Dr. Martens, Reebok, Adidas, Converse, Puma, and Vans are just some clothing brands to have recently announced their limited-edition Pride collections for 2023, however the announcements have not been without controversy.
Dr. Martens, a German-founded and British-based footwear and clothing company, has a history deeply interwoven with that LGBTQ+ community due to the popularity of the brand’s 1460 Boots within butch and punk subcultural communities. “Dr. Martens have played a part in the LGBTQ+ rights movement for five riotous decades,” they claim on their website, “[a]dopted by global queer communities as a symbol for stomping all over the status quo.” This year, three limited-edition 1460 designs are being released to celebrate Pride, each created in collaboration with an LGBTQ+ identifying artist.
The first of these collaborations is with Loveis Wise, a Los Angeles-based artist and “radical dreamer” who has previously been featured on the cover of The New Yorker and illustrated the Black history picture book The People Remember. Their design features the slogan “Love is a portal” and ethereal, playful patterns in pink and blue, the colours of the trans and nonbinary pride flag. The second is with Tokyo-based comic artist and zine creator Fuyuki Kanai, best known for “Long Way Home”, a collection of three zines that “explore the multifaceted nature of queerness while serving as a way for him to examine his relationship with his family, hometown and sexuality.” He sees his project as one of pushing back against queerphobic stereotypes. His design reflects his comic-artist roots, featuring black-and-white, comic book-esque illustrations of queer couples existing in a “happy and peaceful world”. The last will be with Wednesday Holmes, a London-based illustrator and organiser, and is set to be launched June 15th. Their work has previously been exhibited by London’s V&A Gallery and the Heller Gallery in New York.
This Pride Month, Dr. Martens is also continuing its partnership with the Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention grouo for LGBTQ+ youth, with a £200,000 donation commitment. All will be available from the Dr. Martens website.
Reebok’s Pride line is the fruit of a collaboration with its LGBTQ+ employee resource group Colorful Souls. The line includes three Pride-inspired trainer designs, a graphic tee, a bra top and bottom, a skirt, and a bodysuit, and a windbreaker. All the items are designed to be genderless; “[i]n our continued effort to uplift and celebrate the LGBTQ+ community, we’re excited to introduce a collection of genderless offerings built to evoke self-expression and show the community that we are with them, in unity,” the company comments. Reebok has also confirmed a $15,000 donation to Whittier Street Health Center’s LGBT Youth Wellness Program, which aims to increase access to medical, nutrition, fitness, and mental health services for Black and Brown youth in Greater Boston, the brand’s home city. To shop the entire collection, head to the Reebok website here.
Nike’s offering is three new sneaker designs in continuation with the brand’s tradition of launching a collection dedicated to the LGBTQ+ community as part of its “Be True” scheme. Per the Nike website, “Be True is part of Nike’s broader commitment to the LGBTQIA2S+ community which focuses on recognition, advocacy, inspiration and education through community grants, employee engagement, storytelling, and product collections.” The first design is the Dunk Low BETRUE, a sneaker “defined by its metallic silver patent leather that graces the toe box, quarter panel, and collar, creating a sleek and shiny appearance” that will feature iridescent overlays and icy blue accent stitching. They have also announced the Air Max 97 BETRUE which features the Pride-flag colours and special Pride-inspired charms, and the Terminator High BETRUE. Information on all the releases is still pending, so check the Nike website for regular updates.
There is also Adidas’ Let Love Be Your Legacy Pride 2023 collection, which has come under transphobic backlash after a women’s swimwear garment from the collection, created in collaboration with queer South African designer Rich Mnisi, was shown being worn by a nonbinary model. Mnisi and Adidas have championed the design as a “celebration of self-expression, imagination and the unwavering belief that love unites”, while right-wing commentators have attacked the move as “an absolute assault on being female,” regurgitating the same transphobic rhetoric recently used to attack Bud Light’s collaboration with transgender actress Dylan Mulvaney. A boycott is now being called against Adidas, as has been done with Bud Light. The Let Love Be Your Legacy collection features a range of colourful clothes and footwear that span both lifestyle and performance, including Adidas Originals and football, cycling, sportswear, and swimwear. The designs feature the slogans “Love Unites” and “Let Love Be Your Legacy” and can be purchased now from the Adidas website.
Elsewhere, California-based footwear brand Vans will be celebrating Pride with a range of unisex and kids’ sneakers with colourful Pride flag colouring and embroidery, as well as a T-shirt featuring the slogan “Always Authentic Together as Ourselves”. The line has been created in collaboration with Tyris Winter, a queer non-binary poet who will also be launching an exclusive collection with the skate brand in October 2023. In addition to the Pride collection, available now on their website here, Vans continues its work the Witness Change Foundation, which supports young changemakers in designing solutions to gender, social, and humanitarian issues.
Converse’s 2023 Pride line “Proud to Be” centres on a collaboration with the legendary gender nonconforming American rapper and drag performer Big Freedia and features Pride-themed spins on some of the brand’s most iconic shoes, including the Chuck 70, Chuck Taylor All Star, and Chuck 70 De Luxe Heel. Customers will also have the unique ability to customise their Pride shoes by playing with prints and gradients via the website to help “create a look that’s authentically you.” The announcement comes alongside a pledge to continue work with the brand’s community partners – the It Gets Better Project, the Ali Forney Center, BAGLY, and The Theatre Offensive – for whom Converse have raised nearly $2.5M since launching their annual Pride campaign in 2015. Shop their collection and find out more about their partners on Converse’s website here.
German sportswear giant PUMA’s Pride collection features 30 products that reimagines classic pieces – hoodies, shorts, backpacks, and its signature PUMA Suedes – with vibrant rainbow elements and collage-style graphics. The Suede Pride We Are Everywhere Sneakers are the line’s crowning piece, adding bright graphic artwork and the slogan “We Are Everywhere” to the usual design. Previous charities the brand has worked with include the Trevor Project, Football v. Homophobia, and BAGLY. Shop this expansive collecton through the PUMA website here.
Reported by Jude Jones
Jude Jones is social media manager and staff writer at GAY45. He is also an undergraduate student at the University of Cambridge researching the literary, visual, and academic cultures of HIV/AIDS in Britain, France, and the USA.