When you think of the Super Bowl, a lot of key things probably come to mind: Nachos, first and foremost, halftime show second, and cheerleaders third. Those perky, high-kicking women have been there since the beginning, but their costumes have not. There's been an evolution of NFL cheerleader uniforms over the past 50 years. And their looks have changed a whole lot more than you probably assumed.
While the majority of us have heard the "hot girl" trope associated with cheerleaders since we were kids, the Super Bowl squads weren't always all about flashes of leg and stretches of trim tummies. These days, we're very much used to seeing half-naked dancers take the field, performing an impressive series of high kicks and flips all in a pair of go-go boots and bathing suit tops, but the NFL's main ladies weren't always decked out in such a way.
Past decades have seen a series of uniforms come in and out of rotation, but some variations have included long pants, pleated skirts, leotards, and even knits. That's right, knits. As trends changed and the country's idea of what is scandalous and what isn'n have evolved, so too have the uniforms. Below are 11 examples of NFL cheerleader uniforms transformed over the past 50 years.
Say hello to the first Super Bowl in 1967! Cheerleader uniforms started out innocently enough, with pleated skirts grazing mid-thigh, minimal makeup, college girl hairstyles (think middle-parted hair or plaited pigtails), and — the best part — actual sweaters. Perfect for a wholesome, all-American game.
2. Early '70s
Fast forward a couple of years, and you can see more personality in the uniforms. Teams seemingly started outfitting their ladies in themes that complemented their mascots, but the looks were still pretty PG-13. The only noticeable difference from 1967 that the skirts got shorter, but maybe that was so the high kicks could get higher? Let's go with that explanation.
3. Mid '70s
Back in the '70s the country wasn't as, ah, politically correct as it is today. So when teams tried to play up their mascot with cheerleader uniforms, some missteps came out of it. But if you look at the outfit itself, you'll notice that it's still very modest in cut. The short dress looks more like a scooter dress that could be hanging in any of our closets, rather than the bedazzled swimsuits cheerleaders wear now.
4. Late '70s
In 1976, we arguably see the beginning of the end when it comes to modesty. Here, the Dallas Cowboy uniform got an update, whereby the blouse was now a boob-grazing crop top that made room for cleavage and sex-appeal. It was quite the update from the silky cowboy tops the earlier half of the decade.
5. Late '70s Again
While tops might have shrunken and skirts begun grazing the booty, teams also decided to have a little more fun with their costumes. When you look at this Broncos cheerleader, you really can't help but think "Pony Express." Everything from her fringe detailing to sheriff's hat to pioneer-woman flower to flamboyant Western gloves is kitsch at its finest.
6. Early '80s
At the start of the '80s, we began to get the "hot cheerleader" vibe. Hair went big, makeup darkened, and skirts were now optional. Why mess around with a flimsy loin-cloth-like hem if you can just kick around in a leotard?
7. Late '80s
In that same vein, why bother with tops if you can just wear bras masquerading as tops?
8. The '90s
Oh how far the Dallas Cowboys have come. Where before they rocked poofy, cowboy-esque, long-sleeve tops, the cheerleaders upped the ante when it came to sexuality by the '90s. Tiny booty shorts that dipped suggestively in the front paired with bathing-suit-like bras topped off with billowy boleros. The sharp contrast kind of makes one wonder why exactly the style evolved in such a way.
9. Mid '00s
Then in the mid-2000s, the NFL decided to chuck the last of its false modesty and put all its chips on the table. We began to see sports bra-like tops that flashed toned tummies and full cleavage, paired with wispy skirts with strategic slits that revealed more thigh than the hand towel skirt originally offered.
The same trend kept up in 2010, when cheerleaders seemingly became more about the sex appeal and less about the team spirit. I can't help but feel that their looks don't seem to be about the pageantry, mascots, or personality of the team anymore.
To see how far the evolution of the cheerleader uniform has come, let's observe the 2015 version of the Dallas Cowboys uniform. Here we have Bond Girl underwear cinched with a belt, cleavage highlighted with a bra tied into a bow, and the iconic Dallas bolero jacket. It's almost as though it's the same uniform, just shrunk by a couple of strategic inches.
The evolution of the cheerleader uniform basically goes like this: Less costume, more bathing suit. Whereas before the cheerleader seemed to be there to pump the crowd up with her cheers and her chants, now it seems like she's there to pump the crowd up in a different way. This isn't to say they're not looking strong and powerful in their modern looks. Of course they are! One can only hope that they have a certain autonomy when deciding upon said looks.
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