By MATT BLOIS
A new Franklin business hopes to sell a dress shirt to gun owners who want a more comfortable way to carry a gun, and world travelers carrying passports, boarding passes and wallets.
David Bowers, the founder of Truly Innovations, created the shirt after a coworker complained that he had to dress like a “homeless guy” whenever he carried a concealed gun.
“He and I were having a conversation one day, and he said somebody needs to come up with a shirt that will allow you to carry inside the shirt, where it’s more comfortable and concealed,” Bowers said.
After a long design process, Bowers created a shirt that has sturdy mesh pockets sewn on the inside of the shirt. Most of the buttons are real, but there are two fake buttons with velcro underneath that allow easy access to the pockets.
The mesh pockets can hold a gun, but they also work well for car keys, pens or tools. After releasing the product last summer, Bowers said many of his customers started buying the shirts to carry those everyday items.
“Once we launched it, we started getting feedback on people carrying wallets cell phones, flashlights,” Bowers said. “There’s a community out there called everyday carry. It could be whatever. It could be a gun. It could be glasses. It could be anything you carry on a daily basis.”
Everyday carry is an idea that people should always carry around some basic, versatile tools because you never know when you might need them. The hashtag #everydaycarry on Instagram has millions of photos showing examples of everyday carry collections.
Some of the collections include pens, notebooks and flashlights. Others include guns, knives and multitools. Most of the collections are too big or heavy to fit in a normal pocket.
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Now, some of those people in the everyday carry community are using the shirt that Bowers designed, and he decided to lean into it. Instead of marketing the shirt as just a way to carry a gun, the company is focusing on the everyday carry community.
“Our three markets are the concealed carry market, the everyday carry and the traveller market. It’s going to take somewhat of three different marketing strategies to get to those folks,” he said. “I think there’s some hybrid of the concealed carry and the everyday carry, but on the traveller side I think it’s a totally different market because you can’t carry a gun on a plane.”
Marketing a brand new product is always challenging, but Truly Innovations has the additional challenge of marketing to several distinct sets of users.
Gun owners will likely respond to marketing that shows how the pockets can be used to carry a weapon in public without drawing too much attention. However, some customers that want to use the shirt to carry their wallet around town or a passport while traveling might be turned off by that type of messaging.
The company’s website describes the shirt as a way to carry around everyday items, and only obliquely references guns. A video demonstrating how the shirt works compares the mesh pockets to holsters, but doesn’t explicitly mention guns. Bowers said that’s intentional.
“We didn’t want to focus in on guns and isolate everyone else,” he said.
Right now, the shirt is only available through the company’s website. Truly Innovations recently launched a social media campaign to spread the word about its product, and it’s talking with retailers about getting the shirt into stores.
Bowers said it has been difficult to identify just the right store for this shirt because there’s not many products like it. He has talked to gun retailers, but they don’t usually sell clothes. He’s also reached out to outdoor retailers, and hopes to have the shirts in stores soon.
After spending much of his career as a law enforcement officer for the State Department, and then working in security for corporations, Bowers said he never expected to get into the clothing business. However, his background has helped him.
He used to work on security for the clothing company Hanes, where he filled his rolodex with people to clothing manufacturing and distribution.
That made it easier to find a manufacturer in Honduras where the shirts are made. The mesh pockets have to be made in the United States, but the company sends them to Honduras where the shirts are assembled.
Bowers said right now his company is focused on getting this first product off the ground. If the shirt takes off then, Bowers already has ideas for new products.
The short sleeve shirt costs $65 and a long sleeve shirt costs $70, although the shirts are on sale for the holiday season.