Uniform Evolution

Many people forget that cheerleading is an old sport and has been around since the 1880s. Since then trends and fashions of society have changed and with it many aspects of cheerleading. Stunts and tumbling have gotten significantly harder and routines have become more complex. The look of the sport has completely change, including uniforms.

Today we will be going back in time of looking and at some of the original uniforms and how they have progressively become what they are today. Cheer uniforms weren’t always about glitz and glamor, however more about being conservative and professional. The uniform outfit worn by cheerleading squads usually indicative of the mascot, school, and/or colours of the team and/or organisation they are representing.


Cheer uniforms in the 1880s were very basic usually consisting of a polo shirt and long pants for boys and a cardigan and long skirt for girls. In the winter teams would also wear a sweater with their school letters sewn into the garment. These uniforms were made of wool and often bulky and not good for athletic movements.

1930s Cheer Uniforms

There was no such thing as a cheer shoe in the 1880s so cheerleaders wore saddle shoes or canvas sneakers with high dress socks.


The above style continued on into the 1930s and up to the 1950s and 60s.

1940s Cheer Uniform

The first cheerleading uniform distributor was founded in the late 1940s in Dallas, Texas who sold pom pom kits to local high schools.


Cheer uniforms had a big change as did all fashion in the 60s. The long wool skirts were faded out and the knee length pleated skirt took its place. The skirts were made of cotton and were paired with a crew neck sweater.

1950s Cheer Uniforms

In addition girls generally still wore collared blouses underneath their cardigan sweaters.


By the 1970s cheerleading was becoming more athletic with the introduction of gymnastic like skills. Cheerleaders wore sneakers made of new materials instead of canvas runners and uniforms became slimmer and made of lighter materials. The change in the 70s allowed athletes to have a greater range of movement without restrictions from excess material. Girls pleated skirts usually had alternating colours and were reversible.

1980 – 2000

As time progressed girls skirts became shorter and uniforms became a blend of polyester and spandex. A typical uniform for girls consisted of a skirt generally no longer than 12 inches, a vest or shell and briefs called ‘spankies’. By this point of time male participation was starting to increase and their uniform was generally a short sleeved top and long pants with a team coloured strip down the side. The front of uniforms became prime real estate to show team names in bold fonts, accompanied by design items such as stars and strips.

1990's Cheer Uniforms

In the 1980s it was common for girls to wear slouch socks with their Keds champion sneakers which were worn by many cheerleaders. This look was faded out with the introduction of ankle socks and purposely built cheer shoes.

2000 – 2010

In the year 2000 cheerleading uniforms had a dramatic change with teams always trying to come up with something exciting and new. Most uniforms were made from a polyester blended with spandex and for girls, a consistent mix of both long sleeved and sleeveless designs were used. Skirts continued to become shorter to ensure safety in harder more dangerous stunts and tumbling, and the midriff style top became very popular.

Uniforms for girls during this time also saw cut-out backs and shoulders which were purely for looks.

Male uniforms still continued with long pants, however some teams adopted shorts but this wasn’t very common. Also popularity for a male long sleeve top increased and can now been seen in most All Star teams.

The technology in shoes became more advanced and now assisted in stunts and tumbling. Shoes became lighter, stronger, thinner and new models were coming out on a regular basis.

2014 – Beyond

2014 and onwards will see new trends. Cheer skirts will most likely be replaced with just bike pants or a skort, and tops will have will have a cut-out on the back with a possible 3/4 sleeve. The full sleeve will still be very common however uniforms will become more fitted and possibly using less material (showing more stomach) so athletes wont run the chance of getting caught up in their uniforms while performing difficult skills. The females might also see a crop top with slip on arms hitting the scene, similar to past Top Gun uniforms. Sublimated uniforms are increasing in popularity and they will become more common as they become available in Australia.

Males wont see much change and the style will most likely stay as long pants with a long sleeved top. Tops will be most likely be fully made of lycra to unsure full movement and better fitment.

2011 Cheer Uniforms

Do you have any thoughts on how uniforms will look in the future? Post a comment below and share your ideas.

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Nick Coupland

Nick has been involved in the cheer community for over 10 years and has competed nationally and internationally in a level 5 team. He now coaches in Brisbane and specialises in tumbling and helps run tumbleclinics.com.

2 thoughts on “Evolution of the Cheer Uniform

  1. DannielleKofoed says:
    Profile photo of

    The more bling the better :)

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