The Australian Label Crafting Motorcycle-Ready, Must-Have Leather Accessories
When Denny Nolan first asked a friend to build him a leather bag for his motorcycle, the wait was a little too long for his liking.
“Bugger it,” he thought, and that’s where the idea began.
Like most aftermarket parts for his old yet reliable Suzuki GS 500 motorcycle, leather bags weren’t easy to come by. After trying his hand at several custom parts, it was only a matter of time before he toyed with leather. The result? It wasn’t too bad, he says. The inquiries began soon after.
A few bags later, Nolan had a new head of hair in his chair at Bare Bones Barbershop in Brisbane’s Morningside. It belonged to business consultant and Army reservist Joshua Bailey, a fellow café racer fan.
Both tinkerers at heart, one with a background in custom design, the other in business, each haircut would see the pair inevitably end up talking about what’s now Port and Hide. They bounced ideas back and forth until one day something clicked and each other’s potential became clear.
Officially kicking off in April 2017, Port and Hide began life as a leather motorcycle accessory brand catering toward a Steve McQueen-inclined clientele. However, it wasn’t long before it evolved into a full-fledged lifestyle brand, one well worthy of your attention.
Today they offer the likes of messenger bags, adventure backpacks, wallets, key holders and cardholders, all of which are made out of either cowhide or kangaroo leather.
Sourced from tanneries in Mount Cotton, Narangba and Victoria, all products are handmade in their Brisbane workshop utilising 1mm to 2.5mm thick leather. “Rather than using something thin and creating layers, we prefer to use a single-sided hides,” he says. “You pick it up and you go, ‘yeah, this is a solid bag’”.
Around 90 per cent of the products are built with cowhide as “it’s a heavier yet robust product,” says Nolan. Meanwhile, the smaller, lighter products like wallets or notepad holders are made with kangaroo leather. Both of these come from the likes of Tasman Tanners in New Zealand among other local suppliers.
As for the style, it’s somewhere between that of old Indian leather and Melbourne’s All the Kings Men. Finished off with solid American brass clips, buttons and straps.
Similar to the kind of bag you wear over your shoulder, Port and Hide’s first product was a motorcycle bag which strapped across the body of the bike, fastened with a buckle and strap.
When Nolan first conjured up the design, his goal was to maintain practicality and style. He wanted to create something efficient without having to fiddle with the electronics. “What’s a nice way to get a really stripped-down look to cover the junk that’s still sitting under the bike?” he asked himself.
He settled on replacing his motorcycle’s battery box and airbox cover which sat under the seat of his motorbike. This way his bags maintained the bike’s aesthetic while providing much-needed storage for wallets, phones and anything that wouldn’t be safe in a pocket.
It was after they perfected the motorbike satchel that they began to dabble in backpacks, wallets and even a pair of cufflinks. On the move towards more lifestyle products, Nolan says the shift followed the trend in motorcycles.
When they first began in 2017, the return of cafe racer was well in fashion. Today, people are more futuristic and scrambler-like builds, he says. “As far as the cafe racer thing,” Nolan says, “I feel like it’s in a steady decline.”
While they’re still very much in the motorcycle scene and you’ll find them at local events or supplying fundraiser prizes and official merchandise to the likes of the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride, nowadays there’s a heavy focus on creating versatile products too. One such example is their messenger bag which can be mounted on a motorcycle yet be taken off to wear into the office. “The idea of our gear is quality that can be weathered,” Nolan says.
And that’s part of the reason why the brand has stuck. Even in their lifestyle range, they’ve stayed true to the origins of the brand: Handmade, locally sourced products which are made of quality leather yet don’t look out of place in a mall. Sold at a price that matches most of the retail giants.
It all stems from their childhood, as Nolan recalls, first getting his hands on a hammer when he was just seven years old. “Being a barber was kind of a natural turn of events for me,” he says.
Bailey adds, “Without wanting to sound like a broken record,” his childhood was much the same. “My dad had always been annoyed at me never putting anything back together,” he laughs. “Much like the bikes, I’ve got in the shed at the moment.”
(All images Port and Hide / supplied)
Published 17 February, 2020