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Gimme an “R” for Retro! 35 Vintage Photos of High School Cheerleaders (1970s-1980s)

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Taken from old yearbooks, newspapers and a variety of other paper ephemera, comes a motherload of  vintage pep.  But don’t expect Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders in this mix – it’s strictly local – high schools with a few colleges thrown in for good measure.

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(1) Take note of the poor injured cheerleader on the ground…. yet, she still has school spirit enough to color her caste with school colors. That’s what I call dedication to the cause.

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(2) Confederate cheerleaders.  Posing in front of the “Stars and Bars” would be forbidden today.

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(3) The girl in the center could’ve been a popular cheerleader… instead she had to settle for the hot’n’sweaty role of mascot (which, in this case, looks like a giant rat).

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(4) Winona Ryder once said the 1980s were “the era of the blonde cheerleader”.

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(5) I don’t know if it’s the same today, but back in the 1970s and 80s, becoming a cheerleader was an automatic ticket to popularity.


(6) Texas cheerleaders from 1971

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(7) Of course, there were other roles for girls to express their inner pep at sporting events – namely the color guard and majorettes.  We’ll try and stick to “proper” cheerleaders today.

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(8) Eastern Oregon College

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(9) Celebs who were once cheerleaders: Sandra Bullock, Katie Couric, Cameron Diaz, Paula Abdul, Halle Berry, Kristen Dunst, Lindsay Lohan, Ann-Margret, Alicia Silverstone, Madonna, Amy Poehler, Meryl Streep … and Steve Martin (yep, he was a male cheerleader – along with Kirk Douglas).

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(11) You’ll note that the saddle shoe was the footwear of choice for cheerleaders back then.

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(12) Go team!! The entire crowd cheers them on… except for this couple in the center, strangely uninterested.

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(14) Clearly not a picture from the U.S. where cheerleaders avoid soccer games like the plague.

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(16)  It’s amazing that something so inexorably linked with girls actually began exclusively with men. Cheerleading has its origins at Princeton when it was ‘guys only’. By the 1940s, females started infiltrating the business, but the miniskirt was still a couple decades away. Typically, the gals wore tucked in blouses or button up shirts with wool skirts that extended well below the knee.

Pleated cotton skirts were introduced in the ’60s, and the hemline began its gradual rise, and the look became much more ‘athletic’ and pushed some sexual boundaries as well; sometimes utilizing the miniskirt’s first-cousin – hotpants.

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(19) An odd cheerleader group photo… considering they seem to be standing in a giant rusty pile of cans.

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(22) Which cheerleader uniform in this article is the worst? There are so many bad ones to choose from…

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(23) So many of these uniforms have that godawful “Little Bo Peep” look with frills, bibs, aprons, and puffy sleeves.

But then, there’s this…

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(24) Again, this just would not fly these days.  And check out the “male cheerleaders”… they look more like stoned rednecks tagging along for the sexy chicks.

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(25) More cheerleaders from the deep south

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(26) Check out the expression on that third Virginia Tech cheerleader.

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(28) As I mentioned, they pushed the envelope in the 1970s with exceedingly high hemlines.  I’m voting these two the winners – unless, you see another viable contender?

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(33) Check out those furry socks.  These weren’t all that uncommon back in the day.

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(34) These cheerleaders compliment their uniform with a sassy Scottish bonnet.

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(35) THE END

  • Michael Levy

    Just in case anybody cares, the soccer photo is from my home team – Brighton and Hove Albion. The first player is the captain Brian Horton. The photo was probably from the late 1970s.

    • David Poza

      1979 in fact, the last game of the decade at the Goldstone Ground; against Manchester City.

  • timdub70

    George W. Bush, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt were Presidents that were male cheerleaders. Rick Perry (W’s successor as Governor of Texas and current Secretary of Energy) and Mitt Romney were also cheerleaders.

  • Freakanatcha

    Re #24 While the unis might not fly today, I’ll give a tip of the cap to any cheer squad where even the girls do crotch chops.

  • Mudgutz

    Straight from cheering the football team to cheering the cross burners.

  • Steve Mills


  • powerifficus

    “Colored girls need not apply.” Clearly, diversity in our schools wasn’t a consideration 40 to 50 years ago.

    • TN Traveler

      I do not think that is a fair assessment. I would think Gilligan only has a small selection of yearbooks compared to the MANY schools and years that are out there. I would think if you drew another sample that came from inner city/urban schools that it would almost be exclusively ‘colored’.
      But I did enjoy the good ole boys wearing the Stars and Bars, they got it made in the shade!

  • David Poza

    “Clearly not a picture from the U.S. where cheerleaders avoid soccer games like the plague.”

    Totally incorrect! Cheerleaders were one of the main reasons for the NASL boom in the 70s. There were the Honey Dips in Washington, the Vowdies in Tampa Bay and the famous Cosmos Girls in NY (being selected by Pelé himself). They provided half-time entertainment in many games.

    • njguy54

      The cheerleaders in my early 80s high school cheered for pretty much any sport. And just as the football players were the alpha males on campus, the cheerleaders were the queen bees (we had no male cheerleaders). Only the prettiest and thinnest girls need apply (though to their credit there were black and Asian girls on the squad).