I had a long talk with my (avidly LGBTQ+ supporting) teens this week about the overlap between Pride Month and brands. On one hand, there’s an argument about the “corporatization” of Pride Month, and the rainbow washing of products. On the other hand, I’m old enough to remember (as the meme goes) when commercials wouldn’t touch same-sex couples with a ten-foot ROYGBIV flagpole.
Both perspectives are valid.
(In fact, it’s worth reading this excellent 2019 Washington Post op-ed, Pride for Sale, about the consequences of mixing Pride and profits. Multiple writers of short pieces cover topics including the benefit of having corporate allies, the exclusionary impact of high-priced Pride events and products, and the complexities of making Pride apparel in foreign countries that mistreat queer factory workers.)
You Are Pride t-shirts from the HRC. Purchase details below.
A little backstory, if you’ll indulge me…
I was delighted that today, my AAA newsletter lead with a list of Pride Parades near me. I don’t care if it’s for clicks to their site or whatever — it’s still awesome, and I tend to err on the side of applauding progress. That’s because I’ve been on the other side of the marketing equation.
I spent my entire career in advertising, and so finding brands that legitimately support the LGBTQ+ community and create Pride-themed products (hopefully not just in June) is personal to me. My proudest moment was winning a GLAAD Media Award early in my career for a commercial that was progressive enough for its time. (And not just because it was so fun sitting next to the cast of Spin City at the ceremony.) I can tell you as the person who wrote, pitched, sold, cast, and produced the commercial (along with my awesome art director partner, hey Terre!) that we weren’t cynical about it. We weren’t “capitalizing” or jumping on a bandwagon that didn’t really yet exist — though I was happy to be working for an agency that was committed to breaking those barriers at the time.
In our case, we were using our platforms as advertising creatives to promote positive, inclusive values through our work — and those values also happened to overlap with those of the brand team. They even stood by the campaign, even as some vendors resigned over it. The marketing team had more to lose potentially, than to gain, and I always valued that they were willing to put themselves on the line.
I want to share my background, because it’s easy to look at “corporate America” or “advertising” like it’s some monolith, which can easily lead you to be cynical about the Pride connection — but in my experience, there are a lot of good people behind these companies, many LGBTQ+ themselves, and they’re often individuals who just want to do use their positions to do good.
This is all to say that when I share Pride month products here, as we do every year, I may view it with a more optimistic perspective than some.
I see brands who still put themselves on the line, considering how loud (a minority of) bigoted detractors can be. I see them pushing the culture forward. I see them recognizing our Gen Z kids, 16% of whom identify as LGBTQ (if not more) — as well as the hundreds of thousands of kids raised by same sex parents. I see them supporting their own LGBTQ+ employees and team members through vocal Pride month involvement.
I see progress. And it makes me so happy.
It’s still good to be critical
Even while I share stuff I love here, it can’t just be “here’s a rainbow on a thing! Happy shopping!”
I do my best to examine how well these brands support the LGBTQ+ community all year round — through corporate donations, event sponsorship, support for political candidates (if any) who support sexual and gender equality, and above all, creating an equitable and inclusive environment for their LGBTQ+ employees with full benefits and protections. I’m a big fan of equal protections and civil rights, if you hadn’t figured that out yet!
And of course, at Cool Mom Picks, we’ve always aimed to be careful curators, giving time and attention to recommend things we truly love and can stand behind.
Now even the best brands are not going to get everything right all the time; especially the multinationals with thousands of employee and a zillion different divisions. But I’ll take “working to do better” over “doing nothing” any day.
With that, I’m really pleased to share just a few of my favorite Pride month gifts and products here.
Do you need them? No. But it’s nice to support the brands that share our values. And hey — maybe there’s something here that calls to you, as a way to celebrate who you are, who you’re raising, who raised you, or someone queer in your life who you really love.
A Few of My Favorite Pride Month Products and Gifts in 2021
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Kristen raved about her Bombas socks years ago, so I finally broke down and bought myself a few and OMG more please! They really are that good. They’re out now with a Bombas Pride Collection for both kids and adults. I happen to love the Pride for All socks above, designed by Daniel Quasar, a queer multi-disciplinary artist and designer. But Bombas also offers socks in tons of other designs, plus some cool tie-dye tees and even funky hipster undies.
They’ve always had a buy one/give one model, and right now, for every item purchased from this collection, an item will be donated to an organization helping those experiencing homelessness in the LGBTQ+ community including Casa Ruby, Mosaic, and the Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico.
I’m With the Band
If you ever needed an excuse to upgrade your Apple Watch (or take the plunge in the first place), their 2021 Pride Edition Apple Watch band with rainbow braid is as good a reason as any! As I mentioned in the post on Cool Mom Tech, Apple has always been a strong supporter and advocate for LGBTQ+ equality, and this is their sixth annual Pride Edition rainbow Apple Watch band — and maybe their best.
By the way, Apple itself scores a perfect 100 from the Human Rights Campaign. which evaluates companies based on workplace protections, inclusive benefits, and support for an inclusive culture. And they continue to support a number of outstanding, impactful LGBTQ+ advice organizations.
Liber-Tee and Justice for All
If you’re going to buy a new rainbow tee for Pride, may I humbly suggest one from the HRC Shop? Not only are the designs great — like this “You Are” t-shirt — but it’s a nonprofit store, meaning 100% of the profits supports the org’s important work. They’ve also got some terrific hats, mugs, sunglasses — every accessory you’d need for your Pride Parade except maybe the boas.
Never Let Anyone Dull Your Sparkle
Another brand I’ve loved for a while is Fluide Beauty, which makes a collection of vegan, cruelty free cosmetics made for any human who likes cosmetics. I first wrote about them a few years ago, and they even made our list of the coolest birthday gifts for teens. If you’re big on sparkle, or you’re missing the glam that Zoom calls just couldn’t provide this past year, there’s a huge deal right now on Fluide’s Pride Collection of Rainbow Glitter Liners and oooh…want. A portion of all their Pride product sales benefits the Black trans-led mutual aid collective, For Our Sibs.
Life’s Short, Eat the Cupcakes
If you’re looking for a special little gift to send to someone in honor of Pride, I’m happy to see that Baked By Melissa has a Pride cupcake collection with 10% of your purchase donated to The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center in NYC. (TBH I wish it were a little more than 10% but I also know it’s been a tough year for smaller independent brands.)
Thumbs Up for Chucks
Converse always brings it when it comes to out and proud Pride sneaker designs each year, and considering all the shoe brands offering (*whispers*) subtle rainbow accents with no mention of Pride Month, I’ll stick with Converse, which has long-time partnerships with lots of LGBTQ+ advocacy and support organizations.
Converse has more than a dozen different designs for kids and adults this year for Pride, including custom platform Chucks with a rainbow striped sole. But my favorite: This Chuck 70 Pride Edition High Top with a stunningly embroidered a rainbow path to represent a joyous journey toward being yourself. Plus it’s nice to know that a portion of proceeds support partners all year long, including Gets Better Project, Ali Forney Center, BAGLY and OUT MetroWest.
I first shared the Phluid Project and Rob Garrett Smith’s disruptive retail vision here, two years ago, and this NYC based shop continues to offer the most incredible selection of items that don’t limit anyone by gender. They’re out with a new Pride 2021 collection of their own making of course, as well as tons of very cool home goods, gifts and accessories from all kinds of queer and minority-run brands. Their Be Kind hoodie remains one of my favorite designs — I own the winter cap — and all purchases support their diverse hires, and donations to LGBTQ+ charities.
They also have a fun Phluid x Happy Socks collab if you’re a fan. (Like I can never have enough fun socks.)
San Francisco-based VINEBOX offers affordable, high-quality “glasses” of wines from small labels, all packaged carefully in vials and shipped in a nice box. So basically, a box of wine that’s not boxed wine! Right now there’s a limited edition VINEBOX Pride Box, and I like that a full 100% of the profits from the first 500 boxes sold will be donated to the San Francisco LGBT Center.
Just a reminder – if you want to support some of these organizations mentioned here, you can of course donate directly! You don’t just have to let a brand or retailer make that donation for you. And of course there’s a lot more to be done to really create equity for the LGBTQ+ community besides wearing your Pride on your t-shirt. Be sure to stay in touch with your elected representatives. They need to hear from us.
Happy Pride Month, all!