Photo: Big Dog Sportswear

If you were old enough to be conscious in the ’90s, you have seen a Big Dog T-shirt, either on your dad, someone else’s dad, or next to a No Fear shirt at Wal-Mart. If you missed the Big Dog train, imagine this: a large black-and-white dog of indeterminate-but-jowly breed, spouting a needlessly aggressive dad-humor catchphrase. This Mashable gallery has a few gems, and of course the format is ripe for parody.

The Outline has a piece on the enduring appeal of Big Dog Sportswear, which is now cranking out 90 new designs a year—a lot of them responding to IRL events, like shirt-bound memes. You can imagine that the sarcasm-heavy, white-man’s-world of Big Dog appeals to a certain type of customer, but the insights into the Big Dog aesthetic are worth the read on its own.

Dawson demurs when I ask him if there is such thing as a “Big Dog voter.’ He chafes at the recent characterization of the Big Dog Guy as reducible to a particular president, and even suggests that their politically minded T-shirts swing both ways. “Probably one of the two most popular political shirts we’ve done is one that’s says ‘Democrat [], Republican [] Pissed Off []’ and the Pissed Off box is checked, because who’s not?” Dawson said. The other most popular political shirt is one that says “When Did For The People By The People Become Screw The People?”

The ideal Big Dog shirt speaks from a place of perpetually agitated masculinity, the kind that’s too worn out after a long day to take the trash out or help Jimmy with his homework, but always has time for a few cans of Natty Ice with the neighborhood dads. But the curatorial minds behind Big Dog will not just throw any old shit onto an oversized tee and call it a day.

They considered riffing on the “Cash Me Outside” viral video when it blew up online last fall, but decided there wasn’t a good Big Dog take and that the meme probably wouldn’t have the kind of longevity that would make a consumer buy a tee.

And no, in case you’re wondering, not even the Big Dog designers know what kind of dog the Big Dog is. He is all dogs and no dogs at once, an abstraction of dogness just burly and carefree enough to sell you a shirt that says, “WAKING UP was the 2nd HARDEST THING THIS MORNING.”

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