Spirit by design

Former Gamecock cheerleader back on sidelines through his uniform designs

acoyne@thestate.comAugust 23, 2014 

Joe Long designed his first cheerleading uniforms for the University of South Carolina 30 years ago, when he was a member of the squad.

Long studied graphic design and asked the coach of the 1984 squad if he could create a new look for the team. Three decades later, Long’s designs will be back on Gamecocks cheerleaders.

“It’s a thrill,” Long said. “It’s exciting to still be a relevant part of the program and having a voice in the look on the sidelines.”

This year’s squad will wear two new uniforms by Long. The white and garnet ensembles reach back to the classic cheerleading styles of the 1980s, while reflecting the performance-based trends that have driven contemporary cheer attire.

“Some of the fabrics have changed, but really not too much else,” Long said of his new uniform designs, which will premiere at the Gamecocks’ season-opening football game against Texas A&M. “They’re classic and clean looks that will look good 10 years from now.”

Long’s vision was just what head cheerleading coach Erika Goodwin was looking for. She wanted to see her squad in a “traditional” style this season, and, working with Long, that’s the style they got.

“He takes the vision that I want and puts it on paper to make it a reality,” Goodwin said. “This year, I wanted to focus on going back to a very traditional look. He was able to give me plenty of options that suited my vision.”

Long has designed uniforms for the squad before, and most recently has given the Coquettes dance team a new look. The team debuted new uniforms featuring the tail feathers of a gamecock splayed over silver sequins in 2011.

The emergence of sleek, more athletic-looking cheerleading uniforms has come with the increasing athletic demands and competition in cheerleading, as well as the utilization of more lightweight, flexible material. The traditional cotton and wool are heavier and can be less conducive to the tumbling and gymnastics cheerleaders incorporate into their routines. Long’s designs utilize the modern materials while incorporating the classic aesthetic commonly associated with the American cheerleader and making sure squad members stand out on the sidelines.

“We wanted to bring back a classic look,” Long said. “The inherent function of the uniform is already there — the fabrics hold the color well, they wick away moisture — but the style is simple, cleaner and classic. It harkens back to what cheerleaders looked like 30 years ago.”

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