What gay pride means to him and his picks for stylish gay pride clothing

The events of the last few weeks and months have surely upended any sense of normalcy we once had, between infectious disease, political protesting, and new social distancing precautions. And yet despite all the uncertainties, setbacks, and disruptions, there are still plenty of things to be grateful for and uplifting experiences to be shared.

June is gay pride month, which honors the LGBTQ+ community across the world with parades, events, and rallies. The rainbow flag was first associated with gay pride in San Francisco in the late 1970s, honoring the call for equality and social justice for the lesbian, gay, transgender, and allied communities.

We reached John William Barger III, a frequent italist customer, fashion journalist, and LGBTQ+ individual, to discuss what gay pride means to him, why fashion is so much fun, and which gay pride clothing he’d pick from our site.

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Dsquared2 Spring-Summer 2020 rainbow-embroidered men’s denim jacket and jeans

Q: Tell us a bit about your background. How did you get to be where you are today?

A: Fashion has always been in my blood, and yet my career has been a happy accident.

Both my mother and grandmother were models. My grandmother made a career of it in the 1940’s, 50’s, and 60’s, and my mom in the 1970’s during the height of the disco era, before later becoming an haute couture customer. Needless to say, I grew up in a household where Chanel, Dior, Halston, and Hermès were everyday dinner conversation and trips were planned around fashion shows and fittings.

I developed an eye early on, and my fifth grade teacher still reminds me of all the sketches she saved of dresses I sketched for her when I was on the school bus.

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Fashion is a mood, it’s emotion in motion, it’s theatre, and it is art.

I was very passionate about the theatre and costume design as well, and in college I pursued two majors, one in finance and one for fun (Theatre Arts). After graduating, I set out to launch a fashion line based in my hometown of St. Petersburg, Florida, however at a cocktail party that summer, I met the editor of a large society magazine, and they mentioned they were looking for a fashion columnist for their bi-monthly publication.

Of course I accepted, and after about two years, the Tampa Bay Times came calling and brought me on board to help oversee all of their fashion and luxury lifestyle content. It was at this time I also began covering haute couture in Paris for the Times, I go twice a year in January and July, and sometimes I go to Milan and New York too when my schedule allows.

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Fast-forward two more years and two more magazines later, I was at another cocktail party and met the producer of Daytime on NBC, who asked me to join the show as a permanent contributor dishing on all things fashion. This was also when Instagram was really starting to become “a thing,” so I just did what everyone else was doing, I shared my life, my clothes, and my trips…and here I am! A one-time aspiring fashion designer who can’t sit still or shut up and somehow fell into a career in journalism.

Q: What’s it like being a full-time travel / lifestyle / fashion influencer?

A: Honestly, it’s a dream. It really is as fun as it look—most of the time. While I don’t share every minute of every day of my life publicly (my friends will attest that I am fiercely private), the past few years, I have spent on average 150 days per year up in the air traveling around the world, and while I’ve had my fair share of jet-lag, travel delays, early mornings, late nights and bad experiences, overall I wouldn’t trade my life for anything. 

That being said, my life isn’t for everyone. I never had a set career path and I have never worked in an office. I work remotely 100% of the time whether from home or a hotel, and it requires extreme organization, time management, focus and flexibility to be able to balance so many projects and assignments simultaneously. I keep telling myself next year, I’m going to settle down and get serious, but next year never seems to come.

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Givenchy SS20 men’s rainbow logo bermuda shorts, sweatshirt, and hoodie

Q: Why is gay pride important to you? What does it mean to you?

A: For me, gay pride is a time to remember. It’s a time to remember who I am at my core, why that makes me different, and why that’s something not only to be proud of, but to celebrate.

Q: How have recent events changed the broader meaning and power behind gay pride celebrations?

A: At its core, gay pride is about love, the freedom to love whoever you want and the power to love yourself. I think the world needs more love now more than ever, because above all other things, thoughts, feelings and emotions, love brings us together as one big human family.

The gay pride clothing rules are: there are no rules, and if there ever was a year with no rules, it’s 2020! 

Q: How will you celebrate gay pride this year, given social-distancing restrictions?

A: First off, I think it’s important to emphasize that PRIDE IS NOT CANCELLED! Just because there’s no parade doesn’t mean there’s no Pride. We can still dress up, we can still smile, and we can still celebrate the full spectrum of beauty and diversity in this world.

I plan to get dressed up in my eleganza, I will still go out with my friends and celebrate responsibly (albeit with a very glamorous mask and sanitizer keyring), and I still plan on discussing and reminding others about everything we have overcome in the LGBTQ+ community and how much more progress we still need to make.

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Q: You curated a gay pride clothing selection for this post. How did you decide what to include?

A: Look, we have all been through it this year. I don’t even want to make a list of everything 2020 has brought us because it only stresses me out more, but after an endless onslaught of bad news, anxiety, injustice and despair, I think we all deserve to have a little FUN! So, this is a FUN collection.

It’s gay pride clothing so of course there are rainbows, but there’s so much more than that. Color makes everyone smile, so there’s a lot of color. It’s summer and it’s hot, so there are a lot of options for shorts, skirts, tees and flat shoes.

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I’m really into tie-dye right now (probably after watching so many DIY Tiktok videos), so I found some fun pieces for that trend as well.

And if you feel like dressing up in a cocktail dress and high heels, I have a few formal pieces thrown in too, because why not?! Why not wear a feather-embroidered top with a denim skirt? Why not wear a rainbow embroidered Canadian Tuxedo? Why not wear sneakers with a cocktail dress? The gay pride clothing rules are: there are no rules, and if there ever was a year with no rules, it’s 2020! 

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Q: What’s your favorite aspect of fashion? Why is it so much fun?  

A: Fashion is a mood, it’s emotion in motion, it’s theatre, and it is art. For me there is still nothing like a fashion show, and when a designer gets it right, like really just nails it with the clothes, hair, makeup, set, everything, they strike this chord in the audience and the energy in the room is electric!

There are moments like this from one or two or five or ten years ago I still revisit in my dreams, these fleeting moments of emotion, things you can’t feel from watching the shows on Youtube or looking at Instagram photos; you have to have all five senses engaged and that is what keeps me coming back for more. 

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Q: What are your favorite designers/labels? Why do you like them?  

A: I don’t do favorites. I don’t even have a favorite color! That’s the Libra in me, I guess.

To be completely honest, this past year I have lost some of my favorite designers, first with the death of Karl Lagerfeld, then the retirement of Jean-Paul Gaultier and the exit of Claire Waight Keller from Givenchy. I come from the haute couture world, and losing three designers from four top houses (remember Karl did Chanel and Fendi) was an incalculable loss that is still shaking its way out through the fashion world. But when you lose something, you also appreciate everything you still have, and there are so many talented designers big and small doing wonderful things. 

I would say Versace is a perennial favorite. I think Donatella does an excellent job of balancing the house’s colorful heritage while still projecting strength and adding in some fun, it’s hard to do “fun power dressing” but she nails it.

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In that same vein, I have always loved Olivier Rousteing’s take on Balmain, it’s both cute and edgy, it’s very glamorous but also somehow so relaxed and easy.

Another favorite is Giorgio Armani, I have always loved how Mr. Armani can create something so severe and yet so decadent, and for men he is still one of the kings of tailoring.

I would say Etro makes the best prints, Dsquared2 makes the best jeans, Missoni makes the best knits, and Alanui does incredible things with cashmere.

All my favorite boots are from Saint Laurent, but all my party shoes are Louboutins. My favorite winter coats are Moncler, but my favorite swimwear is from Orlebar Brown. The list is endless… I wasn’t lying when I said I couldn’t choose!

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Q: Which other designers do you admire and enjoy watching? Any talents you think are “up-and-coming”? 

A: I would say ones to watch for men are AMIRI, Martine Rose, and Pyer Moss, I really like their points of view and am always excited to see what’s new from them. And for women, I would keep an eye on Schiaparelli. I have had a very close connection to the brand since it was relaunched some years ago, however their new designer Daniel Roseberry has an excellent point of view and has already produced some incredible haute couture pieces.

And for swimwear, I was recently turned on to MC2 St. Barth, and I already can’t get enough of their swim trunks and tees!

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Q: How did you come to find italist?

A: Honestly, I found italist by accident while shopping online for a trip to Milan before bed one night (it’s when I do all of my shopping!). The prices seemed too good to be true, I had to refresh my browser a couple times, and that combined with free express shipping, I was instantly hooked!

Q: What has your experience been using our site, what do you like about it, and what do you think could be improved?

A: The site is easy to use and navigate and all the information is very straight forward. I do wish there weren’t so many duplicate and triplicate listings for the same merchandise with different sizes and prices, I think this could be better harmonized, and I would love to see more search filters like color, material, and fit (slim, classic, relaxed, etc.).

For the fair pricing I’m willing to scroll more though!

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Q: As an insider, what are your favorite spots in Tampa/St. Petersburg to eat, take aperitivo, and shop? Favorite bars? Best historical/touristic spots to see? Are there any places you would suggest our readers not miss if they visit? 

A: The Tampa Bay Area is Florida’s dirty little secret. It’s that place you never knew existed but once you visit you don’t want to leave. There is a bitter, century’s old rivalry between Tampa and St. Petersburg over “who’s better,” and naturally being from St. Pete I have to say St. Pete is better, but honestly, anyone who visits here should spend a few days on both sides of Tampa Bay to really get a taste for everything our area has to offer. 

Tampa is the bustling business hub, filled with regional HQ’s in a cramped downtown, tons of new construction and towers being built, and one of the best airports in America. You have Bayshore Boulevard, also known as Tampa’s Living Room, where you can walk or bike along Tampa Bay and take in over 150 years of architectural history and styles. You also have the gritty cacophony of Ybor City, with its brick roads and trolley cars, and a rich Cuban history going back to before the Civil War…it’s even the birthplace of the cuban sandwich! 

In St. Pete, you have culture and the arts. You have the Salvador Dali Museum. The Chihuly Collection. The Museum of Fine Arts. The James Museum. And the soon-to-open Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement. You have sidewalk cafes along the water, you have boisterous bars and nightclubs, you have galleries, and you have incredible Mediterranean and Craftsman-era architecture.

But you also have the largest network of waterfront parks and bike trails in the country. And some of the best beaches in the world. And a more laid-back, slow paced beach culture that is the antithesis of South Beach. But despite all of that, if you come to St. Pete for one thing, come to watch a sunset…you won’t regret it.

I could sit here and list so many bars and restaurants to visit, but honestly, just DM me on instagram, if I am in town, I will show you a good time!

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Discover more Style Icon Q&As: Josh Liu, celebrity hairstylist; Cameron LeSiege, also a celebrity hairstylist; and Hollywood Creative Director Xavier LeBron.

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About the Author

Alex English is the Head of Content Marketing at italist.com, building on a lifelong passion for fashion and luxury. After publishing a lifestyle blog for nearly ten years and obtaining an MBA in Milan at SDA Bocconi, one of Europe’s top business schools, he joined the italist team in 2019. His work since then has focused on upper-funnel messaging, brand storytelling, establishing italist as a thought leader in the space, and enriching the customer experience on the platform. Find him on LinkedIn.