Top Ten Stupidest T-Shirts We Wore in the Early ’90s

by Riese & Laneia

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It seems like we had a lot going on in the general torso region back then. Lots of messages to send from our stomachs.

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Top Ten Stupidest T-Shirts We¹ Wore in the Early 90s

 

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10. GAP Logo Tees

Gap logo tees were like souvenirs from your trip to the mall. They were your way of telling the world, “Hey, I left my house at some point.”

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9. Mossimo / Stussy / Quicksilver = Skate Culture

Being a skater or having skater friends² was a big deal because it was synonymous with anarchy and every 13 year-old is an aspiring anarchist. The only thing stupid about these shirts is that we didn’t skate.

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8. Yin Yang Symbols


Balance. It’s all about balance and saving the earth/harmony, which was very popular in the early 90′s. We also enjoyed ying-yang necklaces and posters.

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7. Hard Rock Cafe

 

Back before every town and village sported a Hard Rock Cafe and everything could be purchased on ebay, Hard Rock Cafe t-shirts were basically a way to tell everyone you knew where you’d been on vacation.

 

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6. B.U.M. Equipment

We realize now that we were culturally appropriating Bums.

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5. Hypercolor T-Shirts

 

This was the easiest way to get a lot of people to touch you in one day.

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4. Big Dog T-Shirts

Tourists were really into Big Dog because Big Dog was ATTITUDE. Think of Big Dog as the cartoon dog depiction of a middle-aged white American man who listens to Toby Keith and just wants to see some hot chicks in bikinis.

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3. No Fear T-Shirts

The first No Fear t-shirt I remember seeing was on this dreamy boy named Aaron and it said “He Who Dies With Most Toys, Wins”³ and I thought, “that is so badass.” These were especially popular with adolescent boys unable to convey intimidation and toughness through interpersonal communication.

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2. Co-ed Naked T-Shirts

Everybody had just gotten boobs and figured out how to use a blow-dryer, so we really wanted to insinuate that we were having sex, even though we weren’t.

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1.  Big Johnson

Big Johnson t-shirts were so stupid and disgusting that we didn’t even actually wear them, but we remember the assholes who did.

 

You should probably tell us what stupid shirt you wore in the nineties. No one can top Big Johnson.

¹Because Riese’s Mom didn’t want her to be a “walking commercial,” Riese was technically barred from owning most of these t-shirts herself. Thus we must reveal that for the purposes of this analysis, “we” refers not only to shirts WE wore, but also to the shirts we wanted to wear (except Big Johnson, neither of us ever wore Big Johnson).

² For real though, these brands were associated moreso with “people who have skater friends” (a.k.a. “posers”) than with actual skaters.

³ In actuality, the shirt read “He Who Dies With the Most Toys, Still Dies,” although Laneia remembers it otherwise.

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136 Comments

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    i had a hot topic shirt that said “don’t worry, you’re not my type” but i never wore it because my mother knew it had something to do with that homosexual nonsense.
    also, there was this nifty “party like it’s 1999″ shirt, with an anthropomorphic star who was boogieing down. because it was 1999.

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      after my sister got a hypercolor shirt I remember going around in the stores putting my mouth and blowing on t-shirts to see if they were the real deal or not because neither my mom nor I knew the brand. Gross.

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    Not quite in the 90s, but my early teens I decided that since I was coming to terms with my homogayness, I needed to wear huge plaid shirts and like, calf length cargo shorts. It was the most tragic baby dyke moment in history because not only was it sad and schlumpy, but I was/am so naturally to the femme side, I looked like a baby duck accidentally following a dog it thinks is Mom. Just sad and slightly confused.

    Luckily, this only lasted like 6 months before I decided I missed my skirts too much to be gay, and even more luckily, I met a girl shortly after that who happily showed me that it wasn’t a choice between my high heels or my orgasm.

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    I remember wearing a GAP sweatshirt all the time until this evil boy in my class told me it stood for “gay and proud,” and proceeded to tease me relentlessly (This was pre-coming-out but post-tingly-feelings-down-south-for-that-one-girl).

    Wish I knew the guy’s number now, so I could tell him to suck it.

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    I still wear quicksilver and billabong and other skater brands.

    My best friend when I was a kid had the last name Johnson and so he and his brother unfortunately had several big johnson shirts. Those things were so obnoxious and disgusting.

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      Yeah, I sometimes still wear billabong. And I still wear the same pair of vans that I had to beg and beg my mom to get me in ’92. Like literally the same pair. And they are still totally awesome.

      And those hypercolor shirts — I wanted one so bad but my mom never gave in. I did finally save up enough money to get one myself.

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    I remember feeling jealous because “my best friend has a Hard Rock Cafe: Chicago shirt and my parents never take us anywhere cool like that on vacation, it’s always stupid National Parks or whatever”.
    ridiculous.
    I also had about a million pieces of ying/yang and peace sign wearable things.

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    THE OLD NAVY FLAG SHIRTS.

    eff everyone was so into those for awhile (at least where i lived) and the other day i was thinking “the only person that wears those anymore is my mom. the fuck happened”

    my favorite clothes from the nineties was my fake softball/baseball outfit. it said like “jeanjer” on it which i took to be an approximation of my name and had blue shorts and a pink shirt. my best friend told me in high school that she used to be so jealous of that outfit. now i realize it was pretty gay and kinda want a grown up version of it.

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    OMG… “You don’t know (insert name or action) after the “You don’t know Bo”. Bo was a football player, I think. What did he know? Was it Burger King?

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    I totally rocked the Hard Rock Cafe, Co-ed Naked, and No Fear tees.

    Also, since it was the 90s and Chicago… a new Bulls championship tee for six years. Looking back… those shirts were so cheesy/lame/cool all at once.

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      omg, i had a chicago bulls three-peat t-shirt on an earlier draft of this list. it was best to have an entire scene happening on your stomach, like someone dunking into your neck

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        I think I have one that has all the players in large cartoon heads with ridiculously huge grins for the first championship.

        Def. had the three-peat shirt and the last one was a re-peat the three-peat shirt, both equally garish, I’m sure.

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    Never heard of the last 5, but I definitely had/loved B.U.M. and GAP sweatshirts. If we’re taking EARLY 90′s though, in elementary school days, I mostly just wore a LOT of stuff from Northern Getaway…

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    I had a Co-Ed Naked shirt when I was in middle school – Co-Ed Naked Mardi Gras. I don’t remember what the saying was, I probably didn’t even understand it, I just liked it because it had a really cool green & purple & gold mask on the back. Then when I was in 8th grade the administration at my school finally caught on that those shirts were kind of inappropriate & they were banned. If you came to school wearing one & someone noticed, you’d have to go turn your shirt inside out.

    Also, if you lived in Maryland you had to have an M.R. Ducks shirt. I remember begging my parents to take me to the M.R. Ducks store (yes, there was a whole store for this) in Ocean City so I could get one of those damn ugly shirts & be cool.

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      yeah i wanted one so bad in 7th/8th grade and my mom wouldn’t buy one for me so i had to save up my own money for it. i can’t believe she even let me do that though. she had a lot of strong feelings about that shirt. i think i got basketball.

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    I was so homogay, even from a young age, that I can safely brag about it here.

    Not only did I own a Big Dog shirt… but it was X-Files themed.

    Yep. That’s right. Dana Scully, you have my heart, forever and always.

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    I rocked out the Rainforest Cafe shirt along with the ones listed above. I think if I still could fit in the Rainforest Cafe shirt I’d still be wearing it, but in my defense I have stopped wearing all the other ones.

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    Oh man, I totally had a couple Quiksilver shirts that I wore to pieces, even though I lived hundreds of miles from mountains or a coast. And I had this Jurassic Park T-shirt with a lot of red and black and a velociraptor on it.

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    I was born in 1990 so the clothes I worn in the ’90′s were mostly baby clothes and brightly-colored children’s clothes. I did have a big ugly gray GAP sweatshirt I inherited from my older sister that I wore all through middle school. Along with an oversized black Blink 182 sweatshirt. I loved that thing for some reason. I also remember that wearing your pajamas to school was really in for some reason.

    OH and I know we’re talking about t-shirts but I distinctly remember forcing my mother to buy me these horrible maroon-colored pleather pants in 5th grade because all of the girls were wearing them and I wanted SO badly to fit in. I think they all just laughed because mine were from Target and they were the most hideous color. I probably only wore them once because those things were HOT AS HELL. Ew.

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      Born the same year so I don’t remember these either but… fuck did I hate those people who wore pajamas to school. So smug, those people were.
      I also had pleather pants but they were black. I wore them on picture day, which was kind of inexplicable because obviously my awesome pants didn’t show in the picture. I miss those damn pants, to the point that I’ve bought vinyl leggings and other approximations of the original awesome pants.

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      My younger sister was born in 1984 and also wore her pajamas to school in high school. (I’d gone to private school for HS so had had to wear a uniform, although I did wear PJs to class in college.) I remember she had a particular pair of baby blue fleece pants that she wore ALL THE DAMN TIME because baby blue was Justin Timberlake’s favorite color. I am not even joking.

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      I was born in 1986 and wearing PJ bottoms to school was definitely a big thing in Jr High/Highschool(And occasionally even college). There was and unofficial/official PJ day every Friday…Like an extreme version of casual Friday for people who already wear Jeans/Sweatpants every other day of the week.

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    Haven’t heard of some of those, but I remember No Fear very well. So stupid. I don’t know if it was local or everywhere in the U.S. but when I was a 90s tweenager everyone wore these T-shirts… I thought the brand was Aussie or something. I had a shirt that said something like “7 days with no soccer makes one WEAK.” Cool shit, huh? I also had one with a big-ass dandelion on it. That also was supposedly cool.

    Honestly, I think wearing brand names in general is a horrible trend that seems really cool in high school (which was late 90s for me) but isn’t. You’re paying money to advertise for someone else? Are you a billboard? I know that having a shirt that says Ambercrombie on it makes you seem supercool in highschool, but I can tell I am getting old because now I just think it looks absolutely retarded.

    Ying-yangs. Oh man. How many people got ying-yang tattoos they regret now? I can’t even imagine. Right up there with tribal arm bands, Chinese characters and butterflies. People should not get tattoos of what’s currently cool or trendy. I’m firmly against tattoos, partly for this reason.

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    Most of my shirts in the 90s were solid color to wear with my many hand-me-down overalls and jumpers or from school. I remember I had a pair of white overalls that hand fruit on them, with a matching hat & my sister had matching ones that we got from our grandma. I don’t think I ever wore them out of the house.

    I definitely had Old Navy shirts, and the GAP shirt.
    I did get this one hand-me-down shirt that was a lake scene that came with plastic fish you could snap on, never wore it because it was hideous, but I thought the fact it had snap on fish were the coolest thing ever. xD

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    I wore a lot of Bugle Boy in middle school and high school in the 90′s. There were Bugle Boy girl clothes and sweaters that I wore.

    It made me feel cool because it was my secret way of being gay or something since I was closeted at the time.

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    relatives were always buying me clever message baby t’s for my birthday, including but not limited to:
    (in tiny font) “if you can read this, you’re standing too close”
    and
    “i dress this way to annoy you.”
    which i both wore. obviously.

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    We always had enormous Tommy Hilfiger shirts with just the red, white and blue logo on them. To be worn with Jnco Jeans, obvi.

    And I had a lot of these sports shirts that had GRRL POWER sayings on them, like “Girls rule, boys drool” over a giant soccer ball. I wore that one a lot…

    Mostly I can’t remember too many of the t-shirts I wore because I always had an Old Navy Tech Vest over top of them.

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    I wore this black tshirt from The Body Shop that said AGAINST ANIMAL TESTING in big white letters. I preferred to have my oversized black tshirts fall slightly mid-thigh; it really complimented my unflattering, pre-skinny-jean tapered denim.

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    i love this post so much i dont have words. the very mention of the old navy trademark tshirts took me right back to sixth grade. i absolutely went there. over and over again. i think i might have owned the collection.

    two things:
    1. does everyone remember when we put collared polo shirts under other cotton tshirts? everyone got on board with that?? i mean….
    2.everyone i knew in middle school (me included) had a shirt with a huge yellow smiley face on it. that was it. no words, just the huge smiley face. that was the look.

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    I’m pretty sure I had at least 8 of these shirts. That’s not even the worst part. In the 90s I was in middle school and like 95 pounds. Everyone at my school (aka the popular kids) for some reason wore their t-shirts really large, so all my shirts from that time in my life were at least a size large. I found a big dog shirt the other day and it’s so big it still (30+ pounds later) hangs down to my knees

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      ha yeah me too! i was scrawny and most of those shirts were all in men’s adult sizes. mine were always HUGE, I remember could’ve basically stored a puppy in the billowy part where you bagged out your shirt when i tucked it in.

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    I had probably 8 of those Old Navy flag shirts once, but my friend was the master of 90s shirts, especially the Big Dog stuff. She had one Big Dog shirt for every Harry Potter book (at least that was out when she was into these), each one with some sort of parody of the cover like “Hairy Paw-ter and the Sorcerer’s Bone,” movie parody Big Dog shirts, all huge on her. She also had several pairs of Big Dog pajamas that could fit a small child in each leg. I think her grandma or something just kept buying them for her, so she just kept wearing them, and her grandma kept buying them… it was a vicious circle.

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    I hated Hard Rock Cafe shirts. If you ever do (or did, I don’t remember) a bad jackets list, I think those horrific Hard Rock leather jackets top the list. I mean, the Members Only ones were so bad they were good/hysterical.

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    The first thing I thought when I saw the article title was Stussy. I remember being so pissed when Mossimo went to Target! I still buy Billabong sometimes, but not logo shirts.

    I remember there was a big glittery decal shirt thing going on when I was in middle school. And those Bebe shirts. I lived in the burbs, it was intense.

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    If you were a kid growing up in Canada in the 90s you had a Northern Getaway sweatshirt with glow in the dark forest animals on it. EVERYONE in my elementary school rocked one on civies days. I had a few, I’m not ashamed.

    I was also known for rocking a lot of tie-dye OP shirts, and Adidas tearaway pants with neon trim. I also had a neon yellow Adidas windbreaker that my classmates hated because they said it hurt their eyes. They were just jealous.

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    I had this exact discussion with my coworkers yesterday, about the dorky Tshirts we all wore in the 90′s. I’m starting to think Autostraddle might be spying on me in real life in search of hilarious content.

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    I so remember those hard rock cafe t-shirts. During the 90s we had a recession i Finland because the Soviet crashing and all… everyone became a bit poor all of a sudden.

    We only had money to drive around Europe during the holidays, but I had this one friend who had wealthy parents and they went to the US during our summer break. She came back wearing a Hard Rock cafe t-shirt and we were so jealous… not because of the t-shirt but because of what it represented.

    Now when I think about it, I really loved those road-trips to Europe, listening to Procol Harum in the golden Opel Ascona.

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    I came out in the late eighties, so many of my early nineties shirts were in your face – had a “Muff Divers Local” union shirt that I wore around unashamedly, and a shirt of Batgirl going down on Wonder Woman, who is spread out over the handlebars of Batgirl’s motorcycle. I think I still have that in the clothes archive, I should pull that out.

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    Also, Champion sweatshirts were a big thing. And if you had the Champion turtleneck with the Champion logo underneath the Champion sweatshirt, that was some shit.

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    No lie, I still have two “No Fear” shirts that I wear with pajamas. They suited my grunge/teen angst/FTW phase quite well, and now they are cozy little pieces of over-washed t-shirt nostalgia.

    Question — has anyone ever made/had made for them a t-shirt quilt? Basically, you take a bunch of old t-shirts that are oversized/out of style/about to fall apart/can’t be thrown away or donated for very deep spiritual reasons, and you make squares from the parts you want to keep and make a quilt/blanket out of it. I think I need to make one of these soon.

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    There were those “(Insert sport you played) is life, the rest is just details!” shirts.

    I had one for softball…just one of the MANY early signs of my gayness.

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    In the 90s, everyone I knew had a D.A.R.E. t-shirt because the high school gave them away every year. I just thought the huge red on black letters looked scary and cool.

    Oh, and those beach vacation t-shirts with the line of kittens on the front. When you turned around, you could see the kitten’s butts printed on the back, tails held high. I once saw one of those shirts with “modesty” bows hot glued over each kitten’s butthole.

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    Xena, X-Files and CSI shirts….I was a big fan of those TV shows and very ‘out’ about my hobbies with my pals. Also GAP shirts that are still popular in Canada.

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      omg yes! my sister had that same shirt! I had forgotten about that song and then the other day I realized it was on my ipod, so of course i had to jam to it at the gym and do the moves while exerting myself on the elliptical.

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    I didn’t have any of these tshirts. I did however have a ridiculous amount of clothes from Gap (which included a shirt I cut the label out of so no one would know where it was from), as well as a shirt that said “I frighten my family.” I still have that, as well as the shirt that says “you cannot stop me, you cannot destroy me, for I am the cockroach of love.” I also had a shirt that said “black sheep” above a drawing of a sheep.

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    I had so many OceanPacific shirts as a kid that my best friend (who had a bunch of shirts from the camp she went to during the summer) used to have contests to see who could wear their respective shirts the most. I think I always won…

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      yeah! only a bit more badass. like instead of salvation army it would say satanic army, and instead of intel inside, it would say evil inside, and instead of little tykes, it would say little dykes. (i loved that one)

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    Yeah, I used to wear my dad’s B.U.M. t-shirts during freshman year of high school. That was during my “let’s wear pajamas to school” days. They were way too big for me and just looked horrendous.

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    I owned a few Old Navy flag shirts and a few Hard Rock shirts as well. I was more about the Hard Rock pins though.

    My dad owned a bunch of Big Johnson shirts though. That should have been one of many signs that my dad is kind of a jackass.

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    My girlfriend (now ex) wore a Power Breakfast t-shirt with a pic of one woman going down on another on the front. We thought it was really funny at the time (notice that I never wore it though) but now I think it wasn’t funny/edgy/cool or anything – just a questionable fashion choice and too graphic for the world outside of college dining halls.

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    As a toddler/small child in the early 90′s, I rocked some Lion King and other Disney short/shirt combos. Also, I have a picture of myself on my 5th birthday in cheetah leggings and a black cheetah “save the wildlife” shirt. add some docs and I would probably wear the same thing today.

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    I confess- I own a Hard Rock tee. My mom got it for me on a trip to Jamaica. I wore it a few times way back when…

    Also had a Bart Simpson “Don’t Have A Cow Man” tee in JHS. That was my favorite shirt…Glad it didn’t make the cut haha.

    Sadly, I never owned a Hypercolor tee and I wanted one soooo bad! D:

    Remember when Cross Colours and Champion tees were hot on the streets? Yeah, I’m showing my age.

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    I remember being a kid in the ’90s and everybody in my elementary school class had a Big Dog t-shirt except me. I wanted one but my mom thought they were stupid so I didn’t get one. Thank you, Mom.

    For us of the younger generation, there were also Pokemon t-shirts.

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    In middle school I purchased a hot pink t-shirt that read “Boy-watching Finals.” I frantically bought it after my teacher joked how we (all girls school) were all just so darn boy crazy lol! But like I wasn’t…at all. Also, I had just started taking down my *NSYNC posters and replacing them with ones of Avril Lavigne, which led my “friend” to viciously make fun of me. GAY PANIC!!!!

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    YES! My uncle would always take me to Sears the day after the final game to buy me the “official” Bulls championship shirt. My favorite was the cartoon drawing of the starting lineup, which must have been one of the ugliest t-shirts in history. I was literally shocked the first time Chicago didn’t win it all. I couldn’t imagine there being another team worthy of such an honor.

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    I wore more flanel than most lumberjacks. I thought it made me look super cool and grungy. My hair was also longer, dirty-blonde, and often unkempt. I was like the uber-dyke version of Kurt Cobain.

    This phase came shortly after the period of time where I wore lots of sweater vests with t-shirts underneath. Yeah. I don’t know how or why that became a good idea.

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    I’m an Aussie and the height of bad tattoos here are southern cross tattoos.

    I don’t remember no fear shirts, but we all grew up in billabong and quicksilver gear. We also grew up at the beach and they are Australian brands so we had some excuse. I think at the moment the only surfer/skater branded stuff I still have are togs and my wetsuit. I did have a hand-me-down GAP shirt, but they weren’t really common.

    As an interesting anecdote, did you know that the man who owns Billabong has his own private bridge? I always thought it spoke to the success of the brand …

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    My church at some point in the 90s sold tshirts, sweatshirts & sweatpants that said “Lifestyle of the Poor & Unknown” for a fundraiser. Unsurprisingly they did not sell out, so my 5 brothers & I & were forced to wear them because the leftover merchandise was given to us. Also, they were purple with teal letters.

    If only I had one now I’d be the best hipster ever, but alas.

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    1. What about the sparkly “WHATEVER” shirts?!!! It might as well have been a school uniform shirt where I lived.

    2. Also, the Gecko shirts. My brother had a billion of those!

    3. Kurt Cobain suicide note shirts. Wtf, but everyone wore them. Also, shirts with the picture of TuPac resting posing almost as if in prayer.

    4. The Looney Tunes “hip-hop” shirts are currently sold as tall tees.

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    I was if anyone remembers the brand name of the 90s tshirts that glowed in the dark on the back I had a few and was looking for some for a retro party, I remember them being like surfer type tskirts white and one said does your mother stil dress you get naked and dress yourself, I’m sure they had all kinds one had a big pink ying/yang symbol on the back any help would be appreciated

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