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The History of Cheerleading Apparel


Cheerleading wasn’t always a competitive sport filled with stunts and tumbles. It was once a predominantly male activity that involved yelling from the sidelines. Hard to imagine, right?

As times change, so do clothes and apparel. Cheerleaders didn’t always wear items like cheer skirts from the team at Move U. Here’s how team outfits went from bulky sweaters to sport clothing suited to the demands of modern athletes.

Once Upon A Time

In order to understand the change in uniform, you first have to look at how the sport itself changed over time. Cheerleading has always been about representing and supporting your home team, most notable in American football. How did it all start, though?

The year was 1869, and the very first intercollegiate game between Rutgers University and Princeton University was taking place. At the time, a Princeton graduate by the name of Thomas Peebles encouraged his team by singing fighting anthems, getting them riled up to take on the competition.

Skip ahead to 1898 during a game where the University of Minnesota team was on fast track to defeat. Medical student Johnny Campbell, an enormous sports fan, came up with the idea to have the crowd chant in unison in order to boost their team’s spirits. Technically, this was the first instance of an actual organized cheer.

Now flash forward to 1923. The University of Minnesota never stopped their chanting, and women began to take notice. They began incorporating acrobatics and tumbling in organized routines to accompany the cheers of the crowd. By the 1940’s, cheerleading had quickly swept the nation and teams across the country brought on their own female cheerleaders.


The 1900’s

Early ideas for outfits included a way to represent the home team while sticking with fashion trends of the time period. Since this was the early 1900’s, that meant large sweaters with school names and pants. Both men and women were still cheering equally at this time.

Warmer weather saw polo shirts and long, pleated skirts. Keep in mind that clothing fabrics and fashion trends were limited during this time, especially into the depression after the 1940’s. As time went on, however, people began to seek a more athletic alternative that offered a little more glitz and glam.

The Game Changer

In 1948, Lawrence Russell Herkimer founded the first cheer camp where men and women could come practice more complex routines with creative freedom. It didn’t take long for people to realize that more comfortable clothing was needed for more intricate moves that required a wider range of motion.

Tank tops and shorts became the norm, giving greater customization options for coloring. Embroidering also became big, as did accessories to make cheerleaders stand out.
The 80’s

In 1982, ESPN decided to host the first televised cheerleading competition. Teams across the nation rushed to create unique outfits that would distinguish them from their competitors. The fashion industry quickly took notice, jumping on the chance to create one of a kind designs that designated cheerleading as its own sport complete with uniforms.

Modern Day

Styles continued to change over time, giving way to the fashions of modern day. Design, functionality, and fitting are continually revamped to allow cheerleaders the mobility they need for increasingly complex routines. You can find everything from competition outfits to bags, t-shirts, sweaters and more all with your team’s name and logo ready to be printed on them.

With all of those clothing items and accessories, cheerleading apparel isn’t even solely for the cheerleader anymore. Families, fans, and communities all wear items the display their colors and support their team as they are lead in cheer.


History Is Fun

Looking back through time, it’s hard to imagine that cheerleading apparel was restricted to large sweaters and stiff pants. Today’s outfits are light years ahead of the previous century’s allowing both men and women to take part in this highly competitive sport with complicated routines and dazzling displays.

Cheerleading competitions continue to help the sport gain popularity, which means that new generations are already signing up with a team and practicing for their big day. It also means that companies will continue to modernize and revamp current cheerleading outfits to make them even better (and more fashionable).

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