Though you might not believe it by the outfits today, cheerleading uniforms started out very conservatively. At the turn of the twentieth century the majority of cheerleaders were male, and they did not wear uniforms but just participated wearing street clothes. Women did join the ranks of cheerleaders, and as they did the cheerleading uniforms they wore were appropriate for the day. There is a postcard from Cornell University, printed in 1906, that shows a female cheerleader carrying a school banner, wearing a very conservative outfit in school colors – a long sleeved dress with a high neckline and long, flowing skirt.
In the beginning stages of cheerleading, uniforms often consisted of a sweater (usually a cardigan) and the school letters on the front. Sometimes a turtleneck shirt would be layered under the cardigan sweater for additional warmth for cheerleaders outdoors. A megaphone (a device used to amplify the voices of the cheerleaders) would often accompany the cheerleading uniforms and they would have the school letters on them as well. Pom poms, another popular cheerleading accessory, started to appear as a part of the cheerleading uniform in the 1930’s. The original pom poms were made of paper – Fred Gastoff invented vinyl pom poms in 1965.
In the beginning stages of cheerleading, the male cheerleaders would wear trousers while the women would wear ankle length wool skirts. In the 1950’s the lengths of the skirts began to get shorter but were still on the conservative side. Saddle shoes were the footwear of choice for female cheerleaders. Male cheerleaders would often wear flat, canvas sneakers.
During the 1960’s the length of skirts changed – the below the knee length skirts worn as the uniform for female cheerleaders gave way to shorter, pleated skirts. Cotton began being used as the fabric of choice for cheerleading uniform skirts, and the use of cotton made the skirts lighter and made for easier movement. Cardigan sweaters were replaced by crew neck sweaters that were often short sleeved. You would usually find the school letters on the sweaters but some squads would incorporate the name of the cheerleader on the cheerleading uniform sweaters as well.
As time progressed, cheerleading became more organized and the routines became more complicated. Cheerleaders needed to have uniforms that allowed for more freedom of movement. During the 1970’s most cheerleading squads began to wear athletic sneakers instead of the old fashioned saddle shoes. Instead of sweaters with the school letters, some cheerleading uniforms were sweaters with stripes in the school colors, while some squads moved to wearing vests instead of sweaters. The 1970’s also was the time when the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders became a part of popular culture, with their skimpy, form fitting cheerleading uniforms consisting of boots, white hot pants (short-shorts) and long sleeved blue button up shirts that revealed their waists.
During the 1980’s the necklines of cheerleading uniform sweaters were more often than not v-neck lines instead of the traditional crew necklines. During the 1990’s the length of the skirts became even shorter to provide better freedom of movement for the jumps, lifts and tumbling skills that are a part of cheerleading routines. To determine how short is too short when it comes to the length of skirts in cheerleading uniforms, most squads followed a rule that the cheerleading skirt would end no shorter than the fingertips when the arms were held at the cheerleader’s side. Turtlenecks were often left out as a part of the cheerleading uniform.
During the initial stages of cheerleading the sport was just that – groups of men and women leading the crowd in cheers with pom poms and high kicks. But as time progressed the routines and skills performed have become more complex to entertain the crowds at sporting events. As the sport has evolved there is an unfortunate side effect that has evolved as well – cheerleading injuries.
There are some estimates that up to 16,000 cheerleaders suffer injuries each year. Some experts claim that high school cheerleading is the most dangerous sport. Between 1987 and 2007 there were 103 high school cheerleading injuries that were classified as serious, disabling or even fatal. The other most dangerous high school sports (gymnastics and track and field) didn’t even come close in terms of number of injures, with only 16 injuries reported that were classified as serious, disabling or fatal.
College cheerleaders have also suffered their share of cheerleading injuries. About one quarter of the insurance money spent by the NCAA Insurance program during 2005 went to pay for cheerleader injures. More serious injuries were sustained by cheerleaders than in field hockey, gymnastics or lacrosse.
Specialists in sports medicine have said that during the past few decades the sport of cheerleading has become more dangerous. During the period 1990 to 2002 there was an alarming increase in the number of cheerleaders who sustained injuries that required them to go to the emergency room. One of the main sources of cheerleading injuries is the classic cheerleading move called a pyramid where a cheerleader is on top of a two, three or four person base.
What kind of injuries can be sustained by a cheerleader? Studies estimate that more than half of the injuries sustained are sprains and strains. Soft tissue injuries, fractures, lacerations, and concussions/closed head injuries have also been sustained by cheerleaders.
While cheerleading can be considered a dangerous sport, there are ways to make it safer for those who participate. Dr. Sally Harris, a specialist in sports medicine and pediatrics at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation states that part of the problem when it comes to cheerleading injuries is that it isn’t classified as a sport by many schools. Because of this, cheerleading doesn’t get the same support the other sports get in terms of access to trainers and appropriate facilities. Dr. Harris advocates a yearly physical prior to the start of the cheerleading season for all cheerleaders. Also, parents should ask if their cheerleading coaches are certified and inquire as to their background and experience. There is a certification offered by the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators that covers both cheerleading safety and risk management.
Before cheerleading became an integral part of professional sports as a way to help fans cheer on their team, it had its beginnings at the collegiate level. Through many decades it has evolved not only as a competitive sport in its own right, but has served as an emissary to bring attention to charitable causes and offer support in a variety of ways.
Cheerleading had its origins at the University of Minnesota. The very first cheerleader was a University of Minnesota student named Johnny Campbell. During a football game he stirred up the crowd by cheering, “Rah, Rah, Rah! Ski-u-mah, Hoo-Rah! Hoo-Rah! Varsity! Varsity! Varsity, Minn-e-so-Tah!” The date was November 2, 1898. The university later put together a cheering squad made up of six male students who continued using Campbell’s original cheer. Although cheerleaders were originally all-male squads, by 1923 females were being incorporated and eventually made up the majority of participants. Cheerleading soon began including routines such as tumbling, gymnastics, and the use of megaphones during football games.
In 1948, a former cheerleader at Southern Methodist University named, Lawrence Herkimer, formed the National Cheerleaders Association. It was created to hold cheerleading clinics, and by the 1960’s, college cheerleaders hosted workshops across the nation teaching the fundamentals of cheering to teenage girls in High School. In 1965, Fred Gastoff, invented the vinyl pom-pon which was introduced in competitions hosted by the International Cheerleading Foundation. Today it is known as the World Cheerleading Association. Organized cheerleading competitions sprouted everywhere until 1978 when CBS broadcast the first Collegiate Cheerleading Championships, bringing wider attention to the sport. Although cheerleading rarely got much attention during the 1960’s, and cheerleaders were not exactly a reason to watch football, what did begin to emerge were organized professional cheerleading teams.
Before they became the famed Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, the Dallas Cowboys had a cheer squad made up of male-female high school students called CowBelles & Beaux. During the 1970 football season, Cowboys manager, Tex Schramm, decided to completely overhaul the cheerleaders, making them an all-female squad over the age of 18, redesigning the uniforms, creating new dance style cheer routines, and forming an overall sexier look in hopes of boosting attendance. The women not only had to be attractive and have athletic abilities when they auditioned, they also needed to possess raw talent as performers. The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders made their first appearance on the sidelines during the 1972-1973 NFL seasons. Since then, they have appeared on many television shows, toured throughout the U.S. and overseas, and have made regular appearances in the USO tours to support our troops.
Modern cheerleading has changed dramatically from its original function of spurring an audience to show their support for the team. It has become a sport in itself, competing outside of sporting events as well. Cheerleaders are found in most American middle schools, high schools, and colleges with organized squads made up of students. Cheerleading scholarships are even offered by colleges that compete at cheerleading competitions.
Cheerleading squads began to emerge in the 1980’s that didn’t have an association with a school or sports league. Their main objective was solely competition. Divisions and teams were created and sponsored by many different organizations and companies. The competitions are judged based on the difficulty and execution of the routines that include jumps, stunts, tumbling, creativity, showmanship, synchronization, and overall routine performance. These all-star team competitions are broadcast to global audiences that have led to thousands of cheerleading participants from countries worldwide.
Since its origination at the University of Minnesota in 1889 cheerleading has drastically evolved. Where once cheerleading was considered only a hobby, it is now considered a sport and many people choose to dedicate their lives to it. With cheerleading’s history cheerleaders have many expectations to live up to. Cheerleading is a sport that must stay in tune with the changes in trends and style. From changing the music of their routine to the most popular song of the time, and even changing their cheer wear to fit popular trends; cheerleading changes a lot on a regular basis.
Currently appropriate cheer wear can be separated into three categories; uniforms, shoes, and accessories. While the style of all of these things can change from squad to squad, the same basic design and purpose applies to all squads. Cheerleading uniforms are essential for expressing team spirit and providing an overall consistency throughout the entire squad. Shoes assist cheerleaders in executing the perfect moves while providing them support and comfort. Lastly cheerleading accessories can make or break a uniform and a performance; they are key components to creating the perfect uniform.
Cheerleading uniforms have two different components; the top and the bottom. For each there are many different styles that are popular and in style. Cheer tops are commonly called shells; there is an array of different shells available to cheer squads of any age. Shells can have no sleeves or even sleeves that extend to the wrist. In addition shells can show the midriff of the cheerleader or they can be designed to cover the midriff. Often times older cheerleaders choose to wear midriff shells while younger cheerleaders choose to wear longer shells. The other component of cheerleading uniforms is the bottoms. The most popular form of cheerleading bottoms are skirts, however there are many other options as well. Many male cheerleaders choose to wear cheer pants or cheer shorts. Additionally many female cheerleaders choose to wear cheer pants or shorts in appropriate situations. Regardless of the type of cheer wear that is chosen for the cheer squad, colors and designs can be chosen to represent the school or area the squad is from. It is common for squads to include the initials of their school or even their schools mascot on their uniform with the color’s of their school.
Cheer shoes are not commonly thought of as important items of cheer wear, however they are essential to cheerleaders safety and performance. All cheerleaders perform extensive routines that often times require complex movements and precise accuracy. Because they are doing all of this on their feet it is important that they have the best support possible. Cheer shoes are designed to provide support and comfort for the cheerleaders during their performance. Often times they have special insertions or features that are designed specifically for cheerleading. High arches, padded heels, and insole supports are just a few examples of common features in cheer shoes. Additionally many types of cheer shoes are designed to enhance performance. Cheerleaders are often doing flips and jumps that require them to land safely and securely on their feet. Cheer shoes often times have enhanced grip and traction on their soles to enable cheerleaders to perform advanced moves.
Whenever you go to a sporting event, no matter what sport or level, fans love to cheer for their favorite teams. This has been so as long as sporting events have taken place, but organized cheering (or cheerleading) dates back to 1898. Thomas Peebles brought cheering to the University of Minnesota from Princeton University, but student Johnny Campbell took it on and led the crowd in the organized cheer of “Rah, Rah, Rah! Sku-u-mar! Hoo-Rah! Hoo-Rah! Varsity! Varsity! Minn-e-so-tah!” His leading of the cheers at the game merited a write up in the November 12, 1898 edition of the “Ariel” stating that Campbell and the others leading the crowd in cheers would “see to it that everybody leaves the park today breathless and voiceless.” Shortly after this game, an organized squad was formed at the University of Minnesota that consisted of six male students.
At the turn of the century, cheerleading as an organized activity or sport began to expand. By 1903 the first cheerleading fraternity, Gamma Sigma, was formed. In the 1920’s women began to become active in cheerleading, because until about 1923 cheerleaders were only males. When women joined the ranks of cheerleaders, items like megaphones and acrobatic or gymnastic moves were added to the routines. The pom-pom (what some might consider the ultimate symbol of a cheerleader) was invented by Fred Gastoff in 1965.
The National Cheerleaders Association (or NCA) was formed in 1948 by Lawrence “Herkie” Herkimer, a former cheerleader for Southern Methodist University. He formed this association to hold clinics for cheerleaders, and the first clinic (held in 1949) consisted of 52 female participants. He also formed the Cheerleading Supply Company in 1953, which retailed skirts and sweaters for cheerleading teams and groups.
During the 1970’s cheerleading gained a boost – a very glamorous boost – when the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders became a recognized group with the trademark revealing blue and white uniforms and stylish dance moves. Professional football teams weren’t the only ones with cheerleading squads – other sports such as basketball, baseball and hockey caught on to the popularity of cheering and created their own cheerleading squads for themselves.
In 1978 the first Collegiate Cheerleading Championship was aired on television on CBS, as competition among cheerleading squads began to grow. In the 1980’s the cable sports network ESPN began to air the National High School Cheerleading Competition. As the popularity and love of the activity grew, so did the difficulty and complexity of the routines. Along with the increase in degree of difficulty of the routines came concerns for the safety of the participants. Most cheerleading organizations have adopted universal safety standards to help ensure the safety of the participants and decrease the number of injuries sustained.
In today’s society, cheerleading is a big part of the American culture. There are movies that have made the sport of cheerleading popular (such as the Bring it On series of movies). Reality television programs have featured cheerleaders (“Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders Making the Team” and the WE television reality program” Cheerleader Nation”). Serious fans can find video games about cheerleading for the Nintendo and Wii entertainment systems. Many of today’s most popular figures were former cheerleaders – including President George W. Bush, Madonna, Paula Abdul and Vanna White.