From a young age I have had a fascination with cheerleaders. They represented this polished, popular, all American teenager. With America being this magical far away place; and as a pre-teen desperately wanting to turn 13, they seemed to encompass everything I wanted to grow up to be.
Grease was my favourite movie at the time and I would have come close to wearing out the VHS tape with the amount of times I watched it. Frenchie has taken over as my most loved character but at 8 years of age I wanted nothing more than to be Sandy. Think bouncy ponytail tied with a bow, not a hair out of place, fitted sweaters, full skirts and bobby socks. When not in cheerleader attire, the preppy, pastel outfits had me in fashion heaven.
The traditional cheerleader style is what I find most appealing and there are some fantastic pieces on Etsy:
Vintage Letter Sweater V Neck Black Pullover Cheerleader Sweater Made by Brentwood 100% Wool Size Small 1950s
Buffy evolves into more than just a stereotypical, ditzy and perfect cheerleader and becomes empowered, angry, sassy and self-reliant, which shifted my cheerleader view to something more than an aesthetically flawless pin up. At the end of the movie there is a school dance that Buffy attends in a fairytale white, tulle dress with a sweetheart neckline that is prom queen meets Madonna’s ‘Like a Virgin’. When vampires crash the dance and Buffy is forced to go outside to battle them, her dress gets accidentally ripped to a shorter length and Pike (Luke Perry) gives her his jacket to wear. The contrast of the delicate dress with the hard edged, rebellious leather jacket complement each other in an ultimate fashion fusion that is almost representative of the sides of her style that I relate to so much.
When I hit high school there wasn’t the cheerleader/jock culture that I had seen on the screens, it just didn’t exist at my high school. If anything, the sporty kids were considered uncool and the alternative kids weren’t seen as rejects, being at an all-girls high school may have been a factor and being in Australia certainly was. I was in my army pants and band shirt phases attempting to keep my awkwardly changing body as covered as possible but was still transfixed with the magical image of the cheerleader that was appearing in music film clips of the bands I love like Nirvana ‘Smells like Teen Spirit’ and Nada Surf ‘Popular’.
The cheerleader played a part in most of the teen movies that came out at that time, always with great fashion but generally being the bitchy, vapid character until Bring It On was released in 2000. There may have been bitchiness but there characters weren’t stupid. Although the movie was obviously poking fun and highlighting the sexualisation that went along with cheerleading, for me it was exposure to how strong these women are. Athletically amazing, hardworking, skilled, committed and with such a strong desire to succeed, I couldn’t help but feel like their chants were actually a subtle fuck you to the people who weren’t taking them seriously because they were cute and wearing short skirts.