As cheerleading transitioned from an all-male sport to a predominately female sport, and from sideline yelling squads to stunting and tumbling
competition teams, the apparel that was associated with the activity adapted to reflect the athletic ability needed to succeed as a cheerleader.
Cheer Camp and Practice Wear
Lawrence Herkimer's creation of the first cheer camp in 1948 was a huge turning point in cheerleading apparel. Since cheer camp
is the place for current and aspiring cheerleaders to go to learn and perfect their moves and stunts "“ which were constantly evolving and becoming more difficult "“ the clothing worn at camp needed to be comfortable and allow the athlete to function safely. The longer khaki-like shorts and collared shirts that were seen back in the early 1900s have morphed into the ever-popular Soffe knit shorts
and lightweight tank tops
that are worn by cheerleaders all over the world to allow for a full range of body motion.
As cheerleading camps continued to expand and new traditions were born, it became important for individual teams to show their support, spirit and unity with matching apparel. This is now a staple at camps, and each team will match from their cheerleading hairbows
to their megaphone socks
These tanks and shorts started off being available in only a few colors, but as the number of cheerleading squads rose, so did the number of colors and designs. To differentiate themselves even further, squads customized practice clothes by embroidering or printing the school's name or mascot on them. Customization allows cheerleaders to show even more school spirit by representing the school through their apparel.
As cheerleading grew and camps became an annual event for squads, several cheerleading apparel companies began to form to meet the expanding needs of cheerleading as an activity. Each company developed their own designs for cheerleading uniforms
, practice wear
We're Ready for Our Close-Up
In 1982, ESPN broadcast the very first cheerleading competition on television. Cheerleaders were, for the first time, put in the spotlight for the whole world to see...and the world loved them!
The popularity of cheerleading took off and cheerleaders displayed even more pride in what they were doing. As a result, cheer apparel not only showed off the squad's school and team pride, but it also showed pride in being a cheerleader. Instead of letting school or squad differences tear these athletes apart, the common understanding of a cheerleader's challenges and triumphs drew cheerleaders together in unity.
Bright-colored apparel and cheer-specific phrases became a way for cheerleading to stand out from other sports, and also a way for cheerleaders and squads to show off their outgoing personalities and creativity.
Some of the sayings that have been developed by cheerleading apparel companies and cheerleading squads over the years include:
"Cheerleaders just want to have fun
"Live Love Cheer®
"If Cheerleading were easy, it would be called Football"
"Wimps lift weights, Cheerleaders lift people"
The Rise of the Cheerleader's Cheerleader
Cheerleaders need cheerleaders too! Parents are usually a cheerleader's #1 fan. They not only support cheerleaders by bringing them to practice, games, and competition, they also want to root for the cheerleaders! Cheereaders' parents, friends, families and communities want to show their love and support too, and as a result there are now complete fashion lines dedicated just to them. These lines include sweaters, polo shirts, t-shirts, hats, bags
and anything else that the cheer industry can come up with!
Not only that, but cheerleaders also wear apparel collections that support their favorite cheerlebrity and all-star teams.
Dressing for an All-Season Sport
The standard length for cheerleading skirts shortened as the sport got more physical, but the fall and winter temperatures didn't rise with the skirt length. Instead, as a compromise, warm-ups
, which were already popular with other sports, became a popular way for cheerleaders to stay warm during the chilly football months. Offered only as an in-stock item at first, nowadays cheerleading warm-ups can match uniforms and even have customization options.
As cheerleading progresses, the apparel focuses on keeping cheerleaders comfortable and allowing flexibility for more advanced tricks and stunts, while showing pride for the school, squad, and the world of cheerleading.
Share your favorite cheerleading t-shirt and apparel phrases in the comments below!