Another Pride Month has come and gone, bringing with it plenty of the three Ds: Debauchery, drag, and…disappointment in bland and derivative Pride collections. Many corporations have come under fire for engaging in rainbow capitalism, which is more often rooted in virtue signaling and making a grab for pink money than it is in true allyship. While Pride should present an opportunity to pass the mic (and ideally a good percentage of the profits) to LGBTQ+ brands and organizations, the companies that do choose to leverage Pride for profit should at least be making items that appeal to actual queer people. And while I’d never claim to speak for all gays, I think we can agree that most of what’s out there is…not it.
So what, in Gaga’s name, would it look like for companies to do a Pride collection right? There's a lot more to it than slapping "Slay All Day" on a T-shirt. To the brands looking to sashay into a stronger showing next year, I see your rainbow logo and raise you the following ideas.
As a femme lesbian, I don’t always read as gay in a society where straightness is the presumed default. This means that if I want to meet a girl in the wild—as opposed to through dating apps or social media—I have to work harder to make my intentions known. Enter the subtle signal, a piece that serves as the sartorial equivalent of putting a rainbow flag in your bio. What makes this different from your average limited edition Pride tee? Well, it should be an item that can be worn every day without setting off hygienic alarm bells (think jewelry, accessories, and tote bags). It should whisper rather than scream, ensuring it reaches its target audience without compromising safety in situations where it’s not safe to be out. And, of course, it should be aesthetically pleasing and reflective of current styles and trends. More items like this, please. Much more efficient than batting my lashes while ordering lavender oat milk lattes and hoping my cute barista and her septum ring get the hint.
For other members of the LGBTQ+ community, the issue isn’t visibility—it’s erasure. Trans, non-binary, and masc-presenting people face limited options while shopping and are often forced to venture into other departments or order specialty items online. Pride feels like the perfect time to cater expressly to these consumers—for example, Target had a well-received collection this year that included queer closet mainstays such as printed button-downs, swim trunks, and chest binders. If brands don’t have enough representation on their design teams to do this right…well, that’s probably a better use of company resources. And if all else fails, we can always use another hat.
I love a good rainbow motif as much as the next gay, but there’s a lot more to queer iconography than a few lazy stripes. Let’s see fruity prints! References to Sappho! Iconic snapshots from queer canon TV, film, and music! Hell, I’d even wear a shirt that said “ROYGBIV.” She’s an intellectual.
I was shocked when I checked out Alo Yoga’s Pride Collection only to see what struck me as an egregious missed opportunity: They had failed to design a Pride sports bra. Like, hello? WLW love a sports bra—and Alo makes some good ones. While they get points for donating 100% of net proceeds to the Human Rights Campaign, I can’t help but feel that a few more queer eyes on the collection would have led them to swap the generic rainbow socks for items that reflect what the brand does well and highlight a natural intersection with the community it claims to support. More expensive to produce? Probably. More thoughtful, useful, and meaningful as a capsule? Definitely.
Codified Gay Rights
I mean, while we’re manifesting, let’s throw this on the wish list for sure. Here’s hoping gay marriage is still around in 2023. One never does know these days.