Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (176 C). Use parchment paper or baking liners to baking sheets or grease lightly to prevent cookies from sticking.
Sift the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, salt and pepper. Set aside dry ingredients.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer at high-speed, beat the butter and vegetable shortening. Add the brown sugar and beat until the mixture is light in texture and color, about 2 minutes. Beat in the molasses and egg. Gradually mix in the flour mixture to make a stiff dough. Divide the dough into two disks. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until chilled, about 3 hours. (The dough can be prepared up to 3 days ahead.)
To roll out the cookies, work with one disk at a time, keeping the other disk refrigerated. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature until just warm enough to roll out without cracking, about 10 minutes. Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Avoid putting a lot of flour on the top of your dough or otherwise your gingerbread men will be streaked white. If you use a piece of waxed paper between the dough and the rolling pin, this prevents sticking. Roll out the dough about 3/16 inch thick (between ⅛ to ¼ inch thick). If you want a softer cookie, roll out dough a little thicker. If you want a crispy cookie, roll the dough out a little thinner.
Dip your cookie cutters into a little flour to prevent sticking. Using boy and girl cookie cutters (or any cut out shapes desired), cut out the cookie dough all the way through and do a little wiggle back and forth to remove. Carefully transfer your cutout gingerbread man to nonstick cookie sheets 2 inch apart. Keep up with process until you cannot fit another cookie cutter on the dough. Then, gently knead the scraps together. Form into another disk and roll out to make more cookies. If at any time your dough becomes difficult to work with, wrap it in plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for a few minutes. If your dough becomes dry, add 1 teaspoon of water at a time into the dough and knead in gently.
Bake cookies on the middle rack for about 8-10 minutes for chewy cookies and 10-12 minutes for crisper cookies. (Cooking time depends on the size of your cookie cutter and the thickness of your dough) Bigger cookie cutters and thicker dough needs more time. Smaller cookie cutters and thinner dough needs less baking time. (our little mini gingerbread only took 6 minutes to bake.) It's best to set your timer for the lowest time and then add more time as needed. Cool on the sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer to wire racks or set on parchment paper to cool completely.
Decorate with Royal Icing or prepackaged decorating icing tubes. (The cookies can stored in a sealed container for about 1 one week in the refrigerator or placed in the freezer for up to 2 months. (However, in our house, we will be lucky if we can even just save a couple of cookie for Santa)