NIKE PAYS TRIBUTE TO THE CREATOR OF THE LGBTQ FLAG

In 2012, Nike launched BETRUE, an initiative that allowed to directly connect to the LGBTQ communities of New York, San Francisco and Portland through a collection that celebrated Pride month. The name was retrieved from a 1985 campaign in which Nike invited college fans to show their teams’ colours. The new BETRUE wasn’t asking them to feel proud of their own colours, but of all colours.

What started as a limited edition in three American cities slowly began to grow until it became the long-awaited collection that came every month of June. This year there’s a common thread that joins all pieces together; Gilbert Baker. As a political activist and designer, in 1978 he received an order from Harvey Milk; to create a symbol that would embrace the political movement that at first included gays, lesbians and transexuals. The pink triangle used up until the moment was a symbol of Nazi oppression, the new one had to be associated with something positive, it had to defend the visibility of a collective. 

The rainbow flag was a natural choice, with eight stripes with different meanings, pink, for sexuality; red, for life; orange, for health; yellow, for the sun; green, for nature; turquoise, for magic and art; blue, for serenity, and violet, for the spirit. The first flags were hand-sewn by Baker himself along with a team of volunteers and they became a symbol after Harvey Milk’s assassination. When it started having a wide-spread use, the flag encountered several problems; firstly the unlikelihood of using pink for large orders and later turquoise and blue fused together to create a more compact image. The version of the current LGBTQ flag is comprised of six stripes, but it holds the same fight sentiment.

Nike’s 2019 new BETRUE collection retrieves the design of the original flag in an Air Max 720, Benassi JDI and Tailwind. It’s Gilbert Baker’s eight stripes as a tribute to the design that already holds a place at the MOMA in New York, but, above all, to all of the activists who made it visible.