The 90s and 00s were a really weird period for t-shirts. Mall fashion demanded edgy, quippy catchphrases in a volume that was entirely unsustainable. Brands like No Fear, And1 and Big Johnson did their very best to pump out as many pithy ways to say “I'm cool and you suck” as possible, so that 14 year olds the world over could look their best while shoplifting from a CVS pharmacy. One brand took this discipline and targeted a second parameter that was, then and now, extremely popular in the United States: obesity. This brand was Big Dogs. For a good while, Big Dogs had a stranglehold on the fat guy t-shirt community. You couldn't spend a day at a Six Flags without seeing at least a baker's dozen of Big Dogs t-shirts telling you, in some sort of dog-based pun, to go f**k yourself.

You'd be forgiven for thinking that Big Dogs is long out of business, buried in a plot next to No Fear. Surprisingly, though, Big Dogs is still around, and still kicking. However, as mentioned above, when you try to sustain a t-shirt company built on clever, relatable catchphrases for over a decade, you are absolutely going to feel your fingers scraping the bottom of the barrel. However, the business demands new designs regardless of inspiration, and so we end up with t-shirts that are just… deeply confusing. The tone remains the same, but the actual content and references reek of desperation and an overwhelming sense of “f**k it, print it.”

Well, I've gone through the depths of the Big Dogs catalog to bring you 14 shirts that furrowed my brow. I only hope to run into someone wearing one who can finally explain what they mean, and I can finally rest. Here they are.

Internet… Innuendo?

Big Dogs

Ok, let's first just gloss right over the fact that they are still currently selling a t-shirt that references MySpace, which in internet time was literal eons ago. We still have to figure out what exactly the Big Dog is suggesting here. It is an absolute coin-toss between a physical threat and a sexual come-on. MySpace, I guess, could be standing in for “my space," as invading personal space is a big reference point for their shirts. I can't imagine any meaning for “Google Your Yahoo” outside of getting fingerblasted. For the life of me, though, I cannot figure out what verb “YouTube” is supposed to be standing in for.

Bee-Atch

Big Dogs

Ok, having both PMS and GPS is already a really strange connection to make, but to be fair, acronym humor has a pretty low ceiling. I guess this is for a woman who is threatening to track people down and be emotional at them, which is a weird strategy. What really pushes this over the edge is the needless inclusion of a bee pun. Feels like maybe this one should have been split into two shirts. Also, when your whole brand is built around dogs, and then suddenly you have a bee, it's confusing. Also the fact that the bee is in high heels is weirdly sexual.

Iwo Jima Dogs

Big Dogs

So, I guess, perhaps during one of America's many military holidays, the Big Dogs brand decided that it was time to pay their respects to, uh, the soldiers of Iwo Jima. Those brave soldiers who lost their lives fighting for freedom are forever immortalized in a statue. And now, also, as dogs, that, the juxtaposition here would suggest, died in battle.

New Job

Big Dogs

The suggestion that the Big Dogs wearer is smart and you are dumb is a common refrain among their offerings. This one, though, suggests an entire strange, specific backstory that I cannot fathom. Did the Big Dog just get fired for being rude to another employee or their boss? Is this a t-shirt designed for people who work in customer-facing jobs like retail that apparently have no dress code for employees? Either way, despite the fun t-shirt, anyone this applies to, it seems, is actually in a much worse situation than the reader.

Skip A Meal

Big Dogs

Now, the underlying sentiment here isn't strange. Big Dogs are proud of being big. T-shirts about their love of bacon and hate of fitness abound. Again, the situation suggested here is strange. Is skipping meals something that is often threatened? Who's asking this Big Dog to skip a meal? Even the worst jobs in the country are legally required to give you meal breaks. Who are you yelling at?

Canine Scene Investigation

Big Dogs

The Big Dogs brand has a number of generally strange pop-culture tie-in shirts, but the CSI one, for me, takes the cake. It is absolutely packed to the brim with jokes that don't really make sense. Why is the garbage bag labeled “Kitty Litter”? Was it truly necessary to make the police tape say “Police Dog Line” instead of “Crime Scene” or at least “Canine Scene” like you just wrote above it? The cherry on top is the weirdly prominent sign that threatens a $100 fine for littering. Not to mention how unsettling the human haircut of the Gil Grissom dog is.

Moving Mountains

Big Dogs

OK, well, first of all, you can't move a mountain. Outside of maybe erosion over a massive span of time, that's not possible. As far as budging a big dog? I guess it's true that it's pretty hard to move a large person? But it feels like maybe you could have covered that without the entire weird inclusion of mountain stuff, and this strange graphic with some sort of behemoth dog.

Economy Vs. Divorce

Big Dogs

Hoo, buddy, this t-shirt is doing the sort of heavy lifting that would win you an Olympic Gold Medal. First of all, this t-shirt is WAY more depressing than Big Dogs shirts are supposed to be. Who wears a t-shirt that says basically “I am having money problems and also I hate my wife.” Not to mention, for the shirt to be accurate, it means that you would be wearing it while currently married to a woman that, presumably, hates both this shirt and you. Dark stuff.

Mister Big Dog

Big Dogs

Ok, so I guess this one is for people who feel disrespected by the youth? It also suggests that the Big Dog's last name is Big Dog, which is a new, confusing bit of lore. Also, I feel like the person wearing this would, in fact, still be quite upset if you called them Mister Big Dog.

Big Dogs

I guess Big Dogs decided that the medical professional community was full of untapped potential? So they released a big dogs t-shirt that's medical in the absolute vaguest of terms. Though I guess it's a great way to know when you should request a different surgeon before you die on the table.

Big Dogs

“There's one thing I want everyone I see outside today to know about me, and it's that my parents beat the shit out of me.” If you see a parent wearing this, it's also a great indicator that they might yank their kid out of Target by the wrist hard enough to bruise. Overall, just a terrible vibe.

Big Dogs

OK, I'm not a grandpa, nor even a simple pa, so maybe there's something I'm missing here. Are there rules? For dads? Outside of the regular legal ones, like “don't smack your kids with a wooden spoon"? If so, what are the rules that apparently don't apply to Grandpas? I feel like you're letting your grandson get drunk in your basement, and I'm considering bringing this up to the aforementioned Dad.

Top Image: Big Dogs/Pixabay

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