The Target Pride Collection Is Back, And It's Actually Iconic This Year

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Christmas has Christmas Eve, baseball has spring training, and Pride Month has the Target Pride collection. Since its debut in 2015, the annual Target Pride collection has become an ironically beloved line of rainbow-filled earnestness and well-intentioned cringe.

The 2023 Target Pride collection has been released, and amongst the obligatory rainbow flag dog toys and heavy-handed pop culture references are some shockingly good items that could soon become summer fashion trends. It may have taken them eight years, but Bullseye and his team have finally produced Pride merchandise with an acceptable cool-to-cheesy ratio.

This new Pride collection stands out to us for a few reasons. Most importantly, the retailer actually collaborated with independent queer designers this year, such as artist duo Bird and Marc, whom we have to thank for that super wholesome Gender Fluid mug. Moreover, this year's Target Pride collection seems to have mostly found the balance between campy fun and stylish pieces, and managed to connect more with the current Queer cultural zeitgeist. So, while Target Pride usually serves exclusively as fodder for an online snark fest, this year's collection may also warrant a legitimate shopping spree.

It's camp, we promise

It's hard for a mainstream retailer to successfully get in on a joke. Trends and memes evolve at hyperspeed, and whenever a store like Target attempts a funny Pride shirt, it typically involves the cloying energy of a parent trying to pal around with their teenager. Although the new Target Pride collection delivers a mix of hits and misses (and the misses really swing for the fences), the best products in the line exemplify how to transform bad reviews into a niche market opportunity.

Target knows that we've come to expect their Pride collection to be bad, so they've chosen to ride the wave of notoriety. And through some strange consumer-analysis alchemy, they've developed a distinctive "big-box-store-Queer-camp" aesthetic. Highlights include an adorable Drag Queen Bird figurine and an already viral "Live Laugh Lesbian" T-shirt.

The gambit has paid off. Far more people are laughing with Target than at them this year, such as this tweet from @sestrongman, which reads, "The Target Pride collection continues to be deliciously unhinged," or a tweet from @bundoolin that says "... (Target) really understood the demographic that's obsessed with these birds." Overall, the response reveals a positive embrace of Target's attempt at camp.

Of course, Target can't help itself, and some of the pieces don't land. Most notably, the Gay jumpsuit, which tries a little too hard with its massive declaration of "GAY" on the back. Nevertheless, Target located its funny bone, and the results are delightful. 

Wait, can this be unironically good?

Aside from inside jokes and campy looks, the collection also offers some genuinely cute clothing and accessories, like this stylish halter top or these comfy orange overalls. The gender-inclusive swimwear line also deserves an honorable mention for its selection of tasteful swim tops and bottoms. Target's clothing lines already enjoy a good reputation, and it's nice to see that design quality creeping into the Pride collection as well. After all, Queer people who shop at Target don't want to spend every day of June wearing "Drag Race" T-shirts.

This leads us to the biggest question that comes along with many of the merchandise that gets released for Pride Month. Target has pulled off semi-decent campiness and stylish, on-trend designs. So it's good ... but is it unironically good?

Rainbow capitalism is a strange predicament for the Queer consumer. As great as the collection is, it will still be hedged in the flaws of fast fashion and diverting resources from independent creators. Ultimately, the Pride collection can't be unironically good precisely because of its own Queer irony, reaching for but never grasping a creative expression beyond the corporate context in which it's born.

But irony is what the Queer community thrives on, and perhaps a goofy T-shirt or a Pride flag tote bag can serve as tiny puzzle pieces for figuring out how to live in a better world. So, shop on, Queer Target fans, and have a very happy and hopeful Pride.