How Cheerleaders Revolutionized Fashion

When you’re asked to describe a cheerleader, a few images could come to mind: the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, any teen movie from the late 1990s and early 2000s, or the young, polished, teenage athletes that once stayed in the same hotel as you during their tournament weekend.

None of these depictions are wrong. Cheerleaders have been purveyors of iconic fashion since their conception in the late 1800s. Here are just a few ways cheerleaders created some timeless pieces to the world of fashion, revolutionizing the industry as a whole.

Shrinking Hemlines

Once upon a time, the shortest skirt a woman could purchase came to mid-shin. The fashion motto of the 1950s was referred to as the three Cs: code, conformity, and consumerism. While midi-skirts still have a place in fashion, that all changed when a French designer named André Courrèges raised the bar– and the hemline–in 1964. As time progressed, that hemline traveled from just above the knee to (scandalous) mid-thigh.

Cheerleading attire followed suit, shortening the hemline of their skirts to match popular fashion. This caused added scandal, as the girls and women wearing these skirts were tossed in the air and flipped about.

As time progressed, the popularity of miniskirts waned and hemlines once again became more lengthy. Cheerleaders, however, kept the mini skirts and dresses and became the epitome of this iconic fashion era. Unlike their predecessors, mini-dresses and miniskirts allow for easier movement and a greater range of motion during tumbling. For today’s fashionistas, mini-dresses and miniskirts offer the option to show a little leg in the warmer months.

Tank Tops

In the early days, cheerleaders could often be found wearing blouses and bulky sweaters. As the skirts gotten shorter, the top layer became less elaborate. Blouses and sweaters shifted to just sweaters, which got more form fitting in time. As cheerleading developed into an involved sport the attire developed to allow for more movement and airflow. Imagine trying to do flips in your favorite Christmas sweater. See the issue?

Tanks tops– so named for their bathing suit, or tank suit, origins– were first adapted by male gymnasts in the 1970s. Practical in nature, tank tops allowed the gymnasts to perform moves without catching excess fabric or restricting their range of motion. Female cheerleaders followed suit not long after.

Cheerleaders normalized tank tops, progressing the already existent movement toward freedom in women’s fashion. This was further developed by the iconic Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, when they donned their revolutionary form-fitting crop tops, short shorts, and knee-high boots in the late 1970s. Yeehaw!

Fashion Meets Functionality

Beyond adding specific pieces that would change the face of fashion, cheerleaders helped revolutionize fashion for athletic females everywhere. Over time, cheerleaders spearheaded the way to functional fashion. Their shift away from the iconic pleated miniskirts to a sleek A-line cut was purely to improve performance, but triggered a similar shift in street-fashion and athletic fashion alike. You can find the same balance between functionality and glamour in cheer-oriented stores like

Cheerleading is also the one sport that accentuates a balance between strength and femininity. While they complete incredible feats of strength, balance, and coordination, competitive cheerleading sets a standard for beauty practices.

As of late, there is a paradigm shift in athletic preferences, leading women toward more male-dominated sports. This is an important adjustment that promotes all-encompassing body positivity, encouraging women not to be afraid to have a strong side.

Cheerleading shows it’s also okay to have traditional preferences in how you convey your femininity, while embracing your strength at the same time. As women have moved away from traditional perceptions of feminine strength, cheerleaders have moved away from pom pom waving and into advanced athletic movement.

Next time you don your favorite mini-dress or tank top, be sure to take a moment of appreciation for the bold and beautiful women who revolutionized the world of fashion. Do a little dance, say a little cheer, and do something revolutionary.