Cheerleading Uniforms 101: From the First Skirt to Today’s Look

by omni

Nearly every aspect of cheerleading has evolved and changed since its first days in the 1890s, especially the classic cheerleading uniform. In the early days, only males cheered. But once women began cheering in the 1920s, the first cheer skirt appeared. It was ankle length (!), made from a wool fabric (!!), and paired with a collared shirt and cardigan (!!!). Once the 1950s arrived, things began to resemble more of a team look. Everyone wore matching long sleeve shirts with sporty stripes on the sleeves, tackle twill with the school’s letters and a megaphone. The captain’s “stature” was often evident because their uniform would be slightly different in the school color combinations and the tackle twill on their tops. Men wore pants with one stripe to three stripes running vertically down the outer side of the leg. Women’s skirts were still of wool material, but became slightly shorter, still remaining below the knee. It wasn’t until the 1960s that it was socially acceptable to have shorter skirts, since cheerleaders were performing more athletic moves and stunts. No longer wearing tucked in blouses or button up shirts, cheerleaders wore breathable cotton based shirts, sweatshirts, crew neck sweaters, pants, and skirts. The skirts were above the knee and pleats were introduced; a trend that would remain on the cheerleading uniform for decades to come. In the 1970s, the Dallas Cowboys’ Cheerleaders changed cheerleading uniforms forever. They introduced bare midriff tops, very short shorts, and white boots. After stretching social boundaries and dress code limitations, the rest of the cheerleading uniform industry quickly followed. Shell tops were introduced, patch lettering became more ornate, sweater fit became tighter, one to three pleat designs, box pleats and plaid patterns were introduced to skirts and the skirt length was chopped in half. Since the 1990s, more stretch fabrics have been introduced to accommodate All Stars and competitive cheerleading teams. Today, uniforms feature cutouts, adornments like rhinestones, patterns (even flames!), colors (like pink or lime green), and more. Now, rather than wear the same uniform every year, many squads upgrade each year or even each season, depending on their activities. Today, there are endless choices for cheerleading uniforms. Take a look at what some of the standard styles are and what they mean: Skirts: A-Line: A standard style where the skirt gradually and slightly widens toward the hem. Knife Pleat: A narrow pleat made in one direction, with pleats overlapping one another. V-Notch: A v-shaped cutout on one side of the bottom hem. Crossover: A v-notch on the bottom with taping that crosses over. The final result looks similar to an A. Tops: W-Style: Features taping that overlaps to look like a W shape. X-Style: Features taping that crosses into an X. Sweetheart Neckline: Low at the front and shaped like the top of a heart. X-Back: On the back of the uniform, the straps are crossed and look like an X. How can you possibly choose just one style? Well, there are a few considerations that will help narrow down your decision: Age Be sure to pick something that is appropriate for all members of your squad. If your squad includes younger cheerleaders, consider full-length tops and pleated skirts. If you prefer a sportier look for your team, try shorts instead of skirts. Fabric If you have a hot and humid season, make sure that you look for a fabric that can breathe or look for shell tops that don’t require a long-sleeve bodyliner to be worn underneath. If you have a colder season, get a thicker fabric, like double knit, that will keep your team warm. Don’t forget to look for matching bodyliners and warm-up pants and jackets. Fit If your team does a lot of tumbling and stunting, make sure you get a uniform that is comfortable and flexible. It won’t do your team any justice to look stylish, but flub their moves because their uniforms are restricting. You may want to consider something with shorts, as well. Color Availability Make sure the company from which you’re ordering offers your team colors. If your team uses a color that isn’t common or is a very specific shade, you may have more limited options for uniforms. Personalization You may want uniforms that are personalized to your team’s style or mascot. Youth squads generally only add embroidery with the school or team name across the shell top. But competitive squads may want something more custom, like a sublimated uniform. If you go the customized route, allow for extra time and funds. Stay tuned all this month, as we discuss so much more about cheerleading uniforms!

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