We tapped DCC gurus Judy Trammell (right) and Kelli Finglass to share how the iconic look has evolved. Trammell cheered from 1981-1983 before becoming the assistant choreographer in 1984. She’s been the choreographer since 1991. Finglass cheered from 1984 to 1988 and has been the squad’s director since 1991.
Before the squad became official in 1972, local high school students cheered on the Dallas Cowboys from the sidelines.
“We bought blue and white fabric in bulk in the 70s,” reveals Finglass of the original uniforms. “We’re still using original bolts of white fabric! The blue we’ve had to source once since.”
The original blue fabric was slightly more shiny than the one used today. “It was tricky to find the right shade of blue that was also absorbent for a dancer and had a nice drape to it,” says Finglass. “The current blue is 100% poly microfiber and the texture is peach skin faille.”
“Back in the 80s we tried different hairstyles and I think our director liked that,” says Trammell of styles like cheerleader Debbie Aycock’s Pippi Longstocking-esque braids. “It was sportier-looking. Now it’s about the girls being as glamorous as they can.” Says Finglass, “They all wear their hair down— even in rehearsal.”
“There were no extensions back then,” Trammell says of her all-natural mane. And though it’s gorgeous, this hair wouldn’t fly today—literally. “It’s more about layers, because the movement of the hair is more important than the length. We call it ‘hairography,'” explains Trammell. “Plus, it’s too hot, and it’s not the style now.”
“We had very large pom poms, which were visually very effective,” says Finglass (center). “They were matte blue and white vinyl. And they were huge and they were heavy. At the time, games were about four hours and they would get pretty hot, but they were very effective.”
“The ’80s was all about big, teased, sprayed hair and blue eyeshadow, red fingernails, red lips,” says Finglass. But that wasn’t only because those looks were all the rage at the time. “We were yards away from our fans so it was like any stage: We tried to exaggerate everything. Now we have a huge, 60-yard high-definition television board in our stadium, and it gets detail like none other.”
In the early ’90s, they experimented with a v-front high-rise short without a belt. “That was the time when aerobics and unitards were happening, and cuts went higher on the hip bones,” says Finglass.
The ’90s also signalled the end of the go-go style boot in favor of a mid-calf Western boot. With that new look came props like cowboy hats, which aren’t often incorporated into today’s routines.
Crystals were added to the stars on the vests and the shorts starting in the ’93-’94 season. “We went through probably three years of prototypes trying to get crystals around the stars,” says Finglass. “Back then, the glues would turn the fabric yellow or the crystals would tarnish the fabric so we wound up being able to engineer a star that was built on a Velcro base and the crystals sat on the Velcro extended part of the base.”
Just a year later, in the ’94-’95 season, “We decided there weren’t enough crystals so we added them to the fringe line of the vest,” says Finglass. Additional, the two-pronged notch lapel was re-designed to the simpler pointed collar that remains on the uniform today.
The return of the hip-hugger! In 2002, they went back to the belted short. “There are always the same number of stars on the belts, no matter the size,” says Trammel. “And there are always just three stars on each side of the vest.”
They upgraded the plain buckle in 2006. “We wanted a kind of glamorous western buckle that included some crystals,” says Finglass. They tapped Texas-based sculptor Brad Oldam, the brother of fashion designer Todd Oldham, for the design. “We’ve had that design ever since,” she says.
Iconic boot brand Lucchese became the official outfitters of the DCC in 2011. “When we first got them, we were trying to figure out the best way to stretch them,” says Trammell. Cue blisters, callouses and everything else that happens when breaking in good boots. “Most of the girls wear mismatched socks under their boots. It’s quite the array of color and style and messaging on their socks,”she says.
PS: If you’ve got $550 to spare, you can buy a white Lucchese boot inspired by the ones the cheerleaders wear!
“The modern-day pom-pom is metallic,” says Finglass. “We actually have a custom made metallic blue; We Pantone-matched the fabric from our blue blouse. They’re smaller and they have a baton handle which allows a dancer more control of the pom while dancing.” And the poms aren’t going anywhere, says Finglass: “We’ve tried the cheerleaders dancing without pom poms, just for different genres of music, and we think that it gets away from what makes us great visually.”
“The uniform has always been custom-fitted,” says Finglass. “Judy and I both remember our rookie fittings. Now, there’s even more attention to detail… It’s very feminine and tailored to the body.” And the boot has changed too. “This season we expect the kicks to be higher and the dancing to be more joyful because these boots are a lighter weight with a softer sole,” says Finglass. “We’ve removed the steel shank. Now that they’re more pliable that should enhance a pointed toe and a higher kick.”
Watch Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team on Thursdays at 9 pm on CMT to see what it takes to make the squad!