental plaque adorning the front of the bag with an embossed overlapping CC logo at its centre. The CC motif embraces a closure stud linking the front flap to the main part of the bag, i.e. the trunk. There are also rectangular release buttons placed on each side of the plaque allowing the bag to be opened and closed without much effort. As far as fastening systems go, I find the closure in Boy bags very user-friendly and I prefer it over the lock in the Flap bag.

Small Chanel Boy bag lock

As mentioned earlier, one of the main features of the bag is its strap. The strap consists of part leather and part chain, with the latter comprising thick interconnecting metal links supported by two metal clasps affixed to the upper part of the flap. The finish of the chain matches the colour of the lock. Although the non-metallic part of the strap features a couple of studs protruding through, what appears to look like, slots in the leather strap, these are a decorative motif only and not intended to regulate the length.

Boy strap close up

There is a selection of chain finishes to suit individual taste, including the high-shine silver or golden tone, the antique matte gold or ruthenium-finish metal. My personal favourite is the antique gold because it sets off the pronounced chain against the leather in a sufficiently visible but not overstated manner. The high shine metal is nice to look at but, at the same time, it is very obvious and flamboyant so it may seem a bit too much for running everyday errands. Below is a comparison between the high shine golden and matte finish:

Boy bag chain comparison

I am yet to add a silverware Boy to my collection but every time I intend to do so, I look at the equivalent in the golden finish and it always wins me over. I guess it is just a matter of personal taste. I still hope I will end up with a silver metal Boy one day… [Back to Menu]

Size and functionality

Chanel Boy bags are available in different sizes, from Small to Large. However, as the focus of this review is the Small Chanel boy bag, I would like to explore here features pertaining to this particular size.

As the name implies, the Small Boy Chanel bag is the miniature iteration of the design. The measurements are 20cm x 12cm x 8cm, making it a rather petite bag indeed. However, while the dimensions might not impress those seeking a functional and spacious daytime bag, the size could not be more perfect if you intend to use the Small Boy as an evening or occasion bag. In fact, the petite size allows the bag to compliment an outfit without taking the centre stage while the decorative chain serves as an uplifting accent giving the bag some edge.

The boxy shape of the Boy design, while admittedly not to everyone’s taste, is certainly an attribute when it comes to accommodating personal items. The angular silhouette allows to utilise the full space of the bag, making it easy to fit in and access essentials. This aspect counteracts somewhat the diminutive size of the Small Boy and is something that has always appealed to me because it makes the bag quite practical (well… as far as mini bags go).

Small Chanel Boy bag fit test
Small Chanel Boy bag fit test

As you can see from the below fit test, the tiny bag is capable of containing a fair amount of bits and pieces which come in handy on a night out or any other occasion. [Back to Menu]

It is not just a bag…

One of my favourite aspects of the Small Chanel Boy bag, and the reason why it is such a perfect occasion bag, is its ornate character. The relatively chunky link chain present in all Boy bags is, generally, very hard to miss and constitutes one of the most distinguishable features of this style. Small Chanel Boys sees even more ornamental because of the larger proportion of the chain to the leather trunk component, turning the decorative strap into a real statement which captures everyone’s attention. As such a Chanel Small Boy bag is not only a functional item but also an embellishment, acting almost as a piece of jewellery elevating even a demure outfit into something really special. [Back to Menu]

Chanel bag worn as cross body

How to carry a Small Chanel Boy bag?

The total length of the chain strap in a Small Boy Chanel bag is approximately 130 cm, the same as in the larger sizes, making it perfect for carrying the bag cross-body. The Small Boy looks the best worn that way, in my opinion. Some crossbody designs have relatively short straps, like the Louis Vuitton New Wave bag, but this is definitely not the case here. The bag, when carried crossbody, is aligned with my hip level (I am 5’5) so it should not feel too short even for someone who is considerably taller.

Chanel Boy worn crossbody

The Small Boy bag can also be worn hanging on the shoulder. When carried that way, the drop of the bag is 66cm and reaches below the hip level. It is a convenient way of carrying the Boy because you can go hands free and it is also a very flattering way of presenting the bag.

Boy Bag hanging on the shoulder

As an alternative method of presenting the bag, the chain strap can also be doubled-up and shortened so it creates the “top handles” effect. That way the bag can be carried on the shoulder with a drop of about 42cm, rest on the forearm or even be held by hand. Personally, I do not particularly like it because it does not allow for an easy access to the bag’s contents. Also, it is not the most alluring way of presenting the Small Boy as the folded chain strap overwhelms the diminutive bag.

Chanel Boy carried on the forearm

Having said that, the doubled-up chain does not look too bad in larger Chanel Boy sizes and is more natural way of carrying those bags. Have a look at the images below and decide for yourself… [Back to Menu]

Large Boy double handle
Small Boy double handle

Some downsides...

Although I am very fond of the design, I cannot deny that the Chanel Small Boy bag is not without its flaws. First and foremost, there is the price point. Many people might assume that the smallest Chanel designs should be more affordable but clearly Boy bags are governed by their own rules. The entry point for a Small Boy bag in leather finish is currently £3,690 (as of April 2020). By contrast, a Mini Chanel Flap Bag in a comparable size in leather finish retails at £2,730. Considering that the size is near identical, the near £1,000 difference is very significant making the Small Boy bag a very expensive option for a tiny occasion bag.

The second downside, and not only of the Small Boy but also all other sizes, is the lack of pockets. Unlike the Classic Flap, Boy bags have only one internal zip up slip pocket and no external pockets at all, meaning the bag needs to be opened and closed to access even the smallest of items. For those of you who have read my earlier reviews, you will know that I hold external pockets in high regard because they tend to make my life just a little bit easier. However, as the Small Boy Chanel bag is not intended for everyday use, it is somewhat easier to forgive it the lack of functional external storage space. It still would have been great to have one though… Oh well!

Another aspect of the Boy bag which may cause some frustration is the high-shine metal finish used in the chain strap and the lock, should you choose this option. While it is rather impressive, you will soon find out that the lock is awfully susceptible to fingerprints and marks. Unfortunately, it is impossible to open and close the bag without touching it so you will end constantly trying to keep it clean and shiny. Safe to say, it is a losing battle! There is also the issue of scratches being far more prominent on the high shine metal in comparison to ruthenium or antique gold. Only one of my Chanel Boy bags has this reflective polish metalware and this is where I have decided to draw the line as it is too high maintenance for me 😊.

Chanel Boy Bag with gold chain

Another, albeit very minor, drawback is the fact that the chain cannot be detached so the bag cannot be worn as a clutch. This is the case, for instance, in YSL Toy LouLou bags, making them more versatile. Nonetheless, since the chain is such as distinguishing feature of Boy bags, removing the strap would, admittedly, diminish the allure of the design and for that I can forgive Chanel.

There are also a couple of issues connected with the finish of the bag. Firstly, anyone who opts for the lamb skin variant should note that this type of leather is very soft and not particularly resilient. As the link chain in Boy bags is quite substantial, the metal component has a tendency for bashing and rubbing against the delicate leather causing some minor scratches and marks. This effect is less severe in Flap bags because the metal chain is interwoven with leather, much thinner and lighter. While I always try to be very careful with my Chanel Boys, it is impossible to prevent the chain from coming into contact with the leather trunk when the bag is in use. Therefore, to those concerned about longevity of their Boy bags (especially the uber-expensive Small Chanel Boy) I would recommend choosing the caviar leather finish which is more durable and less predisposed to scuffs. [Back to Menu]

Is Small Chanel Boy bag worth the money?

To me, the answer is an emphatic yes although I do acknowledge that the Boy is not perfect. There is no denying that the bag is very expensive for what it is and the price per wear is high, considering that the Small Boy is not a practical, everyday bag. However, functionality is not the purpose of this little arm candy. The Chanel Boy is there to add glitz and glamour to any outfit, and to lift spirit, which it does beautifully. It is a bold, ostentatious, and edgy piece and it is there to be seen, making it the ideal bag for evenings out where extra sparkle and pizzazz are the norm.

Those who simply cannot get over diminutive size can also opt for a slightly larger version, which retains the showy and decorative character of the bag while making it more usable. However, in my opinion, the larger sizes do not possess the same special character as the Small Boy which is far more unique, both through its show-stopping appearance as well as though the fact of being a much rarer piece. Medium and Large Boy bags are quite a common sight whereas Small Boys are far more elusive and exclusive.

While the price point of Small Boy Chanel bags is quite excessive, the good news is that this design can be purchased tax free in the Heathrow airport in the UK. So if you are planning a trip to London and thinking of picking up a Boy bag bargain, it is worth popping in to one of the Chanel boutiques in Terminal 3 or Terminal 5 where you can score 20% off the retail price. Considering how expensive the bag is, it is a huge saving and well worth it, and you will end up with a truly iconic piece which will not lose its charm for many decades to come. Overall verdict: Timeless luxury [Back to Menu]

Photos by Unwrapped.Fashion

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