If you like dogs and toxic masculinity, you may be familiar with Big Dogs Sportswear. A popular brand of shitty graphic tees from the ’90s, their shirts featured a large, angry, black and white dog of ambiguous parentage (Was it a Newfoundland? A fat border collie?) burping and barbecuing and yelling. Big Dogs loved Beer, Hamburgers, and Sports, in that order. They resented Wives. They had enormous dog-muscles and wore sunglasses — when they were not wearing sunglasses they had blank and frightening eyes.
Though they once seemed indomitable, as the twenty-first century wore on, their empire dwindled. Big Dogs is now down to seven stores but they’ve managed to survive as a subsidiary of The Walking Company — a mall chain marketed towards my mom that offers 345 different kinds of clogs. As Jonny Coleman observed last year in his history of the “D-shirt,” or “douchebag shirt,” for MEL Magazine’s newsletter, the Big Dogs of the new millennium has embraced “a broader, more generic version of Internet-friendly ersatz and vaguely threatening catchphrases” with debatable success. “I didn’t like you 20 years ago and I STILL don’t!” yells a dog on one shirt, as he bites through a plank labelled FaceBARK. “Stop Staring at my twitters,” reads the text on another. On either side, chicks — baby chickens, not women — stand in front of desktop computers, wearing matching sunglasses and smiling coyly. On yet another shirt, a bartending dog appears to take credit for the death of Osama Bin Laden.
As a rule, Big Dogs are indiscriminately angry but not explicitly political. Big Dogs are not calculating enough for politics — if there is a Big Dogs ethos it is erratic and larcenous. Big Dogs are always trying to sell you a stolen TV they picked up in Bayonne. Big Dogs would probably enjoy 4Chan but they are not really internet savvy enough to participate. Big Dogs post insane music videos about the Cajun Navy on your Facebook wall a couple times a year and write “HAVE A BLESSED DAY.”
All of which is to say, they seemed like they would be receptive to many of Trump’s campaign promises. “Drain the Swamp.” Yes, you could see Big Dogs nodding. Yes, it needs to be drained. He was Big Dogs made flesh — a loud, infantilized man with gross skin and outsized power. I looked at their website a couple weeks ago expecting jubilant, pro-Trump propaganda and was surprised to find instead a new shirt — a dog dressed up as a founding father, framed against an American Flag. “I Can Not Tell an Alternative Fact,” read the script below. Scroll down and you’ll see another — a dog scowling in a polo under the words “I Pay More Taxes Than Donald Trump.”
“No, we have no political stance,” said Steve Dawson, Big Dog’s sportswear director, when asked if they had joined the resistance. “We’re politically incorrect, that’s our political stance.”
Okay, fine, so Big Dogs does not have your back. Big Dogs exist only in opposition, they stand for nothing and no one except a man’s right to stew in his own filth. But if there is a summation of the Big Dogs self-image it’s their most well known shirt, a gray tee that reads, “IF YOU CAN’T RUN WITH THE BIG DOGS, Stay on the Porch!” A man and a woman sit on the steps of a white, colonial-style porch, gazing admiringly at a huge running dog that appears to be about to crush them. Off the Porch is implied to be a place full of danger and terrible beauty reserved for the extraordinarily brave or the extraordinarily bloodthirsty. On the Porch is a place of relative safety and quiet tragedy; missed opportunity, impotence, captivity, and cowardice.
Most politicians stay on The Porch. Lincoln was Off the Porch. Nixon, terrified to step Off the Porch, had to tunnel away from it underground. Jimmy Carter tripped Off the Porch and was ripped to pieces by wild animals immediately. Reagan wanted people to think he was On the Porch, but ran wildly Off the Porch, blood dripping from his jaws. Obama kept getting thrown back onto The Porch, but fought valiantly. Bill Clinton was perhaps the only president entirely happy with The Porch. “What’s what wrong with The Porch?!” said Bill Clinton, drinking a snakebite in an Adirondack chair.
Trump ran an Off the Porch campaign, but it was a smokescreen. He’d bought the air rights to The Porch. He’d expanded The Porch and refused to pay his contractors, The Porch was suddenly surrounded by a giant wall covered in fake gold. This, perhaps, is why Big Dogs has reverted to moronic, apolitical form and turned on him for cheap laughs.
Big Dogs are fundamentally criminal but they are competent, at least in criminality. Trump is a failed criminal — an idiot rich kid from Queens who managed to get himself elected president. He can’t even walk down stairs, let alone run with the Big Dogs. With any luck that will be his undoing, but if you voted for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson or Deez Nuts and you’re looking for a hair shirt to wear over the next four years, “The Problem With Political Jokes…They Get ELECTED!” is on sale now at Big Dogs dot com for $12.99 in sizes Medium through XXXXXXL.
Rebecca McCarthy is sort of on Twitter