How to Look Effortlessly Queer (Without Just Slapping on a Rainbow)

Here are some of the easiest aesthetic cues for flexing your LGBTQ energy without a rainbow in sight.

Jun 14 2021, 6:46pm

Congrats, queers—we’ve made it! Judging by how many companies are taking a “slap a rainbow on it” approach to Pride pandering this year, the LGBTQs are truly a part of the mainstream. And boy howdy, I never thought seeing a rainbow would fill me with so much unbridled rage.

It’s true: Queers have always been here, shaping culture from the margins (particularly BIPOC gender non-conforming folks, who have always been the heart of our movement). It’s undeniable: We make great art, we look fabulous, and we have incredible taste. There is no keeping us hidden. In a way, the pandering is proof that times are changing, and that more and more cishet people are ready to witness us in all our glory. 


Which would be nice, if the merch weren’t all so damn ugly.

Seems like every company with a little clout is trying to jump on the Pride collection float this June, and they’re all taking the same stupid approach. I can tell you exactly how the design meetings went: “Pride collection? No problem, just slap a rainbow on it! The gays love rainbows. What’s next?” 

No offense to the many, many guilty parties, but we as queer people are better than this. We deserve better than this. 

The rainbow metaphor is about reflecting the spectrum of queer experiences—not reducing ourselves to a flat set of predetermined, elementary colors that everyone can agree are very nice. Being queer is not always nice. Being queer is complicated. Being queer—and appearing queer—requires a rich and varied palette so you can signal to the right parties that you’re down to clown, while still also prioritizing keeping yourself safe. You don’t have to be wearing seven-color, primary-hued rainbows head to toe to be visibly queer. And you’re not required to identify yourself to all in such a way that might compromise your safety. 

You can make your queerness visible to the community, even without the rainbows. We see you. Here are some of the easiest aesthetic cues for flexing your LGBTQ energy without a rainbow in sight.


(A quick disclaimer—I don’t know you, or what your specific gender or sexuality is, and so I cannot guarantee that all of these pieces will feel equally queer on your body. Don’t be afraid to experiment—most of looking queer [and hot!] is feeling comfortable enough in your meat suit to flaunt it!) 

If you're not sure where to start, this TikTok gender-bafflement clothing recipe usually works for me: Start with one item that you love, associated with your assigned gender. Layer with one thrifted item traditionally associated with the “opposite” gender, and then layer again with a completely random third thing. Poof! Instant queerness! 

Not sure where to start? Consider these your basic layers for summer.


Jorts are so gay, I shouldn’t even have to explain myself further. Loose and slouchy, tiny and fitted, high waisted, slung low—there’s an endless variety of fits, which means that every body can feel deliciously queer in the right pair. Don’t be afraid to bare a hairy thigh. Bonus points if you buy a pair of jeans and DIY your own!

501 Mid Thigh Shorts

$69.50 at Shopbop

A classic dad shirt

A dad shirt is more about a vibe than a specific pattern. You’re looking for something that’s objectively borderline-ugly, but makes you feel extremely cute. Layer it open over a lacy bralette and high-waisted bottoms for femme vibes, or hide your entire torso under a swath of gayly patterned, silky fabric—the options are endless.

Palm Tree-Print Hawaiian Shirt

$399.00$319 at Farfetch

The perfect pair of novelty sunglasses

A super easy way to signal your fabulousness is to throw on an extremely flamboyant accessory, like these flame-shaped sunglasses. You’re hot and so are your shades!

Fashion Spectacles in Flame Design with Red Ombre Lens

$20 at ASOS

A sheer mesh crop top

Speaking of cropped tops, show off your surgery scars (or your favorite pasties!) in this sheer mesh mini-tee. Nothing says queer quite like wearing all black in the summertime—imagine yourself layering this under a witchy silk slip dress, with a pair of black platform sandals and a seasonally inappropriate but nonetheless immaculate dark lip, looking perfectly goth by the seashore...

Mesh Fitted Top Without Bra

$4 at Shein

A loud, patterned suit

On the other end of the spectrum from the “all-black, effortless chic” queer, we have clothing that’s typically black and queered-up with a bright, joyful pattern. Steal the spotlight at a summer wedding in this wide-legged cut that’s super flattering for humans of many genders.

Monki Grace
Floral Jacquard Blazer

$79 at ASOS
Monki Danny
Floral Wide Leg Pants

$64 at ASOS

A (vegan) leather body harness

Spare me the “no kink at Pride” discourse—historically, kink communities were at the center of the uprisings that became Pride. The options and variations for harnesses are nearly endless, but this set of thigh garters would look particularly cute peeking out from under a short skirt or layered over a pair of bike shorts.

Leather Garters

$34.66 at Etsy

A smoking jacket and satin shorts

OK, so it’s true that by the time someone see you in these items of clothing, they will probably already know that you’re also queer. But it never hurts to make absolutely sure, and this set by Savage x Fenty is too cute to resist. Plus, it comes in ungendered sizes up to 3XL, and Fenty donates part of the proceeds to reputable LGBTQ+ non-profit organizations—no rainbows in sight. Now that’s how you do pride merch. Thanks Rihanna! 

Savage x Fenty
Savage X Smoking Jacket

$89.95$34.98 at Savage x Fenty
Savage x Fenty
Savage X Satin Boxers

$24.95$9.98 at Savage x Fenty

There you have it: Wear layers! Reject rainbows! And for Gaga’s sake have fun with it—you look queer enough, I promise.

The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story. VICE may receive a small commission if you buy through the links on our site.


Fashion, LGBT+, gay, style, pride, queer, clothing, rainbow

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