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Cheerleading Uniforms!


From pleated skirts to spirit sticks, we take a look at how cheerleading uniforms have changed over the years

Cheerleading has certainly come a long way. Starting out as just organized expressions of team spirit, it has managed to become a serious competitive sport, and has even been considered for inclusion in the Olympics. Of course, cheerleading uniforms have changed as dramatically as cheerleading itself. It is probably one of the most-changed sports uniforms, and if you read on, you will find out why.

But first, some interesting info. Did you know that cheerleading wasn't always a woman's domain? For a short period in the 1950's, cheerleaders were mostly men, and cheerleading uniforms comprised of pants or man-shorts and cotton shirts with the school logo. But it did not take long for women to whip put their woolen sweaters and cotton skirts and shake the world with their more upbeat, dance-like cheer renditions. Cheerleading became an instant hit, and soon, all high schools were forming all-girl cheerleading squads.

The transformation. The cheerleading uniform then started changing, influenced by popular fashion and the changing cheerleading moves requiring outfits that allowed more movement. The skirts eventually had 16 pleats, and then went A-line. Cheerleaders shed their bulky sweatshirts to reveal more streamlined bodysuits.

Lawrence "Herkie" Herkimer became popular around this time when he introduced accessories that eventually became essential components of cheerleader uniforms. Herkie invented both the pompoms and the spirit stick, which helped highlight and coordination and graceful movements of squad members. Fascination for cheerleading reached enormous heights, and Herkie eventually initiated the creation of what is known today the National Cheerleading Association.

Cheerleading became more competitive and was officially recognized as a sport. The demand for cheerleading uniforms zoomed up, and manufacturers began using innovative styles, fabrics, and functional features to give their products a selling edge. Nylon-based boys cut briefs and bloomers as underskirts hit the market, as these styles allow cheerleaders to move about without exposing themselves. Skirts and tops also began using polyester, which provides an attractive sheen while allowing maximum movement.

New trends. Modern cheerleading uniforms retain the classic A-line cut but add kick-pleats over the left leg, or on the side. Cheerleading tops now have fancy embroideries of school or team logos. Most uniforms are made-to-order, and use fabrics in the family of the school or team colors.

Recent cheerleading uniform favorites include low-riding skirts with belly button cutouts for noncompetitive teams. Squads joining major league competitions, however, still prefer flyaway or cutout pleated skirts which make cheerleaders look extra sharp when they are spinning. Many schools do not allow their cheerleaders to use this type of outfit during school games, however, because they are too revealing.

There is also a move away from traditional polyester and into special 'action weave' materials that give a more fitted look and are more comfortable. Even cheerleading shoes have changed - flat sneakers are passť, and mid- to hi-tops are now the way to go. The latter are said to provide more support to the ankles during stunts.

The price. Now that cheerleading uniforms are much better than their former counterparts, have they gotten more expensive, too? Surprisingly, no. Cheerleading uniforms have become more and more affordable recently, perhaps because of the growing competition among its manufacturers and retailers. At about $40 to $50 a set (excluding shoes), most high schools can already afford to dress their squads in the hippest styles.

For those who prefer not to spend on uniforms, though, there are still alternatives. Cheaper shorts-and-t-shirt sets in coordinating colors can easily be purchased from any clothing or sportswear store at a fraction of the price of complete cheerleading uniforms. These coordinates can be jazzed up with school or team logo patches and ribbons, depending on what the team wants. With these inexpensive cheerleading ensembles, squads can still looks sharp and put-together - without breaking the bank.

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