"10 years ago, just slapping a rainbow on [an item] was a win because that was groundbreaking."

10 years ago, a Pride Parade was an opportunity for Jonathan Lovitz to completely revamp his wardrobe. Brands—largely silent about LGBTQ causes for the other 364 days of the year—would turn up at parades with carts of rainbowed apparel to pick over. They were mostly rainbow-adorned T-shirts, but Lovitz was like a Supermarket Sweep contestant. "That was the one time you had all year to stock up," he says. After the parade, executives would return to their corporate offices until next year.

Today, Lovitz, the senior vice president of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, has a completely different experience. When he attended his local Pride parade in Philadelphia a couple weeks ago, the options were endless. He laced up his Converse rainbow shoes, wore a shirt from Nike's "Be True" collection, and even shaved beforehand with an iridescent razor cast in the pink, purple, and blue shades associated with the bisexual flag from Harry's. There wasn't a moment in his prep that wasn't enabled by a woke brand. "This was a chance to literally wear my support of them on my sleeve," Lovitz says.

Now, during Pride month, hundreds of the apparel and grooming businesses are proudly, brazenly, uninhibitedly gay, trans, queer. The amount of rainbow-streaked apparel makes an almost decade-old viral video about just two rainbows look completely unremarkable. But while the participation rate in Pride month is soaring, it feels fair to ask what's in it for brands—still for-profit companies, no matter how many rainbowed items they release—and to explore if and how Pride collections make a meaningful impact beyond the bottom line.

Here's a short list of companies doing something for Pride this year: Levi's, Abercrombie and Fitch, American Eagle, Target, Urban Outfitters, Doc Martens, Adidas, Vans, H&M, Gap, Banana Republic, Under Armour, Calvin Klein, Dockers, Warby Parker, and Everlane. Every major sports league has a Pride collection, even the NFL. (The Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys have the league's top-selling Pride items.)

All these brands devise plans for Pride collections because to not do so would be to whiff on a giant opportunity. Lovitz notes that the LGBTQ community spends $917 billion annually on services and goods like apparel, food, and electronics. "It is at [a brand's] economic peril to not include or be open to LGBT people," says Lovitz. Not to mention cultural peril: if the NFL gets behind Pride, what does it say about a company that doesn't? So they're opting in for both reputation and revenue, just like any business decision. But Pride-producing companies seem to be interested in more amorphous benefits, as well.

"We believe [Pride collections are] good for business as well," says Lorna Peters, Harry's vice president of marketing. Peters says that in market research, Harry's has found that today's customers are interested in the politics of brands they shop from. "Brands that remain silent on things like this are actually speaking volumes," she adds. Speaking out comes with its own cost, though—Peters says Facebook commenters threaten to cancel subscriptions or chant the Troll 101 line, "Stick to selling razors." But for every man threatened by the idea of their razor company supporting gay rights, there are many more who dig the idea. The collection encourages customers to subscribe and engages people more deeply than a razor alone can, according to Peters.

Watch Now:

The Rules of the Gym, According to the Hot Dudes of 'Insecure'

Building up some extra goodwill is important for a brand like Harry's—still an upstart in the razor world compared to the likes of Gillette. "There are going to be instances where our competition offers a good deal," says Peters, but something like the Pride collection gives customers a reason to stick around beyond just cost. The thinking goes that if they are committed to supporting Harry's, then they'll happily pay more.

One of the best way to create a successful Pride collection, though, is to do what's always worked in the apparel business: just make some really cool shit. All too often, these collections suffer from unimaginative designs, and the sort of thinking that parallels the "pink-it-and-shrink-it" women's collections from sports leagues. "10 years ago, just slapping a rainbow on [an item] was a win because that was groundbreaking," says Lovitt. Today, that's not good—or cool—enough.

The Nike BeTrue Zoom Fly, with its blushing lavender toebox, matching racing stripe, small rainbow patch on the back, is proof that more thoughtful Pride collections can exist. The Zoom Fly design takes one of Nike's best-loved new silhouettes, with its marshmallow-puff sole and see-through upper, and subtly dots it with Pride references: the triangle, used to identify LGBTQ people during WWII but reclaimed and used by gay activists in the '70s, appears on the heel; a small streak of rainbow snakes along the sole; and pink and blue tabs on the back that reference the colors of the transgender flag. (The LGBTQ rights advocacy group Act Up called out Nike for using the organization's triangle symbol without donating the proceeds. Nike tweeted "Let's talk" back to Act Up; the brand says it will announce soon which organizations proceeds from this collection will benefit.) It's a genuinely cool-looking shoe that can be worn to a Pride Parade—or in one of your coolest Instagrams. "The team takes pride in not just putting a rainbow on gear, but to instead to develop meaningful authentic connections," says Matthew Kneller, Nike's director of global corporate communications. The collection is designed by a team that is 100 percent LGBTQ, and Nike has raised $2.7 million for LGBTQ causes since 2012, says Kneller.

Warby Parker also found that there's more than one way to use the rainbow iconography. The brand released a full range of glasses that are meant to collectively represent a rainbow but come in individual translucent colors. "Just like our core product at Warby Parker, we don't have very visible logos," says Warby Parker co-founder Neil Blumenthal. "We found most people don't want to be walking billboards." (Not to say that only minimalist Pride collections can be cool. "Sometimes customers do just want something subtle: a rainbow clasp on a bracelet or they want a full Romphim in rainbow colors and it's great that there are options now for everything in between," says Lovitz) Instead, Blumenthal hopes the glasses will spark a conversation about the inspiration behind them.

In Blumenthal's eyes, these Pride collections more important than ever. In past years, the brand gave out stickers and donated to the right causes, but that didn't feel like enough in 2018, when the rights of minority groups feel much more vulnerable than they did just a few years ago. "If you had asked us when we started the company eight years ago whether we felt like eight years from now we'd have to be amplifying the message, I think we would say probably not," says Blumenthal. "In this political environment, we feel like it's especially important to be louder than in years past."

Pride efforts, Blumenthal says, need to carry a heavier load because they're doing all the lifting. "What I think is happening is a lot of brands and businesses are filling a void of government, frankly, and filling a moral void," he says. At this moment, just releasing a Pride collection can feel like a politically charged and important act. "Especially in the age we're in right now, visibility for LGBT people has never been more important," says Lovitz.

It's all too easy to put a rainbow on a bag of chips and call it inclusivity, but consumers today are more savvy about the brands they engage with, the ways they engage with them. LGBTQ consumers recognize that Pride collections can be a way for companies to garner free press without actually doing any of the real work behind the scenes. Just because Urban Outfitters releases a shirt with the practically empty phrase "Love Is Love" doesn't mean its CEO Richard Hayne isn't the same guy who once gave thousands to elect Rick Santorum, who likened homosexuality to bestiality. The Nike collection and following controversy put a fine point on all of it: even if the shoes are cool, what really matters is the action behind them.

The most successful LGBTQ collections aren't just products, though. In Harry's case, the brand's razor is accompanied by a landing page where LGBTQ luminaries like Queer Eye's Jonathan Van Ness talk about identity. "We didn't feel that the product was really doing enough," says Luke Crisell, creative director at Harry's. A razor or a shirt is inherently limited; a product will never be enough to move the needle by itself. So brands like Harry's get people who know what they're talking about to speak about it and then donate profits to organizations chosen by those partners. Warby Parker, too, is involved with LGBTQ rights beyond outfitting them—the company got involved in the fight against the bathroom bill in Tennessee, where the company has an office. These sorts of next-step efforts are what's required from a successful Pride collection today. It can't just be a rainbow T-shirt—or a sneaker, no matter how cool it is. Brands making modern Pride collections have to wear their rainbow colors all year round.