I didn’t know that sneakers could be a statement piece until I started going to WNBA games. Players like to go big and bold with their footwear, which makes sense because shoes are one of the only parts of their wardrobe they can really change up at work. From there, I got introduced to sneakerhead culture, and while I have neither the mental energy nor the budget to fully immerse myself in it, I do have one unbridled passion: Pride shoes. Come June, my clothing may not have much pizzazz, but my lower extremities are vivid as can be.
That means I spend much of May monitoring the Pride Month designs that various footwear brands plan to release. There are some I’m happy to skip. Slapping a simple rainbow on a shoe and calling it gay isn’t enough. Others I’ll order to round out my collection. And occasionally, there are flashes of brilliance: At home, I live in the trans-colored Ugg Fluff Yeah Slides, and my most cherished sneakers are a pair of Nike’s 2019 BeTrue Air Max 90s, which honor Gilbert Baker’s original 1978 Pride flag design. In fact, I have only dared to actually wear the latter once — while sitting courtside at a WNBA game, of course.
As I look to grow my own crop of kicks, I’ve been tracking some of my favorite new and forthcoming Pride designs. Below are some of my favorite 2022 releases, with an emphasis on brands that are donating some portion of proceeds to LGBTQ+ nonprofits.
“Be True” Dunk Low by Nike
The hypebeasts have been tracking this one for months. Among Nike’s 2022 Pride Month collection is a unique pair of Dunk Lows with pink and blue mismatched laces in honor of the Trans Pride flag. And while the white design might seem basic at first blush, the shoe has a secret: when the finish wears off, blotches of color start to peek through. They’re perfect if you’re the kind of LGBTQ+ person who isn’t the life of the party but makes a solid second, third, and seventieth impression. Nike donates to a range of Pride-related nonprofits, including Athlete Ally, which advocates for LGBTQ+ athletes.
Converse’s Pride by You Collection
Converse has some of the more eye-catching designs this season and they’re built around a Found Family theme, honoring the informal networks of support LGBTQ+ people form to assist each other. I’d recommend a pair of Chuck Taylors, of course, but what’s especially cool about this year’s batch is you can customize them any which way you want. There are premade designs like this trans, flower-themed pair of high tops, but you can really get in the gears of the system and make your own, selecting everything from the color of the tongue to the finish on the eyelets. Converse also partners with an assortment of LGBTQ+ nonprofits, including the Ali Forney Center and Bagly.
Ugg’s All Gender Fluff Yeah Pride Slide
Typically, I gravitate away from hyper-colorful, full-rainbow designs in favor of more carefully stylized products. But I make an exception for Ugg’s rainbow Fluff Yeahs, which are outrageous in the best possible way. These are super comfortable to wear and so delightfully loud that they’re bound to win over even the staunchest of footwear minimalists. Please note that there’s some debate about whether these can be worn outside of your home: I personally would never subject my trans-colored pair to any outdoor dirt, but I have known people to talk short walks in them, turning heads as they go. However you choose to wear yours, and however many you buy, Ugg will donate $125,000 to the Trevor Project irrespective of the proceeds.
Adidas Campus 80s Pride Shoes
The 2022 Adidas Pride collection is my favorite they’ve released so far. This new spin on the original 1980s Campus shoe might not be immediately recognizable as a Pride design, with vibrant neon graphics on the side that feel like a throwback to T-shirts of yesteryear. But look closer and you’ll see a heart, and the attention paid to include every color of the rainbow, and yup, these are Pride shoes! I love that they’re both vivacious and understated. Adidas also partners with Athlete Ally and with Stonewall UK, a long-standing LGBTQ+ nonprofit in the U.K.
Puma x Out Foundation Fuse Training Shoes
I would probably be guilty of buying these gorgeous gym shoes and putting them under a display case instead of actually wearing them for their intended purpose. But don’t let that stop you from working out in style. The iridescent detailing on the heel clip, the rainbow logo on the tongue, and the subtle stitching along the side all combine to make this a subtle but immaculately designed entry in the Pride shoe pantheon. Puma also has a new Pride apparel collection that supports GLAAD to the tune of $250,000, designed by Cara Delevingne and queer artist Carra Sykes.
Reebok Nano X Pride Shoes
These stunning Reeboks are already sold out, but savvy sneakerheads will know where to look to find a pair — or you can sign up to get notified of a restock. The woven design and the midsole cushion means they’d be perfect for everyday wear, and the rainbow style isn’t so precious that you’d be afraid to wear the shoe into a subway station.
Skate Slip-On Sneaker by Coach
Look, you get it by now. I like athletic shoes. I am not a fancy girl; 99.9% of my wardrobe is athleisure. So here’s an addition for those who might want to do some brand signaling with their feet: Coach’s Pride slip-ons include the classic logo in a rainbow motif and, on the design side, pay tribute to skate culture. Not that you’d actually ever wear these on a skateboard. No, pair these with some shorts, walk to the nearest yacht, and demand to be let on. It’s Pride Month, so legally any LGBTQ+ person can commandeer any seafaring vessel. (Don’t fact-check me.) Through its charitable foundation, Coach supports a trio of LGBTQ+ nonprofit organizations.
Honorable Mention: Crocs Pride Jibbitz Packs
Crocs are back, baby! The super comfortable resin shoes have long been loathed and mocked by the ignorant. I myself am guilty of once bullying my gay mentor for wearing a pair of faux fur-lined crocs in public. But I have seen the light and so have the masses, as proved by the resurgent popularity of the casual clogs. Their renewed appeal is owed in part to Jibbitz, proprietary charms you can attach to your pair.
This year, Crocs is offering a five-pack of trans-themed Jibbitz and a 13-pack of “Love Is Love” Jibbitz. If you’re an irony-poisoned queer, you might shy away from wearing a rainbow briefs charm on your foam footwear. But if you know that being loud, almost to the point of obnoxiousness, is part of what Pride is all about, slap on those Jibbitz and come to the dance. Crocs donates to GLAAD, so it’s basically homophobic to hate Crocs now. I don’t make the rules.
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