Evolution of Cheerleading Uniform and A Guide to Choosing the Perfect Cheerleading Outfit
Cheerleading is a part of the quintessential American pop culture. Cheerleading finds its origins in the late 18th century, where cheering was a sign of rebellion by male students. It’s only during the 1920s that cheerleading became more popular among young girls in schools and colleges.
From being just an entertainment feature during halftime at sporting events, Cheerleading is now a sport with stunts, jumps, tumbles gymnastics and dance. All these combines as a heady mix of skill, camaraderie, competition, and entertainment.
American universities that have their cheerleading squads to cheer for football, basketball, volleyball, and soccer are also more often seen to be competing with their opponent team’s cheerleading squad.
Cheerleading Vs. Dance
So, how different is Cheerleading vis -a -vis Dancing?
There are many aspects which overlap with both these forms and at the same time, they are different in several ways. One can safely say that dancing or dance moves are a part of Cheerleading.
Dance has many forms – Jazz, Ballet, Hip Hop, Cha Cha, Foxtrot, Ballroom, Salsa, the list is endless. Cheerleading, on the other hand, is mainly about stunts, jumps, gymnastics, lifting and a bit of dancing. Cheerleading teams often put up performances for half times, sidelines, and touchdowns.
Dance is often considered a graceful art form whereas cheerleading is all about a combined display of energy and skill, marked with sharp movements. These movements have in fact some interesting terms like the basket toss, candlesticks, cradle catch or even a deadman.
It is also safe to assume that Cheerleading is a seasonal occurrence with cheerleading squads teaming up to practice their moves and formations before the major game, while dancing is a commitment for the entire year. The competitive spirit is just the same in both the forms and makes it an essential part of every American student’s life at the varsity.
Of course, when it comes to cheerleading and dance outfits, there is a lot of difference. Cheerleading uniforms mainly comprise skirts, leotards, bows, shorts, bloomers and the unmissable prop – pom poms.
The attire for a dancer varies according to the various dance forms and the requirement that those dance forms have. Dancewear for Ballet is very different from Jazz and so is the dancewear requirement for Flamenco. However, the commonly used dancewear pieces are leotards, skirts, tights, skirts, ballet shoes, tutus, the list is endless.
Evolution of Cheerleading Uniforms:
Just like the evolution of dancewear through the ages, Cheerleading Uniforms have also undergone many changes over the years. Cheerleading, being a team sport have uniforms that are distinguished with official colors and mascots of the team and this indeed makes the wearer very proud of the fact that they are representing their school or college team.
During the early 1900s, the Cheerleading uniforms were quite traditional and modest. They were even bulky considering that they were made of wool or plaid. The one standard feature at this time was the school initials that were sewn on the uniform in order to clearly distinguish the team from one another.
These bulky cheerleading outfits made way for more comfortable and functional ones during the 1960s and 1970s with longer skirts being replaced by knee-length ones and cotton skirts replacing the woolen fabric.
The styling of these uniforms saw some changes as well with Round and v-neck sweaters. The trend veered to being more athletic in this era. Another marked change was that the uniforms were fitted close to the body making them very stylish and rather bold for that era.
Even the cheerleading footwear underwent a metamorphosis from the saddle or flat canvas shoes to athletic sneakers and this allowed greater freedom of movement for all the moves and jumps.
The 1980s and 1990s again saw a dramatic shift in the Cheerleading uniforms as they got more athletic, stylish and functional. Cheerleaders wore pleated short knee length skirts, paired with buttoned-down shirts. Another exciting trend among cheerleading squads were the slouch socks and ked sneakers.
Modern Cheerleading uniforms – The Basics:
With the advent of polymer technology and polyester fabrics, the paradigm shift in the cheerleading style has only gotten more exciting. New age materials like lycra and spandex are being made into a sport and athletic wear and cheerleading uniforms have also adapted to suit the requirements of dynamic cheerleading squads.
Tops: Cheerleaders wear sleeveless tops called shells or liners which typically have sleeves. These can even be turtleneck tops. Cheerleaders either prefer to wear bodysuits or a tank top underneath. Leotards are also very popular among students who are part of cheerleading squads. Teams also have custom cheerleading warm-up jackets that can identify the team and their supporters no matter where they go.
The styling on tops have also evolved to the next level with no material or sometimes even sheer fabric across the top for the chest, the shoulders, the top of the back, or portions of the arms.
Skirts: Skirts are akin to a pair of jeans (yes, it’s undeniably a wardrobe essential!) in the wardrobe of a cheerleader. They almost form an identity of the cheerleading team with their distinct colors and patterns. The skirts are mostly pleated and customized to match the color of the shell or vest. A-line skirts are also popular among teams.
However, the skirt length is governed by specific rules set by high schools which stipulate that the skirts should be reaching mid-thigh. The uniforms, in general, must cover the midriff when a cheerleader's arms are down.
While these rules apply to high schools, professional teams and college teams do not need to follow them. Skirt lengths have also shortened in the modern times allowing free movement and preventing tumbling during complicated moves and formations.
Briefs: Cheerleading Skirts are typically worn on top of colored spandex briefs or shorts, also called lollies, spankies, or bundies. These are worn over undergarments and can also be customized with prints in attractive colors. Some teams even provide spankies with team logos or team colors.
Cheer Shoes: Given the nature of cheerleading as a sport, Cheer shoes need to be durable and light while providing adequate cushioning for all the jumps and stunts. Cheer shoes, as a rule, are normally in white and hence require a higher level of upkeep and care.
Accessories: A perfect cheerleading uniform is incomplete without accessories. Colorful pom poms are a must have, while gloves, bows, matching socks, complete the ensemble. Unlike dance, bigger pieces of jewelry are strictly avoided for safety reasons given that cheerleading is a contact sport.
Like all other fashion trends, Cheerleading apparel has evolved and adapted according to the changing needs of the sport. Also, Cheerleading uniforms vary from sport to sport. Whether it’s for practice through the year or the day of the actual competition, cheerleading uniforms are chosen after a lot of deliberation as they are all about being comfortable, stylish and yet representative of the team that they are supporting.
After all, well- coordinated, customized cheerleading uniforms add to the sense of bonding and solidarity, which is the aim of a cheerleading squad.
How to choose the best cheerleading uniform?
Deciding on a set of cheerleading uniform is a project and since it’s long-term, every cheer squad must carefully decide on how best they need to represent themselves. Although there are many professional brands that can offer you the best solution depending on the budgets set out by the school, a few pointers can help you make the right choice.
- To begin with drawing up the goals and objectives of your squad and your school/college sporting team before getting into the specifics of color, cut and design. This would help you chart the look – energetic, classic, vibrant or racy.
- Determine the various seasons – both sporting and climate-wise. This is important as the cheerleading outfits would accordingly vary.
- You also need to set aside uniforms for practice sessions and for the actual competition days. Do keep in mind the calendar of the sporting seasons and plan to source, maintain and make them available for fittings and trial accordingly
- The school/college colors and mascot must be kept in mind while designing the outfits
- Thorough research on other competitive cheerleading squads is essential to ensure that you don’t end up looking like another team. Even if the colors are similar, work with a professional to come up with cuts and designs that are unique to your varsity.
- The extent of design and customization of your cheerleading uniforms is dependant on the budgets available. Always decide on the budget and determine how the funds would be made available at your school or college. If the cheerleading outfit is at a professional level, sometimes even sponsorship may be a good idea. Seek out to the right sponsors well in advance.
- Finally, never compromise on the quality of the cheerleading outfits, especially the stitching and fabric used. Also, the stitching should ensure a snug and comfortable fit.
Cheerleading without the right uniform would be a total mismatch despite all the best efforts in choreography. As a sport, cheerleading puts the varsity team in the spotlight and brings out the best in terms of team spirit and camaraderie. The right cheerleading apparel can make a massive difference in the way a team is represented at a competition.
Get in touch with us and we can help you with customized cheerleading uniform designs and outfits.