SAN FRANCISCO — For trans and non-binary people, discovering your identity can be an enlightening, but also a difficult experience especially when it comes to clothing.
What do you wear when the clothing industry makes clothing specifically for men and women, but your identity doesn’t fit the gender binary? One clothing brand that aims to fill that void is cut from a different cloth.
Ami Nashimoto’s world is filled with beautiful music.
“It’s kinda how I have learned to express myself. Music allows you to express what words can’t,” explained Nashimoto.
From an early age, Nashimoto knew they didn’t always fit into a box. Ironically, it took a global pandemic and seeing themselves on zoom with the pronouns she/they every day for Ami to truly embrace their identity.
“I would always answer the question — what was pronouns by saying she/they, but just seeing that every day, literally next to my face and in my face — it really solidified that that really is me and I really am non binary,” Nashimoto explained. “I think I just started started telling people, ‘This is who I am.’ And I more forwardly looked for clothes that fit me.”
But shopping for clothes wasn’t always something Ami looked forward too.
“People who are non-binary, or like something in between, are kind of left behind,” they said. “Something that can actually fit your physical body that maybe you were born with, but that can actually project what you want.”
Then Ami found something different. She came across a sweater that made them feel seen.
“It looks really simple, which I actually like, but just the way it fits me it kind of makes me into the boxier shape that I like. And miraculously, the sleeves are not too long,” Nashimoto said.
That sweater came from the mind of Finnegan Shepard, the founder of the apparel company Both&.
“To wear clothing that doesn’t fit is a kind of synecdoche for the metaphysical of just not fitting in period,” said Finnegan.
Both& is a clothing company specifically designed for trans men and people who identify as non-binary after he went through his own transitional surgery.
“I was thinking, ‘I am going to be able to go to a public pool topless soon or sometime, and that is going to be so amazing. But even though I am topless, I’ve never had swim trunks that fit me. I’m sure someone will have solved this problem by now,'” he said.
As it turned out, nobody had. So he did something about it. With just $5,000, Finnegan and his business partner set out to make a collection of simple foundational clothing that is anything but basic.
The t-shirts are cut to create a broader shoulder and a boxier fit. The pants designed to conceal the curve of hips. All the models wearing the clothes on the company’s website are trans or non-binary.
“The whole point is a kind of invisibility; that the clothing is achieving the silhouette that the lines of the person sense of gender identity and presentation that is effortless and comfortable and allows them to walk through the world without that sense of friction which is so endemic to the trans experience,” explained Finnegan.
“People want to be seen. People want to be valued for exactly who they are to not have to pretend to be something else and not have to wear a mask,” said Nashimoto.
Proving that fashion isn’t always about getting noticed for what’s on the outside. Clothing from Both& gives people a window into who the wearer is on the inside.