Thank you for your question:
Why did so many men have large (often “tribal”) prints on their tee-shirts a few years ago? Why did they then suddenly disappear?
Let me first answer your question with an earnest “I have no idea, those things are tacky and look permanently soiled in personal fluids.” Now that we have the truth out of the way, I will take a deep breath and dive into the unknown.
By tribal print, I believe you mean this…
…which is a monstrosity of “distressed” whatnot (a technical term).
If I dig into my personal memory banks (and not do any actual research on this dark spot on men’s fashion), I think excessive “tribal” prints on tee’s is a form of “peacocking.”
This is an image of grown men dressed as overly confident circus performers, also known as the cast of VH1’s “The Pickup Artist,” also known as one of the best reality TV shows of all time. On a side – other reality show favorites are, of course, “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” “Looking for Love: Bachelorettes in Alaska,” “Paradise Hotel,” and only the first seasons of “The Real World” and “The Bachelor” (because he was not cute).
“The Pickup Artist” is the first place that I heard of the term “peacocking,” which is the process of adorning eye-catching clothing or accessories that are worn to entice a potential partner, much like a male peacock flashing his feathers for all the hot lady birds in the club. Those tribal tee abominations display the confidence of a man willing to go above and beyond the basic tee to sleep with anything on two legs. Wait, “on two legs” is too narrow; really they’re up for any man, woman, or object that responds to their posturing.
Why did the tribal tee seemingly disappear? Perhaps its potency was deluded with so many thinking it was ok to look like a douche bag.
These kids need to continuously up their game if they’re going to keep up those conquest tally marks.