5 '90s T-Shirt Brands That Were Pure Trash
'90s fashion is something that always seems to come back. Whether ironically or not, kids that grew up nowhere near the decade are drawn to the allure of looking like an extra from the arcade in Terminator 2, but without any of the sincerity or originality. Maybe they’ll find a Nirvana shirt and some boot-cut jeans and call it a day. But one thing they’ll never do is dig deep into the clothing that really defined the ‘90s. The kind of things that those of us who really grew up there rocked and have had to stow away in our subconscious, only to be unlocked in some deep therapy session where we come to in a sweat, scream crying about Big Dogs with Big Johnsons chasing us on the back of big tie-died iguanas.
Because in the ‘90s, most of us weren’t wearing cool band shirts and loose flannels, but we were instead rocking trashy, oversized t-shirts that were the sartorial equivalent of screenprinting an Orlando-area titty bar directly onto your chest. These are some of the worst brands and shirts we proudly rocked a few decades back ...
The No Fear brand is a solid place to start because it really nails that early ‘90s misplaced aggression in every possible way. No Fear shirts somehow found the way to bottle the energy of a kid whose stepdad just walked in on him performing a fatality in Mortal Kombat and returned the game for Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse.
This is one of the typical No Fear setups. They like to propose some “unwinnable” situations. A place where your back is against the wall. The odds are stacked against you, and you need to dig deep and shoot your fear right in the dick, kick your blown-off fear dick down a sewer grate, then roll some dynamite into that sewer and blow what’s left of your fear dick away, so it never comes back. Problem is, you’re usually wearing these shirts at your grandma’s house as you watch Wheel of Fortune and pick at a casserole, fear dick fully intact.
“Dude, relax. This is a Sbarro. You’re inside a Sbarro right now. Everything’s fine. Nobody needs to be eaten. I know you’ve got no fear. That’s really cool. Just settle down, stop crying, and we’ll get you that slice of pepperoni. I know you’re tough, big guy. We all know you’ll eat every last one of us inside of this Sbarro if you have to.”
I’m honestly not even sure what they’re going for on this one? What are they even talking about here? It’s an undeniably true statement, but what’s wrong with dying with a lot of toys? I’d be a lot less scared and have way less FEAR on my deathbed if I knew that I had a stand-up jetski and a bunch of replica samurai swords sitting beside me than absolutely no toys at all.
This is just such a weird stance to take out into public. “Yeah, you’re gonna die one day. I’m gonna die one day. But ONE of us is gonna die with JACK to his name and goddamn nothing cool in my house because I have absolutely ZERO fear. And ZERO money. And no toys at all. But the main point is, I’ve got no fear. Except this weird, innate fear of dying without toys that I’m masking because the Grim Reaper’s gonna think I’m such a bitch if he comes knocking, and he doesn’t have to go through a Home Alone-like obstacle course of toys to take my soul. I’m scared, I’m so scared!”
You know your brand has blown up when the Christian parody shirts start dropping. No Fear got so big that the whack Christian attempts came in to put their own spin on it. For their take, they posit that you’ve got nothing to fear because the lord is with you. But that’s crap, because if you were a kid who had parents that got you this instead of No Fear, you had to be absolutely terrified of leaving the house because you’re the weirdo creep in the knockoff No Fear gear that has Jesus hanging off the cross, flexing, saying something like, “I’m not dead, I’m just training for the comeback.”
No collection of horrible shirts would ever be complete without Big Dogs. They really set the standard, not just in the ‘90s, but for all time, on shirts that make you wonder what kind of drunken haze someone’s aunt or wife needed to be in in order to think one of these would make a good gift. And then, what kind of brain worm needed to find its way into a bottle of Everclear, chug it, and emerge to crawl into the nose of some dad or kid and infect their brain badly enough to make them think these things would be acceptable and cool to wear in public.
“A fellow who’s way up there.” Way up where? The highest up you’d find some corn cob dude in a Big Dogs t-shirt would be a dad on the second floor of his house. A head honcho muttering to himself that he can’t find the TV remote for the den. The one that’s large and in charge and about to settle in for a run of WWII shows on the History channel and picture how he’d kick ass on the beaches of Normandy, despite genuinely pooping his pants just a tiny bit every time his boss calls his name over at the rental car joint he works at. A BIG DOG of the highest order.
You’ll really see this later, but because it’s the ‘90s, every t-shirt you wore had to be about dicks at some point. And apparently, even dog dicks? Big trucker dog dick? Is there anything more vile? Trucker dick already seems disgusting enough that it would take Rick Baker to accurately capture and recreate. Now, put a humanoid dog behind that big rig and plop it down on top of its ballbag on a hot, vinyl car seat for a 16-hour haul, and flop that bad boy out at the end of the day. That’s Big Dog trucker dick, baby. And I just have to hit the grocery store in this shirt to tell my town all about cool, sweaty, nasty Big Dog trucker dick. That’s just how I dress.
The thing about these ‘90s shirts is that they sometimes just plain rule. This is one of those occasions. There’s nothing you can even say about this shirt except that if you’re wearing this today, you’ve got some ironically good fashion. If you were wearing this back in 1994, you might actually have a Big Dog trucker dick because you have an unmatched confidence and carefree attitude that can only be explained by lugging around such a monster hog.
Sometimes you’re looking through the closet for that perfect shirt. One that will just match the day. Fit the mood. You’ll slide that bad boy down and emerge out into the world with this extra layer of confidence awarded to you by your thin cotton armor. And some days, you look into that closet and say, “Crap. I don’t know. I guess I’ll wear the shirt with the basketball dogs high-fouring before the ball even touches the floor to Aunt Deb’s funeral.”
Let’s get into the real trash. The stuff we should point to when anyone longs for a return to the ‘90s. Part of the initiation that all kids today should go through before they’re allowed to wear that “vintage” Nirvana shirt. In order to do so, they should have to listen to the AOL dialup noise on full blast every time they want to send a text to their friends, sit through an entire Summer’s worth of Jay Leno monologue jokes about OJ Simpson, and wear a line of Coed Naked shirts into the wild for their first semester of college.
I’ve always been confused about the POV of shirts like this. Who is talking, and who are they talking to? I guess it’s just a general brag about sex? About having it and liking it? The intention then must be for a lady to see you wearing this at your kid’s piano recital and yank you right into the bathroom because your shirt found a loose connection between sports and parking?
But what’s even more absurd about this shirt is that it’s really just talking about softball dudes driving home other softball dudes. Which is, of course, totally fine, but I’d wager that the types of fellas wearing these would be mighty upset to find out that their cool softball shirt that was supposed to get them endless tail was really more just saying that they’ll do whatever it takes for the guys, and that is up to and including boning the hell out of them right there on the diamond for the love of softball, baby.
You can picture the exact group of guys at a bar in the ‘90s who’d have someone in their crew wearing this shirt. Shades dangling by thin Croakies around their necks, wildly sunburnt from the day’s fishing trip where they caught absolutely nothing, with the single most erotic thing happening in their night absolutely not featuring a woman, but instead entering the initials as “6969” on their new high score on the bar’s Golden Tee machine.
Jesus. It’s just … wow. You nailed it, bud. There’s a blowjob line out the door because you put on those rollerblades. People just can’t get enough of you and your rollerblades and your clothing about getting blowjobs, dude. I mean, that’s what they teach you when it comes to getting women. Be a gentleman. Look nice. Be engaging and listen. Oh, and make sure to wear the t-shirt about how scooting around on rollerblades is blowjob catnip. Somehow that classic romance advice always gets left out.
I do love the image of a firehouse of beefy ‘90s dudes all sitting around in this exact same t-shirt looking at each other, nodding, tossing each other thumbs up, just generally supporting each other and gassing each other up in between saving people from burning buildings. That would truly feel like my tax dollars are finally going to work.
Oof. This one’s rough. In the ‘90s, racist mascots were still running wild. People still hadn’t taken a moment back then to stop, for literally one goddamn second, and run a cursory is this racist check before printing something up. Chit Rodriguez is a blindingly clear example of how far we’ve come in the world of t-shirts.
“Get it? It’s like “s**t” but his name’s Chit. He’s Latino. We can do a whole bunch of lazy ass lines around that and put them on shirts.” That’s it. That’s the whole pitch. That’s probably exactly how the meeting to get these started up began and ended. A monkey clicking through a PowerPoint that’s nothing but pictures of lasagna before a board room full of guinea pigs in tiny little suits would land on a better product for humanity than how these kinds of garbage pitches went down.
What’s really remarkable here is the artistry. Sure, the shirts are absurdly racially insensitive and stupid. And yeah, they’re not reaching for any kind of jokes beyond the lowest hanging fruit. But check out the ART. The DESIGN. Masterful. The way they seemingly have 10 different illustrators with wildly disharmonious styles working on this one shirt. How they just mash all of that together like they’re forming a burger from ground beef, cat litter, sand that comes from your butthole after a day at the beach, and pube trimmings to make this true work of art. You just have to respect a master at work, and the people behind Chit Rodriguez … showed up to work with their arms ziptied to their ankles and a paintbrush duct-taped to their dicks in order to pump these things out.
Here we are. ‘90s shirt Mecca. Big Johnson. You know it. You hate it. But also kind of love it. It’s the illustrated redneck trash featuring a nerdy man, busty women, and his big old hog. They’re dated. Offensive. And pretty goddamn awful. But, damn, I can’t even sit here and act like Big Johnson shirts don’t actually rock on some level. And that level is the lowest possible level of my intellect and soul and brain, but damn, it’s still down there somewhere.
With these kind of shirts, I really like to picture the men that wear them. And, more specifically, the occasions that they wear them. I don’t know that I’ve ever found myself in a scenario where I could grab this thing out of the dresser with confidence. You’ve surely lived a pretty incredible life when you are putting yourself in a place where you can wear t-shirts about getting your big dick jacked anywhere but in the complete darkness in your own basement. I dream about this world. I hope this paradise exists for me someday out there. And I believe in my heart that actual Christian heaven is this place. Every great, beautiful soul is walking around from cloud to cloud in the Big Johnson shirt of their choosing. I’ll know I led a good life when I can fist bump Mother Teresa on her way out of Heaven Gym and tell her that today’s Big Johnson shirt she’s rocking is really cracking me up.
What they’re saying here, in case you’re not following, is that even though you’ve got that cool big dick, it’s still not safe to bungee jump using your cool big dick as the bungee cord. This is medical advice from the Big Johnson Company to please not tie your dick around a bridge and jump off and hope it stretches and pulls down and then shoots you back up, because even though you’ve got a cool big dick, they can’t make any promises that you won’t die when you bungee jump from your cool big dick.
I’d like to say that this amazing art style is wasted here, but I really don’t believe it is. Whoever made these things was clearly just a savant. Was he touched by God and given the ability to compose a masterpiece out of thin air? No. Did he have the ability, no, downright duty in his soul to put pen to paper and pure poetry poured out? Not him. God took him aside and said, “Son, when you go down to earth, I’ve got a very special mission for you and your talents. You’re going to spend your entire life finding clever ways to mask a man’s penis in various redneck scenarios with a cheeky one-liner to go with it. You, my son, are going to be the Big Johnson t-shirt artist, and you are also Jesus Christ. You’re my actual son Jesus Christ, and I’m sending you back disguised as the Big Johnson t-shirt artist to see if people realize just how goddamn good they got it and how this is it, this is the top of the mountain, we’re wearing shirts about our big dicks and life will literally never get better, or easier, from here, so they better knock off the fighting and war and other crap.”
Thumbnail: Coed Naked, Big Johnson