The Lindy Hop organization I’m part of (Toronto Lindy Hop) is doing a “School Spirit” theme night and while I was working on the invite banner I ended up finding some pretty amazing vintage cheerleading images and thought that it would make a great blog post. So here you go, some of my favorite vintage cheerleading images for your enjoyment (with some historical notes on the side). Go Team Go!
Cheerleading was originally an all male sports in the late 1800’s. Characterized by gymnastics, stunts, and crowd leadership, cheerleading was considered equivalent in prestige to an American flagship of masculinity, football. As the editors of Nation saw it in 1911:
…the reputation of having been a valiant “cheer-leader” is one of the most valuable things a boy can take away from college. As a title to promotion in professional or public life, it ranks hardly second to that of having been a quarterback.*
Indeed, cheerleading helped launch the political careers of three U.S. Presidents. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Franklin Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan were cheerleaders. Actor Jimmy Stewart was head cheerleader at Princeton (“The Manly Origins of Cheerleading” by Lisa Wade, PHD).
It wasn’t until 1923 that the University of Minnesota introduced the first women cheerleaders at their sporting games. Although women continued to participate as cheerleaders in various parts of the USA after 1923, it wasn’t until the 1940s that women became the majority of cheerleading’s athletes during an era when the university men students left the country to fight in World War II. Today, women consist of more than 90% of the world’s cheerleaders (“History of Cheerleading” International Cheer Union”).
Late 1930’s Cheerleaders. I want to be the girl in the front of this line…adorable!
1940’s Cheerleaders. How handsome are the men 🙂
Ohhh pants on the cheerleaders
Saddle shoes!! My Fav!!
By the 1960’s shorter skirts have made an appearance and I now think it must be way easier to do some of those pyramids with less material on the legs lol 🙂
photo credit: Beatrice Photos
Now I’m super inspired to try to recreate one of these cheerleading outfits for the dance but since I don’t have the best legs I will 100% be going with a longer skirt 🙂
Blog note: If you like the vintage sports images, I also have a bowling post as well.