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The Stories Behind 5 T-Shirt Brands You Wore in the '90s

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In the 1990s, there was nothing more important than being extreme and having a rude 'tude. It was a decade when people stopped being polite and started getting real, and everyone had the T-shirts to prove it. Here are the stories behind the companies that pumped out the raddest and baddest cotton tees.

1. Big Dogs

Big Dogs T-shirts are easy to spot thanks to the eponymous cartoon St. Bernard and in-your-face slogans like, “If You Can’t Fish With The Big Dogs, Stay On The Dock,” “Anger Management Classes…PISS ME OFF,” and, “How’s My Driving? Call 1-800-BITE-ME.” When the Big Dog isn't railing against bad fishermen or bad drivers, he's boasting about his drinking problem (“When I Read About The Evils of Drinking, I Gave Up Reading!”), musing on the awesomeness of sexual intercourse (“People That Say ‘It’s Better Than SEX’ Aren’t Having The Right Kind of SEX!”), or talking politics ("When Did 'For The People By The People' Become 'Screw The People?!'").

According to its website, Big Dogs Sportswear “was conceived in 1983 by friends during a weekend river-rafting expedition.” While corporate mythology should always be taken with a grain of salt—especially when it appears under a header marked “THE LEGEND”—the Big Dogs brand’s origin story goes like so: “Before the adventurous group made its way down the choppy white waters, each was presented with a pair of oversized, vividly colored shorts. Everyone loved the shorts and one enthusiastic member exclaimed, ‘Man, these puppies are BIG!’”

At its peak, there were 231 Big Dogs brick-and-mortar stores, each one full of 'tude-heavy tees, boxer shorts, and sweatshirts. The last of these stores closed in 2009, however, and in a letter to customers (complete with a “From The Desk Of The Big Dog” image), CEO Andrew Feshbach wrote, “Over the past 10 years, it became increasingly difficult to maintain a viable company due to the massive competitive pressure from huge mall retailers like The Gap or the giants like Wal-Mart.”

Big Dogs still exists online (the label itself is under The Walking Company umbrella), so you can pick up a “Big Dogs of the Caribbean” parody shirt from the comfort of your home.

2. No Fear

Launched in 1989 by twin brothers Mark and Brian Simo, No Fear quickly became one of the most popular sportswear companies in the country—and the most popular sportswear company so staunchly against being scared.

The Simo brothers were motocross racers and tree surgeons from Chicago who split their time between the Midwest and Florida. Surprised at the prevalence of Speedo-style bathing suits on Florida's beaches, the brothers (along with partner Jeff Theodosakis) decided to make an alternative: baggy surf shorts. According to the LA Times, they "sold their motocross bikes and bought sewing machines" and started Life's A Beach Surfwear out of their Chicago garage. They moved to Carlsbad, California in 1985 and teamed up with artist Mark “Boogaloo” Baagoe, who designed the company's "Bad Boy Club" logo.

Life's a Beach proved to be immensely popular, and the brothers started a new line: No Fear. "No Fear was our second company which was dubbed as dangerous sports gear," Baagoe, who designed that logo as well, recalls. "No Fear was all about dangerous sports goods: boxing, big wave riding, extreme fighting, mountain climbing, guys on skis killing big mountains, skaters, surfers hitting 100-foot waves, drag racers...that sort of stuff."

No Fear initially sponsored motocross teams, but soon branched out to other adventure sports. The brand became synonymous with the "X-treme" culture of the 1990s, and it posted hundreds of millions of dollars in profits during the middle of the decade.

While T-Shirts and logo-heavy clothing were the No Fear empire's bread and butter, they had their extreme fingers in many extreme pies—like when they lent their name to the 1995 Super Nintendo game Kyle Petty's No Fear Racing:

No Fear trademarked more than 50 slogans like "Fearless" and "So Cal," and the company was rather litigious and aggressive in defending its brand (check out this failed lawsuit against someone making "NO SPILLS, NO THRILLS" T-Shirts, and this letter to Senator Orrin Hatch supporting the Anti-Counterfeiting Act of 1995).

As the '90s gave way to the far less extreme aughts, No Fear refused to go gentle into that good night. They opened outlet stores in 2000, partnered with Pepsi in 2004 to produce energy drinks, and launched an annual music tour in 2007. The extreme ride couldn't last forever though, and No Fear, Inc. filed for bankruptcy protection in 2011.

3. B.U.M. Equipment

Let's get this out of the way first: "B.U.M." doesn't stand for anything—it's an acronym in spirit only. B.U.M. Equipment's puff-printed logo first appeared on sweatshirts in 1986. Seattle clothing designer Derek Federman created the look in his garage and soon sold the brand to Chauvin International, Ltd., an L.A. manufacturing company owned by businessman Morty Forshpan. (Federman left in 1988 after disagreements over B.U.M.'s direction.)

In a 1993 L.A. Times profile, Forshpan—who wasn't a clothing designer by trade and "acknowledges he's never picked up a sketch pad"—attributed the label's success in the early '90s to celebrities like Wayne Gretzky and Jason Priestley, who wore the simple athletic gear in public (the article is unclear about whether or not they were getting paid). "The customer can identify with these people," Forshpan told the L.A. Times reporter while showing him "a Billy Ray Cyrus concert program featuring the singer in a B.U.M. sweat shirt."

B.U.M.'s sales were estimated to be around $300 million in 1994, but its growth was not sustainable and the company began losing money. In 1995, B.U.M. was named in a lawsuit filed by 68 Thai garment workers who "toiled in alleged prison-like conditions" in El Monte, California before being freed by federal authorities.

B.U.M. Equipment filed for bankruptcy in 1996.

4. Big Johnson

For fans of penis puns and buxom cartoon women, Big Johnson T-shirts must have represented a cultural apex. The shirts, which flew off shelves at boardwalk stores across the country, featured E. Normus Johnson, a bespectacled pervert who maintained various small businesses with slogans that weren't exactly Oscar Wilde-ian in their wordplay:

-Big Johnson's Bar & Casino: Liquor Up Front, Poker in the Rear
-Big Johnson Landscaping: Call Us When It's Time to Trim a Little Bush
-Big Johnson Contractors: We Don't Stop Until You Get Drilled, Nailed and Hammered

Big Johnson is a subsidiary of Maryland Screen Printers, a company started in the late '80s by Garrett Pfeifer and his brother Craig. After the 26-year-old Pfiefer quit his job as a tax attorney, he and his brother sold bootleg T-shirts at football games to make a quick buck. Encouraged by the small venture's profitability, they decided to take it full-time.

According to Baltimore City Paper, Big Johnson didn't come into play until a local DJ named Batman "brought the two brothers a breast-happy T-shirt design that had been drawn by a...frustrated ex-history teacher named Al Via."

Via was hired full-time, and he started cranking out bawdy designs for the brothers. According to Pfeifer, Al's strength was the ability to "create a complicated scene on a T-shirt—some of them have 40 or 50 people—and make it feel organized and readable." That, and the penis puns. Via came up with the first official Big Johnson shirt in 1989 and it was an immediate hit in stores in Baltimore's Inner Harbor. The brand's popularity peaked in the mid-'90s, and Inc. Magazine named Maryland Screen Printers one of America's fastest growing companies in 1993 and 1994.

All this popularity didn't come without its share of controversy. Big Johnson tees were banned at Walt Disney World Resorts because of their lewd designs. In 1995, E. Normus Johnson was caught up in a legal fight when a man was ordered to remove Big Johnson T-shirts from his store, which was located inside the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Maryland. According to the Baltimore Sun, the shirts featured "sexual innuendoes about firefighters and women...[and] prompted complaints from women who were training at the fire academy." The store's owner filed a federal lawsuit claiming his First Amendment rights were being violated, but dropped the suit when he was offered more retail space in the building (he still wasn't allowed to sell the shirts).

Big Johnson still exists, albeit in a much smaller capacity. Maryland Screen Printers' focus today is primarily on blander designs for clients like Major League Baseball. No penis puns there, although we're sure it's pretty tempting.

5. AND1

“The revolution began on the streets of Philly in 1993," an old version of the AND1 website boasted. In reality, it started as a project at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. Grad student Seth Berger and a group of friends developed a brand that was all about basketball—and only basketball—and they intended to use streetball culture as a way to slip into the market.

"We want to be the number-one basketball company in the world," Berger told the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1996. He actually came close—at its peak in the mid-'90s, AND1 managed to become the second biggest basketball brand (in terms of market share) in the U.S.

Signing much-hyped teenager Stephon Marbury and controversial all-star Latrell Sprewell (right after he choked his coach) to wear AND1 shoes helped the company's popularity, but the brand initially made its name via T-shirts. These featured a "faceless and raceless" character known only as "The Player," who, according to AND1, was "an icon" who "made it okay to talk trash as long as you could back it up." The tees had slogans like "I saw a picture of your game on a milk carton'' and "Your game's as ugly as your girl," and each one was an attempt to crystallize AND1's streetball persona (which, it's worth reminding ourselves here, was invented by Wharton grad students).

The company branched out to video games and "AND1 Mixtape" streetball tournaments, but it lost a third of its value by 2005, when Berger ultimately sold AND1 to American Sporting Goods. The brand survives, but their T-shirts are far more subdued today, meaning you better hit ebay if you want to insult a hypothetical opponent with your clothing.

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8 Allegedly Cursed Places
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Some of the most picturesque spots in the world hide legends of a curse. Castles, islands, rivers, and more have supposedly suffered spooky misfortunes as the result of a muttered hex cast after a perceived slight—whether it's by a maligned monk or a mischievous pirate. Below are eight such (allegedly) unfortunate locations.

1. A WALL FROM MARGAM ABBEY // WALES

An 800-year-old ruined wall stands on the grounds of a large steelworks in Port Talbot, Wales. The wall is surrounded by a fence and held up by a number of brick buttresses—all because of an ancient curse. The story goes that when King Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in the 16th century, one of the local Cistercian monks evicted from Margam Abbey told the new owners of the site, in a bid to protect it, that if the wall fell, the entire town would fall with it (it's unclear why he would focus on that particular part of the structure). Since then, the townsfolk have tried hard to protect the wall, even as an enormous steelworks was built around it. Rumors abound that the hex-giving monk still haunts the site in a red habit, keeping an eye on his precious wall.

2. ALLOA TOWER // SCOTLAND

Alloa tower in Scotland
HARTLEPOOLMARINA2014, Wikimedia // CC BY-SA 4.0

Alloa Tower in Clackmannanshire, Scotland, has reportedly been subject to a curse for hundreds of years. In the 16th century, the Earl of Mar is said to have destroyed the local Cambuskenneth Abbey and taken the stones to build his new palace. The Abbot of Cambuskenneth was so furious he supposedly cast a multi-part curse on the Erskine family—ominously known as “The Doom of Mar." It is said that at least part of the curse has come true over the years, including that three of the children of the Mar family would “never see the light” (three of the earl’s ancestors’ offspring were reportedly born blind). The curse also supposedly predicted that the house would burn down, which occurred in 1800. Another part of the curse: The house would lay in ruins until an ash sapling grew from its roof. Sure enough, around 1820 a sapling was seen sprouting from the roof, and since then the family curse is said to have been lifted.

3. A WORKERS' CEMETERY // EGYPT

In the fall of 2017, archeologists reopened an almost-4500-year-old tomb complex in Giza, Egypt, that contains the remains of hundreds of workers who built the great Pyramid of Giza. The tomb also contains the remains of the supervisor of the workers, who is believed to have added curses to the cemetery to protect it from thieves. One such curse reads: "All people who enter this tomb who will make evil against this tomb and destroy it, may the crocodile be against them in water and snakes against them on land. May the hippopotamus be against them in water, the scorpion against them on land." The complex is now open to the public—who may or may not want to take their chances.

4. RUINS OF THE CHATEAU DE ROCCA SPARVIERA // FRANCE

A chateau just north of the French Riviera may sound like a delightful place to be, but amid the ruins of the Chateau de Rocca-Sparviera—the Castle of the Sparrow-Hawk—lies a disturbing legend. The tale centers around a medieval French queen named Jeanne, who supposedly fled to the castle after her husband was killed. She arrived with two young sons and a monk known to enjoy his drink. One Christmas, she went into the village to hear a midnight mass, and when she returned, she found that the monk had killed her sons in a drunken rage. (In another version of the story, she was served a banquet of her own children, which she unknowingly ate.) According to legend, Jeanne then cursed the castle, saying a bird would never sing nearby. To this day, some travelers report that the ruins are surrounded by an eerie silence.

5. THE PEBBLES OF KOH HINGHAM // THAILAND

Stopped off at a small uninhabited island that, according to Thai mythology, is cursed by the god Tarutao. If anyone dared to even take one pebble off this island they would be forever cursed! 😈 I heard from a local that every year the National Park office receive many stones back via mail from people who want to lift the curse! I was never much of a stone collector anyway... ☻☹☻☹☻ #thailand #kohlanta #kohlipe #kohhingham #islandhopping #islandlife #beachlife #pebbles #beach #speedboat #travelgram #instatraveling #wanderlust #exploringtheglobe #exploretocreate #traveleverywhere #aroundtheworld #exploringtheglobe #travelawesome #wanderer #earth_escape #natgeotravel #serialtraveler #awesomesauce #picoftheday #photooftheday #potd

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The tiny uninhabited island of Koh Hingham, off the coast of Thailand, is blessed with a covering of precious black stones. The stones are not precious because they contain anything valuable in a monetary sense, but because according to Thai mythology the god Tarutao made them so. Tarutao is said to have invoked a curse upon anyone who takes a stone off the island. As a result, every year the national park office that manages the island receives packages from all over the world, sent by tourists returning the stones and attempting to rid themselves of bad luck.

6. INITIALS OUTSIDE THE CHAPEL AT ST. ANDREWS UNIVERSITY // SCOTLAND

The "cursed" PH stones of St. Andrews University
Nuwandalice, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The initials PH are paved into the ground outside St. Salvator’s Chapel at St. Andrews University in Scotland. They mark the spot where 24-year-old preacher and faculty member Patrick Hamilton was burned at the stake for heresy in 1528—an early trigger of the Scottish Reformation. The location is therefore supposed to be cursed, and it is said that any student who stands on the initials is doomed to fail their exams. As a result of this superstition, after graduation day many students purposefully go back to stand on the spot now that all danger of failure has passed.

7. CHARLES ISLAND // CONNECTICUT

Charles Island, Connecticut
Michael Shaheen, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Charles Island lies off the coast of Milford, Connecticut, and is accessible from the mainland via a sandbar when the tide is low. Today it's home to a peaceful nature reserve for local birds, but its long history supposedly includes three curses. The first is said to have been cast in 1639 by the chief of the Paugussett tribe, after the nation was driven off the land by settlers—the chief supposedly cursed any building erected on the land. The second was supposedly laid in 1699 when the pirate Captain William Kidd stopped by the island to bury his booty and protected it with a curse. Shortly afterward, Kidd was caught and executed for his crimes—taking the location of his treasure to his grave.

The third curse is said to have come all the way from Mexico. In 1525, Mexican emperor Guatimozin was tortured by Spaniards hoping to locate Aztec treasure, but he refused to give up its whereabouts. In 1721, a group of sailors from Connecticut supposedly stumbled across the Aztec loot hidden in a cave in Mexico. After an unfortunate journey home in which disaster after disaster slowly depleted the crew, the sole surviving sailor reportedly landed on Charles Island, where he buried the cursed treasure in the hope of negating its hex.

8. THE GHOST TOWN OF BODIE // CALIFORNIA

A house in Bodie, California
Jim Bahn, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Bodie, in California's Sierra Nevadas, sprang up as a result of the gold rush. The town boomed in the late 19th century, with a population nearing 10,000 people. But as the gold seams ran dry, Bodie began a slow and steady decline, hastened by a series of devastating fires. By the 1950s, the place had become a ghost town, and in 1962 it was designated a State Historic Park, with the the buildings kept in a state of “arrested decay." Bodie's sad history has encouraged rumors of a curse, and many visitors to the site who have picked up an abandoned souvenir have reportedly been dogged with bad luck. So much so, the Bodie museum displays numerous letters from tourists who have sent back pilfered booty in the hope of breaking their run of ill fortune.

But the curse didn't start with prospectors or spooked visitors. The rumor apparently originated from rangers at the park, who hoped that the story would prevent visitors from continuing to steal items. In one sense the story worked, since many people are now too scared to pocket artifacts from the site; in another, the rangers have just succeeded in increasing their workload, as they now receive letter after letter expressing regret for taking an item and reporting on the bad luck it caused—further reinforcing the idea of the Bodie curse.

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21 Other Royal Babies Born In The Last 20 Years
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by Kenny Hemphill

At 11:01 a.m. on April 23, 2018, the Royal Family got a new member when it was announced that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have welcomed their third child, a (yet-to-be-named) boy, who will become fifth in line to the throne. While William and Kate's three children may be the youngsters closest to the throne, they're not the only pint-sized descendants of Queen Elizabeth II to be born in the past 20 years. Here are 21 more of them.

1. ARTHUR CHATTO

Arthur Robert Nathaniel Chatto, who turned 19 years old February 5, is the younger son of Lady Sarah and Daniel Chatto. He is 23rd in the line of succession—and has been raising some royal eyebrows with his penchant for Instagram selfies.

2. CHARLES ARMSTRONG-JONES, VISCOUNT LINLEY

The grandson of Lord Snowden and Princess Margaret, and son of the 2nd Earl and Countess of Snowdon, Charles—who was born on July 1, 1999—is the heir apparent to the Earldom of Snowdon.

3. LADY MARGARITA ARMSTRONG-JONES

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (R) speaks to Serena Armstrong-Jones, Countess of Snowdon (L), David Armstrong-Jones (2L), 2nd Earl of Snowdon, and Lady Margarita Armstrong-Jones (2R).
JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images

Born on May 14, 2002, Lady Margarita is sister to Charles Armstrong-Jones, and great-niece to the Queen. She's 20th in line to the throne.

4. LADY LOUISE WINDSOR

Lady Louise Windsor is the eldest child and only daughter of Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, and Sophie, Countess of Wessex. She was born on November 8, 2003 and is 11th in line for the throne.

5. ELOISE TAYLOR

The third child of Lady Helen and Timothy Taylor, Eloise Olivia Katherine Taylor was born on March 2, 2003 and is 43rd in line for the throne.

6. ESTELLA TAYLOR

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge chats to Estella Taylor on the balcony during Trooping the Colour - Queen Elizabeth II's Birthday Parade, at The Royal Horseguards on June 14, 2014 in London, England
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Eloise's younger sister, Estella Olga Elizabeth Taylor, was born on December 21, 2004. She is the youngest of the four Taylor children and is 44th in succession.

7. JAMES, VISCOUNT SEVERN

The younger child of Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, and Sophie, Countess of Wessex, James Alexander Philip Theo Mountbatten-Windsor—or Viscount Severn—was born on December 17, 2007 and is 10th in line for the throne.

8. ALBERT WINDSOR

Albert Louis Philip Edward Windsor, born September 22, 2007, is notable for being the first royal baby to be baptized a Catholic since 1688. He is the son of Lord and Lady Nicholas Windsor, and grandson of the Duke and Duchess of Kent. According to the Act of Settlement, which was passed in 1701, being baptized Catholic would automatically exclude a potential royal from the line of succession. But there was some controversy surrounding this when, up until 2015, the Royal Family website included Albert.

9. XAN WINDSOR

Lord Culloden, Xan Richard Anders Windsor, is son to the Earl of Ulster and Claire Booth, and grandson of the Duke of Gloucester. He was born on March 2, 2007 and is 26th in succession.

10. LEOPOLD WINDSOR

Like his older brother Albert, Leopold Windsor—who was born on September 8, 2009—is not in line to the throne, by virtue of being baptized a Roman Catholic (though he, too, was listed on the Royal Family's website for a time).

11. SAVANNAH PHILLIPS

Autumn Phillips, Isla Phillips, Peter Philips and Savannah Phillips attend Christmas Day Church service at Church of St Mary Magdalene on December 25, 2017 in King's Lynn, England
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Savannah Anne Kathleen Phillips, the Queen's first great-grandchild, was born on December 29, 2010 to Peter Phillips, son of Princess Anne and Mark Phillips, and Autumn Kelly. She is 14th in line for the throne.

12. SENNA LEWIS

Senna Kowhai Lewis, who was born on June 2, 2010, is the daughter of Gary and Lady Davina Lewis, elder daughter of Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester. She was a beneficiary of the Succession to the Crown Act 2013, which abolished the practice of giving sons precedence over daughters in the line of succession, regardless of when they are born. As a result, she is 29th in succession.

13. LYLA GILMAN

Daughter of Lady Rose and George Gilman, and granddaughter of Prince Richard, 2nd Duke of Gloucester, Lyla Beatrix Christabel Gilman was born on May 30, 2010. She is 32nd in succession.

14. COSIMA WINDSOR

Lady Cosima Rose Alexandra Windsor was born on May 20, 2010. She is sister to Lord Culloden, daughter of the Earl of Ulster and Claire Booth, and granddaughter to the Duke of Gloucester. She's 27th in line for the throne.

15. RUFUS GILMAN

Lyla Gilman's brother, Rufus, born in October 2012, is 33rd in line for the throne.

16. TĀNE LEWIS

Tāne Mahuta Lewis, Senna's brother, was named after a giant kauri tree in the Waipoua Forest of the Northland region of New Zealand. He was born on May 25, 2012 and is 30th in line for the throne, following the Succession to the Crown Act 2013.

17. ISLA PHILLIPS

Princess Anne, Princess Royal, Isla Phillips and Peter Phillips attend a Christmas Day church service
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Peter and Autumn Phillips's second and youngest daughter, Isla Elizabeth Phillips, was born on March 29, 2012 and is 15th in succession.

18. MAUD WINDSOR

Maud Elizabeth Daphne Marina Windsor, the daughter of Lord Frederick and Lady Sophie of Windsor and granddaughter of Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, was born on August 15, 2013 and is 47th in line for the throne.

19. LOUIS WINDSOR

Louis Arthur Nicholas Felix Windsor, who was born on May 27, 2014, is the youngest child of Lord and Lady Nicholas Windsor, and brother of Leopold and Albert. As he was baptized into the Roman Catholic church, he's not in line to the throne.

20. MIA GRACE TINDALL

Mike Tindall, Zara Tindall and their daughter Mia Tindall pose for a photograph during day three of The Big Feastival at Alex James' Farm on August 28, 2016 in Kingham, Oxfordshire.
Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images

Daughter of Zara Phillips and her husband, former England rugby player Mike Tindall, Mia Grace Tindall was born on January 17, 2014 and is 17th in the line of succession.

21. ISABELLA WINDSOR

Isabella Alexandra May, the second and youngest daughter of Lord Frederick and Lady Sophie of Windsor, was the last addition to the royal family. In July 2016, she was christened at Kensington Palace wearing the same gown worn by both Prince George and Princess Charlotte (it's a replica of the one that Queen Victoria's children wore). Looking on was celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, who is one of Isabella's godparents.

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