Cheerleading is synonymous with a certain look and feel of beauty and glamor, but behind that stereotype is a very basic logic. Of course, one of the main reasons that you’ll see cheerleaders in exaggerated fashions, makeup, and other costume pieces when they perform is a simple stage rule that most performers follow: to be seen by judges and audiences.
Beyond that though, people that really understand cheerleading and its core skills know that all the glitz and jazz is used to fill the void left by all of the beauty and fashion restrictions in cheerleading. Most of the beauty techniques used everyday by millions of women, and some stage techniques used by performers, are strictly forbidden in cheerleading for safety reasons.
Because cheerleading is not a sanctioned sport (yet!), each school, organization, competition and program uses its own discretion to decide what beauty products and fashions are accepted. Likely, what a squad can and cannot do will depend on their age, skill level and stunting intentions.
The Mighty, Mighty Ponytail
When you are around cheerleaders, one of the safest bets that you can make is that you will see a lot of ponytails. Ponytails aren’t necessarily for looks. They are functional. Keeping hair in a ponytail or a bun or braid is a technique used to keep the hair off of the cheerleader’s face, and out of their eyes. It isn’t practical to think that a cheerleader will be able to stop in the middle of a stunt or tumbling move to brush their hair off their face. Watching and seeing play important roles in the safety of cheerleaders and their teammates, and some rule books may even disqualify a cheerleader that has to use her hands to tuck her hair back.
Since cheerleading hairstyles are limited, cheerleaders use accessories (most recognizably big hair bows) to spice up their look. The legality of feathers, barrettes, bobby pins, bows, beads, and rhinestones can change from one rulebook to another, so a team will need to do its own research when choosing cheerleading accessories. As a general rule, all accessories must be securely affixed to the hair and not threaten visibility for the cheerleader wearing it, or for their teammates.
Jewelry, including rings, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, buttons, and pins are never allowed in cheerleading. Just like there is a need for fitted cheerleading practice wear and uniforms to minimize the risk of any unnecessary entanglement or snagging, jewelry is prohibited because it could fall off, get caught on clothing, or snag one of your teammates. If someone gets injured to the point of bleeding during a routine or practice, it can drip onto the mat and become a major safety issue if someone slips on it.
Colorful, adhesive jewel stones or rhinestones, legal at some competitions and with some age groups, are often used on accessories, clothing and on the face to add that little bit of sparkle and flair that is missing because of the no jewelry rule.
Not Tested On Stunters
Using lotions and oils to improve the look and feel of your skin seems like a simple and innocent beauty trick, but for a cheerleader it can be very dangerous. If it is used too soon before the start of practice or a competition, it can leave a residue that makes skin slippery. This would make it very hard for stunt groups to get and keep the proper grips. Also, if a cheerleader has lotion on her hands, it could cause her to slip during a tumbling or dance move that requires her to put her hands on the mat.
Body paints seem like a very cool trick to use to stand out and raise spirits, but can cause many of the same issues as lotions and oils. The paint could leave the wearer with slick skin. Since cheerleading is an intensely physical activity, sweating is a normal part of the routine. If a cheerleader wears body paint and sweats, the body paint may start to rub off onto other squad members, or onto the mats, and cause several safety issues.
So, instead of using those beauty tricks, cheerleaders wear uniforms that feature exaggerated glitter, rhinestones, shine and color.
Keep It Natural
Cheerleaders have to keep their fingernails short. There is no room for scratching during stunting. Many teams and competitions will also ban fake nails.
Fake eyelashes are also commonly not an accepted part of cheerleading and stunting. If the fake eyelashes fall off partly or completely, this clearly poses a safety threat by potentially blocking the vision of a cheerleader.
To counter not being about to use those beauty tricks, cheerleaders will get creative with their short nails, painting them in school colors or spelling out their school or squad’s name across multiple nails. Cheerleaders also find other ways to play up their eyes by using heavy mascara and eye shadows.
With so many restrictions but such a contradictory reputation of high glamour, it’s no wonder that rhinestones, glitter, and colorful performance makeup are part of a cheerleader’s routine and have become synonymous with the industry. But don’t let all that jazz fool you – cheerleading is a serious business!