He calls it the Nike of the non-binary generation.
Both& is a one-of-a-kind clothing brand born from the mind of University of New Mexico alumnus Finnegan Shepard. That’s the beauty of its uniqueness – it’s for everyone and no one at the same time.
“For me, Both& is a really important space to acknowledge the basic dignity of community and that we deserve to have a mark for ourselves,” Shepard said.
Born out of an epiphany during the pandemic, Shepard created and presented the brand as the missing piece for so many who identify as transmasculine, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming. Shepard himself felt and saw the need in the mirror firsthand when there was simply nothing right for him as he recovered from his major surgery in 2020.
“There is a dissonance between how we see ourselves and how the world reflects us. Words and fashion translate us to the outside world,” he said.
Both& as a name struck Shepard as what was to be the message for the present and the future. He believes that identity is multivalent and constantly changing.
“I felt like it was time for a brand to articulate a vision for gender identity and a more future-aligned presentation,” he said. “Rather than an ‘either’ world, we must live in an ‘both and’ world.”
While letting the idea rest with a design team in New York, Shepard interviewed and interviewed thousands of people about their biggest struggles with identity and clothing.
“Just like plus size clothing and maternity clothing, we need a proprietary fit system,” he said.
The t-shirts were the first on the role.
“What’s interesting about what we create is when we design something that fits, it’s almost invisible because it works,” he said.
From there, sales began for hundreds and then thousands of customers who found exactly what they were looking for, including Shepard.
“I’ve never had a pair of jeans that fit me before in my life before, and that’s a pretty amazing feeling. I’m just wearing a t-shirt that fits my body and you won’t notice. because it just fits me. The wow factor is what it does. he said.
While jeans will hit the market soon, Both & offers swimwear, pants, hoodies and, most recently, a button-down shirt. It may seem like simple things to many of you reading this, but it’s something that anyone struggling with their identity or going through a big change takes as a lifeline.
“I think everyone felt like they didn’t fit in. Amplify that by 100 or 1,000 and you have what trans people face every day,” Shepard said.
He says the reviews have been amazing and shed light on all the difficulties he may face in the business world. Recently, more and more parents have contacted Both&, asking for clothes for pre-teens who are just discovering themselves and making the transition.
“I got countless emails from people saying something like, ‘I put your clothes on, looked in the mirror and saw myself for the first time,'” he said. “It’s that feeling of self-recognition.”
The company doubled its profit in just one year, with an increase in order sizes. Shepard said his time studying the humanities at UNM prepared him to overcome the challenges of entrepreneurship.
Both& is also closing in on a $1 million investment round, including commitments from many New Mexico investors, and it’s still accepting.
The state could also be the springboard for business in the future.
“It’s really nice to feel like I could make an economic impact here,” he said. “I can make a difference in New Mexico. In many ways, it doesn’t make sense for Both& to be in New York or LA. We’re a queer brand, so it makes sense that we’re based in a “queer” space.
Shepard thinks New Mexico has the right mix of a queer community with needs and a welcoming business community for a brick-and-mortar store in Albuquerque.
That’s the goal for the next three years, just to start.
“Five years from now, I want us to be known as the one-stop-shop for the non-binary population,” Shepard said.
According to Shepard, the top brands of the past 50 years all follow a similar playbook. They solve a problem for a niche community, build a following of evangelists and a worldview around that community, and expand it outward. Both&’s playbook is the same, but targets the “niche” of trans and gender non-conforming people.
“Too often, unfortunately, we are just political fodder or charitable cases. We need spaces where we can go beyond that and start with different questions like the very simple human questions of your needs,” he said.
Over time, Shepard wants everyone to understand the sense of place that’s at stake and the role clothing can play in achieving that.
“Clothes are a very powerful tool. When you don’t have those tools, it’s like your worst fears are reflected back on you,” he said. “We all deserve to feel comfortable in our own skin and clothing can be a really big step in facilitating that.”
Learn more about the creation of Both & products and the next steps, on their website at present. You can also contact Shepard directly with inquiries at email here.