Cheerleading uniforms represent the school’s colors or mascot. They first emerged in the early 1900s as sweater tops or polo shirts that depicted the first letters of their high school. The top was worn with ankle-length skirts and flat canvas sneakers or saddle shoes along with the sweater. Although these early uniforms showed school spirit, they were often warm, bulky, and impractical to use for athletics. Despite that, this style continued throughout the 50’s and the 60’s.
Evolution of the Cheerleading Uniform
- 1960s - The uniform’s style changed drastically along with the fashion of the 60’s. Short, pleated skirts were en vogue and instead of sweaters, cheerleaders opted to wear short-sleeved crew sweaters. Around this time period, becoming a high school cheerleader was considered a huge privilege. Cheerleaders’ uniform tops had their name embroidered on the center of the school patch, and they wore collared blouses underneath the sweaters as a status symbol.
- 1970s - During the 1970s, the cheerleading uniform went through another change. Squads now wore tennis shoes or athletic sneakers, and there was more styles of sweaters, vests, and skirts to choose from. The top were designed to show off the contours of the body and often showed the cheerleader’s tummy during movement. Skirts also got considerably shorter and fell halfway down the thighs. The cheerleading uniforms of the seventies were more functional because they used less cloth, but more modest women thought these uniforms were too scandalous and inappropriate.
- Today - Cheerleading uniforms today are made out of polyester and spandex. They are form-fitting and come in either short sleeves or long sleeves. A guideline imposed by the National Federation of High Schools require that high school cheerleaders should have tops that cover their abdominal area. For college squads or all-star cheerleading teams, this rule does not apply and they often have tops that end below the bra line. The length of the skirts are also incredibly short, approximately 12 to 14 inches. Underneath the skirts, cheerleaders wear spandex briefs called spankies.
Though the styles of cheerleading uniforms have gone through significant changes throughout the decades, it still remains the most visible symbol of a cheerleader—a representative of the school and a purveyor of school spirit.
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