Clitheroe Royal Grammar School
Year: 1959 Item #: 1602 Views: 69,540 Comments: 376
Led by Stuart Bennett (Captain), right, the cross-country team returns from a practice run around the nearby country-side.
Source: Lancashire Life Magazine, November 1959
376 user comment(s) below:-
Rob, thanks for your comment - it's interesting to hear your description of how it was back then. You clearly feel it was ultimately to your benefit having to do PE, cross country etc topless. And presumably if you'd been in charge of my PE class you'd also have made me take my vest off!
Just a couple of things I'd point out... Obviously if you were all used to doing PE stripped to the waist every time then you wouldn't have found it humiliating. It was different for me, I wasn't used to it and being the only boy out of 25 or so who was told to do the lesson topless was clearly intended to make me feel uncomfortable.
Also, you assumed that I'd be reluctant to take my top off later in life... I can assure you that I'm perfectly happy to be in just shorts at the beach or the pool!
Nick, making boys strip to the waist was certainly part of discipline for many years. In the late 50's when I was at an all boys school we were told by our PE teacher at the start of of our first lesson, aged 11, to strip off completely, including pants and socks,and that we were to wear just gym shorts and plimsolls.I never heard anyone say they were embarrassed, let alone humiliated; we just did as we were told.After every PE lesson we all had go naked in the communal showers and this continued until we left at age 18. We also wore the same outside when we did athletics and for cross country running. This was the norm for most boys for a number of decades until child protection laws were introduced and resulted in the situation you experienced where many boys became shy about their bodies and were made to strip to the waist only as a form of punishment and therefore feeling unable to strip off later in life to enjoy the pleasure and benefits which the warm summer sunshine brings.
I agree that a caning was better than a punishment run for at least with a caning-painful though it was-it was over and done with and unless your parents actually saw marks on your backside they need never know.
If you had a punishment run after school hours arriving home late your parents would know why and would often punish you as well
With regards to punishments. In the mid 60's in our all boys school it was usually corporal punishment either the cane or for pe and swimming the slipper. On most occasion justice was dispensed by the teacher there & then which a lot of lads preferred.
Occasionally the teacher gave the choice slipper/cane or detention, most opted for cane/slipper
Admittedly a slipper across the backside wearing only thin shorts and no pants was painful (even worse in swimming trunks) but it was done & out of the way.
If one had detention which was always after school your parents got to know and of course you were in more trouble when you got home.
Instant punishment meant parents did not know about "the crime"
Reading the last two posts confirmed my own experiences at school in the 1990s, for teachers of an earlier era there was definitely a belief that making boys strip to the waist was part of discipline and punishment.
I first experienced that at 13 when my PE teacher, who was very old school, bawled me out for misbehaving and told me to take my vest off and do press ups. That was embarrassing enough with the other lads sniggering but then when I'd finished, I went to put my vest back on and was ordered to leave it and rejoin the class wearing just shorts. So I was the only boy topless for the rest of the lesson and it felt like that was part of my punishment.
There was a similar kind of feeling when a group of us were given detention and made to run laps of the football pitch. We were told to leave our vests behind in the changing room, so we had to be topless not just for the actual run but also going to and from the football pitch. Again it felt humiliating but at least this time there were other boys in the same boat as me!
We had to do punishments runs as well, as part of a detention.
Normally our usual cross country course (tracks/fields/woodland), always just shorts/plimsolls (no shirt). If you were slow during other parts of the detention, like the workout, you had to run barefoot. Often the last boys back from the run had to take a cold shower or were caned/slippered.
I think many boarding schools had a similar regime in the 60/70's, and early morning runs stripped to the waist were universal.
My first experience of being stripped to the waist when I was sent to a Detention Centre in the 60's.
We had thirty minutes of topless PE every morning and again after school lessons in the afternoon - whatever the weather.
It was the same when I received a sentence of Borstal Training a couple of years later only this time instead of school lessons we had to work outside all day stripped to the waist in all conditions.
It certainly toughened me up and when I left Borstal and worked as a Builders' Labourer I was always stripped to the waist on site whatever the weather as were all the other workers.
When I was at school in the 60's although caning did exist normally "Punishment runs" were the normal form of discipline.
If you had committed some offence a notice would appear on the notice board requiring you to report after school hours outside the gym.
You then had to strip to the waist and go to the athletic track and start running around the track.
Each lap was 400 metres/440 yards and you had to carrying on running round the track stripped to the waist and often barefoot as well until told to stop. this was at least half an hour sometimes longer.
When told to stop you normally had a cold shower as well.
It happened to some lad many times so it begs the question as to how effective it was!!!
I went to an all girls Secondary school, so I don't have a direct comparison with boys punishments. However we did have physical punishments, generally in the form of a rap across the hand with a ruler or across the top of the legs with a plimsoll.
It was certainly a different era when we were at school when discipline was much more stricter and physical punishment was the norm.
I also remember, as someone else mentioned, the punishment runs around our large schoolyard in secondary school in just our PE shorts. This was a standard detention punishment.
I also wanted to ask the girls posting here if they got the same physical punishments as the boys at their school.
Well, I imagine there was an outcry even then. :) Isn't that why corporal punishment stopped? By the time I was running shirtless in an icy Ipswich winter in early 1980 it was voluntary. The showers weren't, and I didn't like those, even when they were warm (they usually weren't), but the last time I remember an object impacting with someone's nethers, they weren't mine, the object was a dap (plimsoll), and reports of business said it wasn't very painful, just embarrassing. To end a moment of bullying, I once punched a hole in a changing room window, and I still never saw that dap. Just as well, it was allegedly a size 12, same size as my age. I have to wonder how those who earnt it did so. This was 1979, I think corporal punishment was definitely on its way out, used with increasing reluctance. School physical eductaion was definiely spartan at the time, but I went to several schools across the south of England and it varied a bit, but was getting more lenient as years went by. Teachers were unrelentingly strict about turning up with right kit, on time, but apart from a detention on failing to do so, nothing beyond a thousand written lines ensued. Boring as hell.. A kid I knew learned to do it with five pens in one hand! Nice bit of skill that I never learned, but he was great, he stayed to keep me company even though he could have left, lots of funny talking to do, even though he finished long before I did on at least three occasions. Someone here mentioned having to file into a gym or changing room with hands on head. I totally forgot that, but it did remind me that I'd heard of this, long ago, at a time when the only way to know would have been having been made to do it. I can't remember either the school, or the context. I think I was very young though, likely under 10 years old. I probably forgot that because it wasn't fun. Shirts-and-skins games in a cold gym were fun though, I remember those. Basketball was something I might actually have been good at, but I wasn't at that school in Ipswich long enough to find out.
You can imagine the outcry if schools tried to re-introduce Pe kit as we experienced with no underwear. no tops and caning as a punishment.
To answer your questions.
It was a boys only private school.
PE teachers ran the whole detention sessions, and caned boys.
I wonder how different we were from many schools at the time, caning was universal in the 60's/early 70's, a lot of schools did indoor PE in just shorts, many schools made boys run cross country in all weathers with no shirt or vest, a lot of schools used punishment runs as a means of discipline, or had an early morning run every day (again often stripped to the waist).
I like the comment by Mark on 16th March 2013 about being a builders' labourer, always stripped to the waist on site. I do that too, and I got the taste for it when running at school in winter, I always run shirtless now, whatever the weather, and when I can, I extend that to working shirtless as well. I hated contact sports at school, but running shirtless made me feel a toughness and enthusiasm for sports that was on my terms, no-one else's, and I found that daring to do it sometimes made others do it too.
Working shirtless in winter extended that feeling, and it made me work much harder than people around me too. I got strong enough to make a 25 kilo mix by hand and carry it several yards then throw the bucket up onto an awkward 7 foot high platform with enough control not to spill any, and then haul myself up to stand on it in view of the street to build a wall. I got dirty doing this work, but being strong and hard enough to do it routinely shirtless in winter, washing off at the end of the day with a cold hose and a stiff brush, felt good. It taught me that turning up for work shirtless even in icy weather, or wind and rain, immediately set the right attitude for a good day's work because toughness was the only way to keep warm.
Will,good to hear you had to work hard and build up a sweat in gym.I remember how good that felt and glad that we were only wearing shorts;pants would have got sweaty and we weren't allowed to wear anything underneath anyway.It was as well you had compulsory showers afterwards.Everyone was always naked in the showers afterwards as you need to be.
Nowadays,pe is completely different beyond recognition.
Showers were compulsory at comp. Obviously we had to be naked. The teacher watched us to make sure we didnt just run through. Anyone got caught running through got whacked and made to take a cold shower
Showers should still be compulsory at school after PE. Its so unhygienic not to shower after working out
To Rob - no offence taken! I suppose we just had rather different perspectives but it sounds as if your early experiences may have been more beneficial in the long term.
Yes, we did have compulsory showers after PE - and you're right, the teacher who made us take our vests off did work us hard, so we were often fairly sweaty by the end of the lesson. Officially showers were meant to be taken naked but some boys did sneak in wearing shorts or underwear.
It sounds like an awful school with punishments right, left and centre. The "crimes" were obviously endorsed by the headmaster who should have realised that these punishments were not working. You and your colleagues were either extremely unruly or - what seems more likely to me - the headmaster regarded "punishment" as an essential part of education.
Stuart, who did the caning during detention, was it the Head or an ordinary or PE teacher?
Was it a mixed school or boys only?
Stuart, thanks for that, I obviously seriously underestimated the level of discipline that operated at your school.
Thanks for your interesting comment.
I agree that allowing boys to wear (or skip) items, might reduce the teachers authority.
In terms of discipline, we could be caned directly by the Head, or caned in detention.
Detentions were used for a range of things, from the relatively minor, to the much more serious. For the more serious things you might get a detention and x strokes of the cane. Your name went on a list on the notice board, and you had to report to the gym immediately after school on the specified day.
Names were checked off, and you were told the number of strokes if you were to be caned. We got changed and into the gym; structure was workout, run, then cane (3rd detention in a school year got you caned, then every detention).
Thus say for fighting you were told 3 strokes of the cane; if it was your 3rd detention, you got 3 for the detention, plus 3 for fighting, 6 in all. 4th detention equalled 4 strokes, and so on.
For the detention we were allowed to wear just shorts inside, (no shirt, bare feet), shorts and plimsolls for the run (no shirt), and just shorts for the caning. After the run, we all had to go back into the gym, hands on head. All the boys to be caned were called forward, made to line up; when their turn came they went over a gym horse for the caning. Afterwards back in line.
As the year progressed more boys had previous detentions, thus the percentage caned increased. By the year end almost all the boys in a particular detention received a caning.
In a way it was a good system, as you got a couple of warnings (1 st and 2 nd detentions), thereafter you got a pretty hard punishment.
Will,yes my comment was slightly tongue in cheek, but no offence intended.I was brought up in a different era when from primary school age parents encouraged their boys to take off their shirts at home in the summer and run around outside in their shorts and get the sun and fresh air.So it wasn't a problem from the start at grammar school having to do gym in just shorts.I can only compare your sense of shock at being ordered to take your vests off and having to run outdoors bare chested for the first time to when I was faced with having to take my shorts off after gym before going naked in the communal showers the first time.I certainly wasn't used to that! By the 1980's did you still have showers?
Rob, I'm guessing your comment may have been slightly tongue in cheek - I don't think it makes me soft because I found it something of a shock being ordered to do an outdoor run bare chested for the first time! I admit that as a 14 year-old boy I was perhaps self conscious about my body, but you have to bear in mind that I wasn't used to this, whereas you clearly were.
With that said, I do take your point that we would have been used to running bare chested if our standard PE kit had been just shorts in any case. And you're right, there was certainly a strong sense of discipline when we did gym classes with that teacher. He did work us hard and I suppose having to strip to the waist did enhance that feeling of discipline as well.
At the late 50's grammar school, our 'official' pe kit was shorts,T Shirt and plimsolls, but at the the beginning of the first lesson our master told us to get changed into just shorts and plimsolls, no pants or socks to be worn, and no mention of T.shirts.This was our kit for every pe lesson, including cross country until we left at age 18. We had no choice in what we wore and after every lesson we all had to go naked in the communal showers.I was therefore surprised at the unusual arrangement at your school and believe that this was not the right way way to discipline boys.Although many of you chose to wear just shorts you should have all had to wear the same from the start, and in this respect your XC master did the right thing. Progressive softening up on discipline has led to the present position where pe as we knew it has disappeared and youngsters have become unfit and overweight with other health issues.
You are admitting that you were all a lot of softies! After the XC run did did you not have showers to warm you up? Although, it seems, you may not have experienced the pleasure of running XC in the summer stripped to the waist this 'strict' teacher did take you for gym.He sounds like the type who would have made you do it wearing literally just shorts, and worked you hard so that you were running with sweat and couldn't wait to get in the showers for a thorough wash.
When I was at school in the sixties the rule for PE-indoors and outside- was you had to be stripped to the waist and barefoot. There was no choice in the matter.
Stuart's post reminded me of the time we had a strict teacher substituting for the master who regularly took us for cross country. This was early 80s. Our kit was exactly the same as well (white vest, shorts, socks and plimsolls).
We were all changed when this new guy came in and barked at us to stand up, then he picked on one boy at random and told him to take his vest off. Then he announced that the rest of us had better do the same unless we wanted detention. We were all somewhat shell-shocked but nobody dared to disobey and within seconds every boy was stripped to the waist.
It was cold outside but we all had to do the run shivering in our shorts. Anyone the teacher felt hadn't been putting in enough effort - which was quite a few of us - was then kept back to do press ups as a punishment.
It probably doesn't sound like a big deal to those of you who had to do this kind of thing regularly but it certainly was for us! I was thankful that he never took my class for cross country again, although he did for gym and always made us do it with our vests off.
No we did not. We rarely ever did any other sports (except swimming) shirtless.
Our "official" indoor pe kit was white shorts, vest, socks & plimsolls (early 70's grammar).
It was up to us if we wished to wear less than this. At the start of year 1 almost everyone wore all the items, but soon boys started going bare foot or stripped to the waist. Soon around half the class just wore shorts, and most of the rest went either bare foot or shirtless. Only 1 or 2 wore full kit.
In theory cross country kit was the same, but we had a much stricter master for xc, and socks and vests were banned, meaning we had to run shirtless, even in winter.
Good to hear the majority of your class stripped to the waist. Did you do any other sports as skins?
It was really just a way to get more of us to take off shirts and save the school from any trouble if our shirts kept getting muddy. As I said, the vast majority of us went shirtless because we knew that, in reality, keeping your shirt on wasn't really an option unless you were prepared to do some push ups after in the cold weather.
In the late 1950's when we got changed for pe our kit was strictly shorts and plimsolls, nothing else to be worn.When we were sent out for a cross country run therefore we were always stripped to the waist.This didn't bother me or any of the other boys as we were used to it and felt no embarrassment.Everyone seemed to enjoy running, even those who perhaps were not so good at it, and I would say that as a result it made us all more confident about ourselves.
Since it wasn't compulsory to run stripped to the waist, what right did the teacher have to punish any boy who got mud on his shirt?
Some did keep them on, yes, but the vast majority of us went without shirts. It was heavily discouraged and the guys with shirts on were warned to "not get any mud on there" or else they will have to do push ups after the race.
The course was full of puddles, mud and generally it was quite a workout. It's worth nothing that the boys who wore shirts tended to be the ones who were not very good at cross country!
Its definitely strange, especially since I only left school a couple of years ago. We were lucky in the sense that our cross country grounds were in an enclosed area and only teachers were there apart from us.
By no guidance re outdoor kit, there was no "uniform" or house colours to be worn just a t shirt, and we were not allowed to wear pants under our shorts when outdoors either
Steve,our pe kit was the same as yours in the gym, but we wore nothing extra for cross country and athletics.We played football, not in pe lessons but seperate double lessons when our pe shorts doubled up as football shorts, but still without underwear, and football shirts, boots and socks.So you must have received some guidance on tops for outdoor sports activities if you usually wore a T shirt.
Like most boys,I certainly wasn't bothered about wearing just shorts and plimsolls for pe and soon got used to having to go in the communal showers in the nude after pe and games. We did as were told without questioning it.
When our class had it's first pe lesson in secondary school which was an all boys school, I knew in a advance that we would not be wearing underwear or tops for pe. Our parents had been told at a parents evening held some months before we went to secondary school that pe was strictly shorts,plimsolls and that was it.
So they told me when we were buying uniform that I only needed shorts and plimsolls for pe. When outdoors there was no guidance on tops and we usually wore a t shirt. However, in summer most of us were bare topped.
So we turned up for pe and the teacher a big imposing man said "remember no pants or socks shorts only". He did say he might check ( the punishment was the slipper)but as far as I remember he never did.
I do not think only being allowed the minimum of clothing bothered me. It was the rules and that was that.
Bradley, did some boys keep their shirts on for cross country then? You said nobody was forced to run shirtless so I wasn't clear. Either way, the logic does seem a bit strange.
I left school in 2003 and, while we always wore tops for cross country, shirts and skins was commonplace for other aspects of PE. Like others here, I was one of those selected to play skins more often than not, maybe because I was on the school football team and the teacher in charge also took my class for PE. In football training it was usually shirts v skins as well so I got used to being a skin right the way through school.
The reasoning that was given was that some parents constantly complained of having to wash muddy shirts after cross country since our track had some very slippery parts to it, especially after it rained. We weren't forced to go without a shirt- it was just a recommendation- but most of our parents agreed. After all, our fathers probably all did their XC shirtless.
Our XC was done by everyone. We had competitions between different houses so everyone had to take part.
'Falling in mud and ruining your t shirt'
Strange excuse. With that argument who would ever wear a shirt during strenuous activity!
I don't believe a reason was ever given to us to us when we had XC. And the team trained shirtless during my time at School. The region has the lowest temperatures in the UK.
I'm sure the shirtless regime put many off joining the XC teams!
Warren, i agree that cross country in the winter is harsh, especially if you have to run without a shirt on.I certainly felt it was quite unfair to have to run in cold weather, sometimes freezing, without my shirt because there was a risk of us "falling in mud and ruining our shirts", especially when we normally did PE lessons with shirts on.
Like Toby My PE teacher had his usual suspects when it came to shirts versus skins. He was also XC Coach. After school runs were compulsory shirtless even in harshest Northern Irish Winters. He tended to pick members of the Football and XC teams. Which suited the beefier lads!
When I started at an all boys school in the late fifties we were all told before the first PE lesson in the gym to get changed into gym shorts and plimsolls.We were not allowed to wear shirts,pants or socks and this was our kit until we left at aged 18 both in the gym and outside including cross country running.After all PE lessons it was compulsory for everyone to go naked into the communal showers. We did as were told without question and no-one ever said anything about being shy or embarrassed; we just got used to it.
Unfortunately for me I was one of the favourites to strip. I have no idea why though. I was quite sporty but nothing special in any way. There were around 2 or 3 lads in each class who were singled out and that was the same in each class. Being honest once I got used to being a skin I didn't mind it too much, not that there was anything I could do. I do remember when I was 11 one of my friends saying his younger brother who was in the 1st year was singled out to strip down too. I think it was totally random but you got used to it. We were always pushed hard and was common for skins to be sweating freely, especially in the gym or playing basketball. At those points I was pleased to be a skin and it always got girls attention so bonus points there!
Toby, were you one of the 'favourites' in your class? How did you feel about it if so?
Don't remember anyone being singled out in that way myself, although we did have vests vs skins in PE quite frequently.
Wayne, your teacher sounded the same as ours. We were "introduced" to skins and vests as 9 year olds. I remember the very first lesson and being picked to stand in front of the class and was simply told " Right lad, vest off and drop it on the floor" soon after he picked others at random to drop their vests. To make things worse he had his "favourites" who always ended up as skins. It was the same every lesson until leaving at 18. If you had a punishment session it was always outside, we had to change round the back of one of the mobile classrooms and you had your top off regardless of weather or conditions. This was done during assembly time and always made you really late for the first lesson.
We did most sports activities in skins at some stage - football, basketball, volleyball and athletics were probably the most common. I was 12 the first time I did PE with my shirt off and that continued regularly through to 16. My first punishment run was at 13 or 14 but unfortunately it wasn't my last!
Wayne, how old were you when you started to strip to the waist and what activities did you play in skins?
Matt's PE teacher sounds like the one I had in the 80s. He was something of a disciplinarian and boys who were deemed to have stepped out of line - as I discovered - found themselves subject to a punishment run. These could vary in length and difficulty but there was one certainty, you'd be made to take your shirt off before the run started. If there was a nip in the air that was too bad, you just had to run faster to get warm! Sometimes he would order boys to strip to the waist in ordinary PE lessons as well. I'm not sure there was any reason other than to remind us who was in charge.
If I remember correctly we just had to roll up the sleeves of our blouses for the BCG test.
For the actual BCG injection we had to unbutton our blouses sufficiently to be able to slip them off one shoulder.
Thomas. If my recollection of the early 60's is right, the BCG test was done clad, then most boys had the injection against TB. For a few showing antibodies, like me, an X-ray was required just to check we were OK. The worst thing was that my mates found out and ribbed me about it the next day!
A "new broom" PE teacher made us run shirtless. It was initially for punishment runs, then for his classes and finally for all. He said it was to let air and sun to our bodies when we'd been cooped up inside. Also it let him see exactly what we were doing, although I can't think how that applied for running. And finally, there was the disciplinary aspect - we did what he told us to do. Although essentially a fair man, he was a hard taskmaster and stricter disciplinarian. Most Scots lads from the 60's will remember what that meant!
I only remember having two school medicals, one in primary and one in secondary, when I was at school in the late 50s and 60s.
In primary it was done in the last year or the year before from what I remember, so we were about 10 or 11 years old.
They were done in two adjoining classes or empty offices, one was were we stripped to underpants and the other the examining room.
We were taken one class at a time, boys and girls separately, accampanied by our class teacher who happened to be a female in that year. So we were about 12 boys in our group.
As soon as we arrived the teacher told us to strip to underpants in the waiting room, then taken in one at a time in the exam room where the nurse told us to take off our underpants and did the preliminary checks like height and weight. Then the doctor would examine us. He happened to be a male doctor.
Actually there were two of us boys in the exam room to speed things up, while one was being examined by the doctor another one was called in to be checked by the nurse.
Our teacher stood in the doorway between the two rooms to immediately call in another boy as soon as one was finished, so she actually had a view of us being examined in our naked glory.
The secondary medical exam had a little more privacy, but about that in another post maybe.
I can imagine the embarrassment of having mothers or other witnesses at secondary school medicals when one is in their teens, as some have mentioned.
Thomas Somehow I managed to avoid the BCG at school. However, our school medicals sound similar to yours except they were held in a designated classroom the windows having been covered up Ours was an all boys school. We we called into the classroom from out of our lessons about 6 of us at a time. We lined up in the room stripped to the waste and stood in line one behind the other. Then we were called forward to the doctor and after several checks on ears eyes etc we told
to " drop em" Anyone being shy or coy got a gruff "I said drop them right down".
Of course this exposed your bare backside to the next person in the queue. The worrying thing (bearing in mind we were about 14 years old,) was that parents we invited to be present and usually those days mums stayed and home and it would be them. As far as I know much to the relief of us lads no ones mum ever attended. It was bad enough having a female nurse present.
Matt, was it ever explained why you had to strip completely for the BCG? Seems very strange. We had our BCG injections at school when I was 12-13 (in the 1980s) and I remember we were told to strip to the waist and queue up but we kept the rest of our clothes on. It was the same for general medical exams at school, although those were done in two stages. For the first part you were shirtless, then you went individually into the doctor's office and had to strip naked when instructed.
By the way, I wasn't clear from your description of cross country; did you run without a top? Quite a few people here have mentioned shirtless running as standard for boys in that era but I wasn't sure.
Sometimes boys did run shirtless at my school but only in warm weather and by choice. I can't say it would have appealed to me in winter conditions!
As well as nudity in medicals, I remember it for X-rays. The first was when I was 8 or 9 at the local hospital. I was told to take off all my clothes in the changing room before the X-ray. That meant I had to walk naked in front of all the people in the changing room, and of course had to walk back.
The second time was a couple to years later after the BCG test for TB. I was in puberty and self-conscious about my body. I was told as a boy I had to strip completely - adult men only had to strip to the waist. I was then sent along a corridor to await my appointment standing outside the door while surprised looking, shirtless men came and went. It seemed an age, but it was soon over.
By the way, we did cross country/long distance running in brief, 60's style PE shorts and gymshoes. All weathers - I actually came to like frost, rain and wind!
I remember school sports physicals being quite overwhelming.
Maybe upwards of 40 lads at a time packed into the gym.
We had strip off in the changing room and proceed to the gym in our birthday suits.
As boarders we were well used to stripping off, but once we spotted the awaiting Female Doctor's and Nurses hands began quickly covering crotches.
They quickly put a stop to that!
There was no provision for privacy. No screens or curtains.
During college Physicals we had Male Physician's and kept our underwear on until the hernia check, performed behind a privacy screen.
I can recollect having two medicals during my time at Secondary School. The first was soon after I had started and was done in vest and pants (although the vest had to be lifted up enough for the doctor to use her stethoscope).
The second was in the 4th or 5th year, by which time the vest had given way to a bra. I did have to unfasten that and slip it down slightly to enable the (female) doctor to do a visual examination. Similarly I had to pull the top of my pants forward to allow her to see down there. I'm not sure what she was actually looking for, but she did ask if my periods were regular.
We had swimming lessons in our local municipal pool (which was closed to the public at that time) and had to wear a blue one piece costume.
Sid at Secondary school the only experience of nudity apart from being in the all boys class in the showers was the dreaded school medical exam. All lined up made to strip to our briefs and then line up. We approached the doctor individually, and at the end of the examination the doctor nearly always a lady would without warning tell you top drop em & cough. That was the worst thing.
Gavin - no problem! I went to Bedford Modern. We played against your school in rugby and cricket
Ian, it was not uncommon for boy scouts to swim nude in those days. Even at my prep school we had to take swim class in the nude, often with female teachers and instuctors for us young boys up to age 12 or 13.
Someone asked what it would have felt like being made to swim nude at school. Well, I guess some boys were really embarrassed but most of us got used to it since we had no choice. The worst part was standing at attention for roll call and instuctions at the begining of class with everything on display, but once in the water we all had fun.
In reply to Willy, I never experienced nude swimming at school . We had swimming lessons at the local municipal pool closed session for our school. We all wore the briefs type trunks now colloquially known as speedos. The only experience I had of nude swimming was at Buckmore Park Scout camp. Also when we went on summer scout camp at one of the private farms we used there was a secluded river which we would swim in. ~One day a scout dared someone to swim naked then we all did it. The leaders stayed in camp. No elf & safety those days. Also this was in the era when the Scout Association was only for boys.
Willy, we used to run past the gate of the girls grammar school stripped to just PE shorts and plimsolls and were often watched by the girls and there was quite a bit of banter between us. We enjoyed it and I'm sure none of us felt any embarrassment.We were aged from 11 till 18 and although we may have been a bit skinny to start with, we grew into quite strapping lads as we got older and enjoyed showing off in front of the girls.
I guess most of us schoolboys were skinny in those days, so nothing to show off. Most of us would have been uneasy with girls watching us stripped to the waist.
On another note, how many here had nude swimming at school? Some have even mentioned that they did swimming galas in the nude in front of spectators. I wonder what that would have felt like.
Thanks for coming in and supporting me! Yes, we competed against other independent public schools and that was my experience, too! Which school did you attend?
Hi Jono, Sounds like you went to a good school and I bet you boys looked forward to the inter house competitions in the gym, being able to show off barechested in front of the girls. I'm sure girls today would relish the opportunity of being allowed in the gym to watch the boys working up a sweat stripped to just a pair of PE shorts, but unfortunately times have changed.
Hi Rob, We never had mixed PE, though the girls would stand and look through the door windows which were reinforced glass. They always were allowed into the gym to watch inter house competitions. I'm sure that girls today wouldn't mind watching the boys exercise barechested for PE.
Jono, Thanks for the explanation. Glad you enjoyed being stripped down for normal PE and having the girls see you barechested. Did you have mixed PE lessons? Can't understand those boys being embarrassed about having hairy chests, I would have thought it made them feel more macho in front of the girls.
We always knew in advance, the reason being is the majority lived a good distance from the school. My parents lived 35 miles from it. No service buses went that far, just 2 trips daily so long journey in and even longer at night. It hasn't changed much today either and yes our council tax bill is the same as if we had all the services people expect. No teacher wanted to have responsibility of having to get people home on their hands.
Jono, what was the point of dragging you out of a lesson to the detriment of your education and of your classmates to have to go and strip to the waist,( presumably you mean to shorts and trainers) and be sent out on a run or made to work out. You must have been expecting it otherwise how would you have had your kit to change into? If they gave you, as you call it, PE punishment, why wasn't it done after school?
The school's official kit was:
Pair of White and pair of black shorts.
School football / rugby top ( yellow )
trainers any kind I think if I remember hi tec " squash " and Dunlop " tennis " were the most popular choice of footwear.
I didn't know anyone when starting at the school, just moved into area when the school year started. One boy had an older sister a couple of years above who told him what he could expect.
Our teacher made it absolutely clear that we would strip down as soon as were in the gym. Our PE lessons were either indoors or out but we stayed barechested regardless of the weather or temperature.
The football/rugby tops were worn infrequently, if it was decided it was warm enough then it was shirts vs skins...this happened more often than not.
Cross Country runs were always done barechested unless it was an inter house competition then one class would wear vests to distinguish teams.
Inter house fitness and basketball competitions were always done with everyone barechested.
You may have wondered why we needed to have a pair of black shorts and a pair of white shorts. Well at the very start, we were given a number... 1s would wear white shorts and 2s would wear black shorts.
Then with us all barechested, you could easily pick out the teams.
PE punishments were swift. It was not unusual for lessons to be interupted and the "victim" taken from the classroom. You quickly found yourself stripped down to the waist and out on the yard before either being given a run or a full fitness session regardless of the weather or temperature. If it rained / snowed then it was your tough luck. I was lucky and had 4 such punishments.... but they were all during the winter months.
Being a mixed school gave the girls plenty of opportunity to see all of us stripped down. They certainly approved seeing us barechested and we did too. One thing that didn't affect me was the issue of chest hair. A few lads thought they'd be exempt from stripping down having a hairy chest...our teacher merely shrugged his shoulders and made the strip anyway.
I think it was standard practice in my school for boys to wear a jockstrap especially age 14 onwards, so Gavin is quite right. Secondly, I seem to remember when we competed against otherschools, the boys wearing jockstraps, too. As for the ridiculous comment about jockstraps being unhygenic .. What tosh! They were washed!!
In reply to Dave
I do not think that there was any reaction by us lads having to do PE shirtless. It is just how it was.
I knew about it two ways.
1 My elder brother attended the same school and I knew that topless and no pants was the way it was
2 When my father attended an evening meeting for new parents the PE teacher explained it was shorts no pants, tops or socks. We only did PE indoors all team games were outside and we wore any t shirt and co loured sashes.
In reply to Robs comments, if there was additional flesh showing we did not seem bothered. As you say we would all be naked together in the showers afterwards.
It does seem that there is more inhibition these days and my son at High school wears a uniform house polo shirt, shorts with pants and tracky bottoms(winter) No showers are provided.
Mind you talking with him it is not PE as we know it. I do not think they work up a sweat.
Are there any high schools that still have their own swimming pools or provide swimming lessons. If so what has to be worn. Is there a choice between speedo type trunks or swimming shorts?
Dominic, I entirely agree. Like the majority of boys for decades,we had to wear just shorts with no pants or anything else for pe and thoroughly enjoyed the feeling of freedom and fresh air. So we might have shown some additional flesh in the gym, but we were all naked when we were in the showers afterwards, anyway.
Hi Jono!What was the reaction of your classmates having to do PE shirtless. How did you get to know it? Was it in a uniform list or the teacher told it to you himself? Was there any reason given to you having to do PE shirtless? How did you play team games if you were all barechested?
As you've written you left school at 1993 sot it seems shirtless PE kit tradition lasted much more longer than I thougt.It was contiuned into the 90's. I wonder when and why it became not being a practice anymore.
Ian,what was the reaction of your classmates having to do PE shirtless. How did you get to know it? Was it in a uniform list or the teacher told it to you himself? Was there any reason given to you having to do PE shirtless? How did you play team games if you were all barechested?
Ian - like you we were never told about athletic supports or felt the need for anything like that. At our first p.e. lesson, when we were told we would wear only a pair of shorts for p.e. with nothing underneath, it was mentioned that it was good for us to have plenty of fresh air in that area and it made sense both for hygiene and comfort. I can't help thinking an athletic support would be uncomfortable and unhygienic and I'm very glad we weren't made to wear them.
Re athletic supports, we were not told about or advised by the teachers of pe to wear them. Never gave a thought abouth them.
Really surprised the older boys didn't wear athletic supports! Why on earth not?
Best wishes Gavin
In reply to Tim, I think mum's priority was to make sure that school clothes weren't so short or tight that they would prompt a letter home from school. Maybe it was slightly different at a boys school, but our teachers were quite strict about that sort of thing.
From what I recall, in a lot of cases, I did get two years out of a lot of my school clothes and where that wasn't possible (as with my first year blouses and PE tops), they were kept as spares for my younger sister.
I attended secondary school (all boys) 1961 to 1966 Indoors pe was the white shorts previously mentioned, no pants as was the norm it seems for that era. No top and plimsolls no socks.
Outdoors was winter football same shorts any t shirt( very few had football club shirts still no pants and football boots and socks. summer was simplified cricket quite soft balls white shorts again no pants and depending on temperature a vest or t shirt was optional.
Gedvin. In response to your comments at secondary school, we were never told about athletic supports and never wore them in any year..
In my junior school boys & girls did pe together and in our case all boys wore grey uniform shorts adn so for pe we simply took off our shirts and did the pe in shorts and vest. The girls however, removed their skirts (girls did not wear trousers then) and did the lesson with us in their underwear and vest. In this day and age this would be considered discrimination and either boys would have do the lesson the same as girls in pants or the girls would were shorts.
Furthermore, in the summer, pe was held outside in the playground which was by a busy road open to the publics view.. This would not happen now.
Finally, I have not known boys in Junior schools not wearing pants for pe, and being inspected. How was the inspection carried out and was in front of the girls?
When did you go to school? Was it in England? Were you allowed to wear shirts for indoor or outdoor PE?
Frank I wore grey shorts at secondary school until about the age of 14 (all boys school) My shorts were quite short and as far as I remember, not many shops sold shorts to cater for the older boy and they tended to be sized for younger lads. With briefs underneath they could become uncomfortable by the end of the day.
I wore long gray socks which were itchy, and for pe tight thin white shorts made of nylon and of of course no pants, which left little to the imagination, especially if we had a cross country run and it rained.
Later on more loose fitting white shorts became available, but then, with no pants there was the problem of support as we got older and depending on the exercises being carried out there could be some additional flesh on show.
However it was all part of school life and we just got on with it.
My school required senior school boys to wear an 'athletic support' as stipulated in the school clothing requirements. So that would have meant any boy aged between 13 and 19. The regulation was never strictly policed, but wearing anything else but a jockstrap was frowned upon and over zealous prefects made you change if you were caught without one. When I was in the junior school we were not allowed to wear any underclothing under our shorts. This was definitely policed!
Frank, I remember those knee stockings that were worn with the school uniform, usually in the winter to keep our legs warm.Usually boys went into long trousers at 14 or during the winter months and then back into shorts when it became warmer.
For me it was never an issue whether I should wear long trousers or shorts,it was considered mandatory and short trousers were replaced with more shorts as I grew older.
Yes,they were very cold items of clothing to wear in the winter, but I simply grew accustomed to wearing them and my parents indulged themselves in this practice till I left school.
Like several other posters here have recounted, I was kept in shorts till I was 14, including secondary school uniform.
In vain I begged my mother to buy me long trousers for school, she just ignored my request.
Admittedly those uniform grey school shorts were knee length or just below the knee, and with near knee length socks. Anyone remember those woollen grey socks as part of school uniform?
Also from what I remember I think most boys at my school wore shorts anyway as part of uniform in the first few years of secondary school. This was in the 60s.
In contrast to the school uniform shorts our white PE shorts were really short and of thin material.
Rob,Tim,Ian, I agree the shorter style of shorts look considerably smarter and more practicable in warm weather.
When boys were promoted to wearing long trousers usually at the age of thirteen, I was made to wear shorts up to year 11.
Usually the brief style of short trousers could be bought'off the peg', but they could be shortened to my mother's desired requirement.So that the correct length was achieved my shorts could be no longer than than when standing straight the hem of the shorts could be no longer than when standing straight the shorts could reach down to the tip of my fingers with my arms stretched downwards.
They were worn for winter and summer and could be very chill wearing them in cold weather.
Since I retired, shorts are certainly my normal everyday summer wear usually from April till September, sometimes earlier till later. However, like Ian, I prefer the shorter type above the knee and agree that it is difficult to purchase the right length in a tailored design. I am fortunate that my wife is a dab hand with the sewing machine and can shorten them for me; that is often all you can do. I think that long baggy shorts below the knee or combat shorts look scruffy and apart from that I like to get my thighs tanned.
A good number of years back I discovered the 'Kiwi'range by 'Craghopper'- which I liked but which were a little too long - the answer was to take them to a little Chinese seamstress who shortened them by some 3 1/2". I've done this with several pairs over the years, although it may not work with cargo shorts. Sadly the 'Kiwi' range, as I knew it, doesn't seem to be available now.
End of advert
In response to Tim re shorter shorts. This is one of my main gripes about fashion today. It is difficult to purchase shorter shorts especially a tailored design. The majority seem to be long baggy shorts below the knee or combat shorts.
I prefer the shorter type.
Tim, I agree that short shorts have gone returned to the fashion of the seventies and eighties and were worn all the year round.
They were not compulsory at school,but my parents decided to keep me in shorts permanently.
@ Andrea - I can't honestly remember being made to try on the previous years clothes to see if they fitted - they just seemed to come. Perhaps the mothers of little girls had different 'priorities' than the mothers of little boys! (Bless 'Em All!. And ... as an only child I was spared shared bathwater.
As Rob says - communal showers came as an initial shock - but we just got on with it - there was no choice. Something I've noticed with warmer summers is that many youths & boys seem to be happier with shorter shorts on both the games field & street, and that shorts are almost becoming 'default' summer wear for men.
My maternal grandmother had rickets as a child even earlier than the 1920's, and my mum was keen to ensure that I got out in the summer sunshine and when I was about 7 years I remember she asked me if I wanted to take my shirt off, which I did, plus my vest. After that I often used to enjoy running around in just shorts. So, when I went to grammar school I had no problem about being shirtless in PE, although after being used to just a weekly bath at home,having to take up to three communal showers a week, an innovation in itself, and nude in front of the other boys, still came as an initial shock , but which I soon overcame. My mum continued to ensure that when I was outdoors in the summer until I left school,I always wore shorts and made sure I got the sun to my body. I have continued this, passing this on to my two sons, to ensure that we all benefit from taking in Vitamin D, something which many youngsters today don't seem to be able to do.
As I remember it most of my school uniform started out as roomy and ending up tight and a little short! I always knew the school holidays were drawing to a close when mum made me try on last years uniform and PE kit to check what would do for another year and what needed to be replaced. I recall that a growth spurt over the summer between my first and second years necessitated a shopping trip not only for new blouses and PE shirts, but a different type of underwear too!
With regard to the weekly bath, when we were primary school age my sister and I used to argue about who's turn it was to have first use of the water!
In reply to Dominic - my father suffered from Rickets in the 1920s.
In response to the comments about shirtless gym & games, showers, etc., - I think the very great majority of boys (& girls?) just accepted all of it as part of the process of growing up. Until the mid to late 50s you all knew that you'd probably be doing National Service anyway. There might have been an initial 'shock of the new' but that was all. (Whether the quality of the gym teaching was all that good I don't know and its too far back to discuss)
I remember my p.e. shorts lasted quite a few years too. Things got a bit cramped inside with bulges becoming more obvious but no-one seemed to care.
As for the comments about personal hygiene, Tim - you are so right. I remember in the 60s having a weekly bath at home and clothes were not changed nearly as frequently. Rickets had, I think, disappeared by then but I hear it is coming back as children are not allowed out in the sun without being covered up with excessive clothing or large amounts of sun block. Times change but not always for the better, perhaps.
Just a couple of thoughts:
Rob says 'as far as our shorts were concerned,I don't think many of us grew out of them, they just got shorter and the gap between the waistband and our navels got wider'. - I completely agree - I think my first pair of (secondary) school gym shorts lasted about five years.
The whole think about topless gym/ no underpants makes sense to me if you look at the state of public health in the 20s & 30s when it was pretty poor. There was a definite 'outdoor movement' at that time and I don't think anyone would have thought much about boys doing gym & ganes topless. When coupled with the fact that lack of Vitamin D causes rickets exposure to the sun makes sense. Also in those days, for many, it was the 'weekly bath' rather than the 'daily shower' and clothes weren't changed as often as they are now so, to me, not exercising in sweaty clothes makes sense.
The PE kit list which parents were given included a T-shirt, so we all brought one to the fist lesson. We were all sat on the floor in the gym and the master told us that when we got changed we must always take everything off, including pants and socks, and come back into the gym wearing just shorts with nothing underneath and plimsolls. So the T-shirts were never worn for PE. However,as far as our shorts were concerned,I don't think many of us grew out of them, they just got shorter and the gap between the waistband and our navels got wider. We used to be barefoot outside for athletics, and no-one ever commented about being shirtless in the gym or outdoors, especially cross country runs. I agree that boys need to wear minimum kit when involved in vigorous exercises,as we were made to do, and built up a really hot sweat,making us feel really great and looking forward to getting in the hot showers afterwards.
Dave - I was at my all boys Grammar School in the 60s - I don't know if there was a directive but we were always bare-chested for p.e. and games - barefoot as well but that might not have been as common. I think it might just have been about common sense, practicality and avoiding the need for unnecessary kit.
Simon - you are right about running barefoot not being as harsh as it sounds. I was glad we ran cross country barefoot as the course usually included some quite muddy bits and the thought of having to get plimsolls clean and dry again afterwards did not appeal. Feet did harden very quickly and I was never aware of any problems with having to run barefoot.
Hi Dave, I left school in 1993 and barechested PE, cross country runs included, were the norm for us. I remember our first PE session. After changing we went straight to the gym and after a minute or so the teacher told us all to strip down and from then until leaving school at 18, all PE and Games sessions were done barechested.
I think at this stage it was the school's choice but our teacher being an ex army PTI, I guess it was inevitable. I know we all had our own personal thoughts but I preferred being barechested. As for cost, well it saved my mum having to buy a proper PE shirt that you'd grow out of anyway.
It was just tradition - boys just needed to wear the minimum amount of kit to exercise in, no need for a shirt or socks.
Thus, shorts only inside, plus plimsolls outside (and sometimes barefoot, which isn't as harsh as it sounds, feet soon harden up).
Using runs as a punishment also had advantages, it imposes a physical punishmnet on a boy, is fairly long in duration, witnessed by other boys while the boy is undergoing punishment and keeps boys fit.
Certainly my boarding school had a hierarchy of punishments, from starting with lines, then detention, then some kind of physical exercise, then caning. Even canings started as a couple of strokes with a thin cane on trousers/briefs in private, and increased in intensity up to 6 (sometimes more) hard strokes with a much heavier cane on shorts (or even stripped) in publlic
Rob, yes I didn't know that boys had to be barechested for outdoor runs. I live in middle-Europe. In primary school we had to wear vests even outdoors and in secondary school we wore T-shirts. We played shirts vs skins at basketball matches for examples.
Reading the posts it seems for me that in the 60's (and earlier from about the 40's?) shirtless PE kit was a standard for boys at schools in Western-Europe. I wonder what was the reason to introduce it to almost every schools. Was it a central recommendation?
It was a small/medium boarding school in the West Midlands that has since joined with another one.
The early morning runs were normal for the time, and nothing unusual. Having prefects look after punishment runs or detentions, again was normal; most schools where this happened had a system where the prefects could cane a boy, or more often report them to a teacher for a caning - we had the later.
Most prefects were fine, one or two misused their power. In this situation they were going to get you caned, it was just a case of what excuse they used - typical things were being late turning up, or being cheeky, or "not trying". We just had to accept that we were going to be made to report to a teacher, wearing only our shorts and get 6 strokes of the cane.
Simon .. Which boarding school did you attend?
Dave! it sounds as though you were amazed to watch the video and to realise what boys had to wear when they were sent out on a run at that time.But that was how it was when I was at an all boys grammar school from 1955-61. Public schools were also notorious for sending boys out for an early morning daily run all year round in just shorts and plimsolls followed when they got back by cold showers. Prince Charles was famously sent to Gordonstoun and hated it! I was about to post my comments when up popped Simon to add further confirmation. It certainly sounded a sadistic regime at his school, even before mentioning the cold showers!
From Dave's comment earlier
Well I think its a morning run at a boarding school
This ties in eactly with what happened at my boarding school in the early 60's.
We were a boys only school, and every morning we had to complete a 2 mile run in the school gronds/local woods/fields. Kit was shorts and plimsolls, always stripped to the waist, even in the middle of winter.
Punishment runs were also given, these took place after school, and were looked after by prefects. 2 laps of the morning route, making 4 miles in all - same kit, shorts, plimsolls, no shirt or socks. Once or twice we were made to run barefoot as well by the more sadistic of the prefects. If they chose to, they could report a boy for being late or slow changing, dirty kit, not trying or any other reason they thought of - nearly always this resulted in being made to report to the gym and being caned in just your pe shorts.
Our indoor pe kit was shorts only, as was normal at the time.
And I haven't even mentioned the cold showers!
It was quite a culture shock having to shower after PE when we first started at secondary school. At primary school we just changed in our classroom and always kept our underwear on, so being naked in front of classmates and the teacher was rather daunting at first.
Dan, I don't remember anyone making any comment about the showers; they may have had their private thoughts but as you said, we just got on with it.
Our school was on the ourskirts of town and we ran across the playing fields and past half a dozen houses and across the road and we were then into woodland and out on to hills. We enjoyed being in just shorts and feeling the fresh air on our bodies,eagerly looking forward to getting in the showers.
"Although we didn't run bare chested in freezing winter weather,when we were sent out on a run, usually between April and October,we wore just shorts with nothing on underneath and plimsolls with no socks, which was our normal kit in the gym."
I think in the video from abuot 1:05 we can see a run that you describe. Well I think its a morning run at a boarding school but I think boys (and girls in the first minute of the video) are in their usual PE kit.
This is an archive film of a life in a boarding school.
Hi Andrea, I suppose what you describe was the standard PE uniform for girls in most schools.
As for compulsary showers, how did you girls feel about it, were you comfortable with it?
I know that for us boys some were very uncomfortable being naked in front of other boys and teachers in the shower. Some were extremely shy and modest and must have been torture for them, but we just got along with it having no other choice.
Rob, were any of the boys annoyed about the communal showers?
Also, were you made to run through town streets in just shorts or just cross country?
Although we didn't run bare chested in freezing winter weather,when we were sent out on a run, usually between April and October,we wore just shorts with nothing on underneath and plimsolls with no socks, which was our normal kit in the gym. We had two gym periods a week and also a double games period outside when we played football in the winter and wore shorts,no underpants, football shirt and boots and socks.In the summer most of us played cricket.After every session of PE and football it was compulsory to go naked in the communal showers.
In reply to Dan, we had compulsory showers at our Secondary school in the 1970s.
I suppose you could say that we had the opposite of a no underpants rule - our indoor PE kit was gym knickers without shorts or a skirt over them.
Bras were allowed under the white polo shirts that comprised the top half of our PE kit.
I can't imagine doing cross country runs bare chested in freezing Winter weather. But it seems from many posts here that this was the case in many schools.
The only PE we did at my secondary school was a one or two hour session in the gym twice a week, and even for that we wore white T-shirts and shorts.
The no-underpants rule also seems to have been common in many schools, though not at my school. I guess it did not apply to girls in most schools either, if any. But we did have showers after PE.
I wonder how many here had compulsary showers after PE.
Reading some of the earlier posts took me back to my schooldays and PE, very strict on dress code, no underpants rule and if caught would have to remove said underpants in full view of the other boys and then at the end of the lesson have 3 across the bottom with a plimsoll.PE vests were worn only outdoors, on cross country out of sight of the school we removed them until we came close to school again. I recently joined a gym and signed up for the men only days and had the induction where I did a treadmill test and had to be bare chested because I was wired up, I was told as I put on my sports shirt afterwards that nobody bothers with them on workouts here, so that took me back to school gym sessions.
We always had to wear vests for PE until our teacher picked the skins team and then would those lads strip down. The discarded vests would either end up on the edge of the stage if indoors or on the grass or yard if outdoors for the rest of the lesson. Myself and 3 others were picked to strip down for nearly every session for some reason, others would drop their vests occasionally.
When I started at secondary school we had to do PE bare-chested. I had never done this before but soon got used to being stripped to the waist both indoors and on cross-country runs. It was also quite common to be barefoot indoors and some boys even did cross-country while barefoot.
When I was at primary school in the 1960s most of us wore vests (boys and girls - we used to change for PE in the same classroom for PE). The boys ones were plain white and we girls were mainly white with a very small amount of pink around the neckline. We all wore T shirts over our vests for PE though.
Like Charles' sister the vests tended to get discarded once we graduated to bras. For a few this occurred during our last year at Primary school, but for most it was during the first couple of years at Secondary. Attitudes to this varied - some wanted to wear bras as soon as possible to feel more 'grown-up' (a bit like the jockstrap wearers Charles referred to) but for others it took a some persuasion to do so (either from their mothers, or on occasions our PE teacher).
As I don't have a brother and went to an all girls secondary school I can't comment on whether boys of my era continued to wear vests into their teens.
Charles - as Mark said most of us went topless for p.e. - in my case in the 60s and I was very happy about that. I too am surprised that you weren't told to wear nothing under your shorts - I thought that was an almost universal rule at that time and much appreciated if you were made to work hard which we certainly were.
A lot of boys wore the hated vests when I started at secondary school though most of us had managed to get rid of them long before we left. They were never worn for p.e. Plimsolls were on the kit list but never worn inside and rarely outside.
Charles,most of us have said that we had to go topless for PE, particularly in the 1950s and for many years afterwards, but few had any qualms about it and like yourself,when you had to be stripped to the waist, thoroughly enjoyed it.It is certainly healthier and I would have thought that the new Pe master should have also told you not to wear anything under your shorts.If you were made to sweat like us you needed a complete change of clothes and a shower afterwards although it sounds as though your mum wouldn't have approved of you having to go completely naked twice a week.
Unlike many posters here, I don't remember having any qualms about being topless for PE. When I started at secondary school, back in the mid 1950s, our PE kit comprised white vest, white shorts and plimsolls, the actual style being irrelevant. Back in those days, plain white vests, although increasingly unpopular as underwear, still featured in most kids' wardrobes, so with clothes rationing still a recent memory, making underwear double as PT kit made sound economic sense, as did Mum's skill in the cotton-shorts tailoring department.
As far as I can remember, there were no prohibitions on wearing anything under our shorts; most of us either wore our underpants or went commando, while a few lads acquired jockstraps which the rest of us envied and thought rather daring. On occasions when sunny weather encourageed PE classes outide, we played team games as "shirts and skins", but this was the exception rather than the rule.
After I had been at this school for a couple of years, a new PE master announced that, henceforth, it would be healthier for us to do PE topless, a development that we all welcomed wholeheartedly and unanimously, and which effectively put the kibosh on vests as underwear as far as my peers and I were concerned. While Mum wasn't happy with the thought of her son and heir going bare-chested for an hour or so a couple of times a week, the temptation for said son, not only initially to "forget" to put his vest back on after PE, but soon also to "forget" to put it on at all on a PE day, soon became irresistible! Mum was even less happy once she realised that not wearing a vest for PE was a cast-iron excuse for not wearing a vest on PE days and, by extension, for giving up vests altogether, a project I had been working on ever since my younger sister revealed that she had received maternal approval to discard her vests when she started wearing bras a couple of years previously.
We had to wear a jockstrap for sport like PE and running, seems to have fallen out of fashion today
I agree with Dominic that teachers today don't/can't exercise discipline over their charges. Kids are even allowed to call teachers by their first names/
Mark and Roy - you are so right about the lack of manners shown these days. I still find myself apologising to the person who is in the wrong occasionally.
Mark - I live in London now and travel on the underground. A couple of times recently school parties have got on and the children have rushed and pushed past adults to get to seats. Once I mentioned to one of the adults with the party how bad-mannered this appeared but they just stared back at me as though I was talking in a foreign language - perhaps I was!
Back to a more relevant point - children never did answer back or disobey an order at school - not unless you wanted to experience the consequences which would have been more unpleasant than anything teachers can dish out these days. Maybe that is part of the problem - teachers can no longer discipline their pupils effectively.
At one time in British society it was quite common to apologise to someone if in fact it was that person who had done wrong.
This is true Terry. I shudder when children don't stand up for elderly people on buses. Its not their fault as they haven't been brought up to do it.
As a child i gave my seat when the bus was full not because I was afraid of my parents punishing me for being rude. I did it because I knew it was the right thing to do.
Have you noticed that no-one says excuse me anymore to get past you? They just stand behind as if you have eyes in the back of your head.
Last week on a train in the first class, a well dressed middle aged chap stood behind s elderly lady as she put her case on the rack. He grew inpatient as she took her time. Finally he pushed past her. He was of an age to know better but couldn't bring himself to say excuse me. When I say it, people look at me as if i am insane.
Its not just children who don't know their manners, but its the majority of society. many those who were brought up "properly" seem to have forgotten the simple things that make life more pleasant.
It is as if that showing you care about others has become a weakness and that many are afraid to show they care for fear of looking weak or different.
We live in the I'm alright Jack era. maybe we always did!
I agree with Rob & Mark especially realizing that actions have consequences. Especially disobedience. But I think we have lost out on the polite society. I sometimes see my son's school friends in the street. They know who I am and I say hello. whereas we as kids would have replied (heaven help us if it got back to our parents that we ignored someone) they totally ignore you as if you never existed. What has happened to manners, or is it that if someone speaks to you, you have a hidden agenda?
Rob, you are correct. When we were told to do something at school we did it or else.
We didn't argue if told to go barefoot or shirtless in PE.
The last thing we wanted was to in trouble or a detention. That would mean our parents finding out and a double punishment. We knew from than an early age that actions have consequences
Terry, referring to your comments about communal showers, not only were they essential after a tough session in the gym in the 50's & 60's but also physiologically when we were in the showers it was an important part of our physical education when we could see how our classmates were developing during the stages of puberty. This helped us to to realise that we were all going through the same experiences of growing up and as a result I certainly had no personal inhibitions about others seeing me naked in the changing rooms and showers.
Unfortunately,most lads nowadays do not have to strip to the waist for pe let alone take showers afterwards and therefore have become very inhibited and afraid to talk about their personal problems.
No problem, Jamie; thanks for your comments.
Rob, I actually did start off with nylon PE shorts like the ones you describe and so did many other boys. But as I got older I wore cotton shorts instead, largely for the reasons you mentioned!
Underpants were permitted for PE but only if you had a spare pair to change into after the lesson. If not then you had to do the lesson with nothing under your shorts (which I guess was probably a lot more hygienic).
Officially our PE kit was the same in the sixth form but, as at your school, things became more relaxed and quite a few boys preferred to do it with their vests off.
Didn't mean to sound bitter about my experiences at school! I just think I would have enjoyed attending a school where boys were not only permitted but required to go barechested. I guess it's just a measure of how times changed.
I agree with Rob. I was at school in the late fifties and early to mid sixties and you did as you were told.
If you were told to strip to the waist and go barefoot-and you were- you stripped to the waist and went barefoot.
Lads are more inhibited these days, not through their faults but because society dictates that they are protected from the eyes of unwelcome strangers who are around and might look at them or take photos of them on their 'phones for their own gratification. Things were different in our childhood, when we were encouraged by our parents from early years each summer to strip to the waist and run around outside in our shorts.Nowadays, any responsible parent does not allow their children out of their sight. I do not agree with youngsters being dressed in long trousers from the day they learn to walk, but that's the fashion today.
In the late 50's & early 60's when you & I at all boys schools we all did as we were told. I remember my first PE lesson when we had been told what to wear and as we went to the changing room we were all talking & some boys were asking us whether we were allowed to wear t-shirts & we said no, just shorts & plimsolls. No more was said as they all got used to being stripped to the waist.At the end of the lesson & back in the changing room, the boys were getting into the communal showers naked.I remember hesitating for a second or two before realising there was no way out for me but to take off my shorts & go in the showers.My embarrassment at the others seeing my penis soon disappeared as saw I was the same as other boys, & my inhibitions about going in the showers had gone for ever.
Terry,Rob, I attended a secondary modern, mixed boys and girls.
We also wore those nylon shorts that you mentioned and these were typically worn without any underwear.
Of course, shorts were a lot shorter then and they were translucent when wet and we had to do long country runs through villages and main roads.
I was very indignant at being made to wear those see throughs and the embarrassment it caused.
I attended an all boys school 1961 to 1966. PE for us was also shorts no pants or top. We wore white shorts and as you say some boys wore the nylon type and when we played football in the rain (yes those days we still had to go ouitside if it was raining) the white nylon shorts became see through. However, no one seemed to care. We also wore plimsolls and as you say there were no branded trainers and plimsolls were great levellers.
Like you at the end of the lesson it was communal showers all naked of course which was accepted as normal. I am sure these days lads are more inhibited and the thought of communal showers are a no! no!
Times have certainly changed.
Jamie,we each went to an all boys school but I would not have minded if it had been mixed and boys and girls did pe together and boys had to wear just gym shorts. We had two single lessons each week in the gym and one double when we played soccer, or cricket in the summer.We were sent out on a run from time to time in the single lessons, but it sounds as though you went running during a double, which explains why the gym was being used by another class.We wore black or white shorts and mine were black. We were not allowed to wear underpants(what about you?) or socks, and trainers were unheard of in the 50's so were all wore plimsolls.No expensive branded trainers, so it was all very levelling for us.After pe and football communal nude showers were compulsory.in the sixth form we still wore the same kit but it was a lot more relaxed, with smaller classes and we played team games, when we also wore two different coloured sashes,(no shirts against skins).
I hope your white shorts were not like the nylon ones which some boys wore in my class.Because the gym was being used for an exam,we were sent out on a run when it
started to rain and the nylon shorts became almost see through. Fortunately we did not meet anyone outside the school gates & we were soon up in the fields and the sun came out & the nylon material soon dried in the breeze.I think the local people were used to seeing us boys running & wouldn't have raised an eyebrow if they had seen the boys wet nylon shorts,although today there would have been an uproar about it.
You really do sound bitter about your missed oportunity to run stripped to the waist, and not being able to at anytime. Yes, it was very nice when it was dry & the sun shone but really not so comfortable when you got wet and cold. We just ran a bit faster & got back to school & into the warm showers.
You're right Rob, that would have been interesting to find myself barechested in a gym full of girls! Unfortunately that didn't happen as I was at an all boys school. So the class I was sent to join were boys from the year above mine and no, I wasn't the only boy without a vest. The usual PE kit for both the gym and outdoors was vest in school colours, white shorts and socks and trainers. However it was common practice to play 'shirts against skins' in the gym and on that occasion for obvious reasons I was told to join the skins team!
While I was often a skin for PE in the gym, I did want to see how it felt outdoors with the breeze and maybe even some rain on my bare chest and back and it was disappointing to be refused permission. From what you say it sounds like I missed out!
John, I don't think it worried me about getting my first pair of long trousers as I was certainly not the only boy in class still wearing shorts although I probably appreciated the warmth.
I don't recall what happened to my school shorts but don't remember seeing them again. Unfortunately, shorts are not considered childish nowadays, certainly by parents who seem to put their boys into long trousers as soon as they grow out of nappies. It is far healthier to get the sun and air to them.
Jamie, our pe kit was just the norm at that time and we accepted it and got to enjoy it.When our parents were given a list of the school uniform our pe kit included a t-shirt,
but at the beginning of of the first lesson we were told to go to the changing room and take everything off and come back to the gym wearing just shorts and plimsolls. At that time all boys wore sleeveless vests under their shirts all year round, so it felt extra good being stripped to the waist, especially outside. (sorry about that, Jamie!).
When you asked the teacher if you could run in just your shorts & he refused and sent you to a class who were in the gym, were you then the only one without a top as you had 'forgotten' yours, or was everyone barechested? What was your normal kit in the gym? Was the class who were in the gym half of yours who went running while the rest were inside or were they a different class entirely? If it was mixed school, maybe it was the girl's turn to use the gym. That would have been fun for you!
Rob, I do agree we were kept in shorts till we were a lot older in our school days. The change over to long trousers was usually about 13 or 14, although this could also be decided by the boys height, when a boy could be kept in shorts till he was a lot older.
This criteria was considered important and usually boys couldn't wait to get their first pair of long trousers.
Shorts would then be discarded and not be worn again, as they were considered 'childish'.
Like you, my parents didn't take these views and I wore shorts all the time regardless of my age, even after I left school.
Really wish I'd been at school in your day Rob, it sounds like there was a more sensible approach then. I wanted to do cross country with a bare chest when I was at school about 20 years ago but it wasn't allowed. Once I pretended to have forgotten my vest for the lesson and asked the teacher if I could run in just my shorts. But he flatly refused, saying it was too cold - like a vest made so much difference! - and instead made me go inside and join a class who were in the gym. Ridiculous really.
I was kept in grey school shorts until the winter after I
was 14 although it was an all boys school in the late 1950's. From then until I started work when I was nearly
18 my parents told me when I was at home in the summertime to put my shorts on and get the sun and fresh air to my body.So I usually wore just a pair of leisure shorts and always got a nice tan out in the garden. In school pe, we always wore shorts with nothing underneath and bare chests
indoors and outside on the sports field and for cross country running. We all enjoyed this, especially feeling the breeze on our chests. I feel privileged to have been at school at that time and sorry that today's youngsters
have to be so cosseted. However, with my schoolday's experiences, I am more confident and to this day continue to wear shorts whenever I can throughout the summer with or without a shirt.
Simon, I agree, it was the parents' prerogative to keep their children dressed as they so desired, but certainly I considered to be kept in shorts up to my leaving age at school was exceeding the boundaries.
James as I posted previously in response to Laura & John I wore short grey trousers until about the age of 13. They were short and very tight. These were worn all year round. Eventually, when I was considered to have grown tall enough I was allowed longs.
This was in the mid 60's when parents dictated what was worn. I did not have any say in the matter. Parent chose all of your clothes. On the other hand I do not think we were so governed by the latest fashion trends.
Roy, I wore short trousers till my fifth year (year 11).
I was the oldest boy to wear short trousers in my school till I left
When I was at school in the 1950's and 60's the boys wore shorts in primary school and I changed into long trousers after Christmas in my second year at secondary school.(Year 8).
It seems like for years now boys have worn long grey trousers in primary school which means they have to change to shorts for pe. At least in our primary school for PE all we boys had to do was take of our shirts and do PE in our grey shorts and singlet. We never thought it strange that girls had to do PE in their underwear(Regulation Navy blue) and mixed class where was the equality there?
Simon, it was a family tradition to keep boys dressed in shorts through school years and I had to accept it without complaint or criticism.
Like your shorts, mine were ultra-short and to be kept in shorts during the cold winter months was an endurance and took a certain amount of fortitude.
I wish we had been able to wear warm tights (or trousers) when I was at secondary school - my legs used to get really cold cycling to school in the winter!
As posted previously I too had to wear the short shortsup to about the age of 13 which were very uncomfortably tight and I would have thought these days condidered too short to be decent. that was summer AND winter.
Laura,I remember the shorts I used I used to wear for school, although they were not obligatory, my parents decided to keep me in shorts for what seemed to be in perpetuity.
As my sister could wear warm tights in the winter my legs were exposed to the bitter weather and my shorts were trim and made to fit well above the knee.
Some boys wore track suits if the weather was cold, but I had to brave the elements and freeze in shorts more suitable for the summer.
I agree with Laura. Shorts too exposing? Is that why it seems all the young lads these days seem to wear the horrendously long board shorts. they must drag so much when swimming in them.
Samuel, too exposing? Really? Do you never wear shorts in the summer, on holiday, at the swimming pool? Does the sight of legs cause you problems? And as for protection from the cold, are you serious? It's rarely below freezing in the daytime, are you and your classmates so delicate that you can't handle playing sport when it's a bit chilly?
At my school we always wear track suits and not shorts since shorts are a it too exposing and don't protect against the cold in the winter. There's nothing unsafe about track suits really.
I wonder if track suit bottoms are now worn brcause of elf & safety. We cannot have the students damaging theirselves of the field if they fall over.
When my son was at Secondary school a few years ago he said that there were showers, but they were rarely used as there wasn't time before the next lesson. He just used to keep a can of deodorant in his sports bag. His outdoor PE kit was a rugby shirt and shorts (worn with normal underwear), but a lot of the girls used to wear tracksuit bottoms or leggings.
A lot different from my school days when showers were compulsory and tracksuit bottoms were definitely not allowed!
Our PE and outdoor games were usally held as the last lesson of the day. So if we could and there was no teacher patrolling the changing rooms we would try and miss showers get changed and go straight home. Then later we could have a cvilised bath.
It is certainly different these days. I know from friend teenagers at high school, showers are not available or expected after games or pe. And tracksuit bottoms are often the norm along with a rugby shirt and of course no one would suggest nowadays no underwear for pe.
I mthe old black rubber soul plimsolls trainers were not available and plimsolls were worn without socks so iften they rubbed on the heel. How on earth did we survive? But we have.
I was actually referring to gym shorts. When we began the day with PE it was regularly freezing outdoors and in the gym.
I remember the water in toilet bowls in the boys changing room having a film of ice over it.
Yet we had shorts only kit for gym. This was school policy. The official outdoor kit included those horrid rubber plimsoles and vest! Both masters banned vests! Decades previously some boys wore their normal winter vests! The outrage! Hence they banned them and we all had extra vests to wear. Our Mothers insisted on them. 30 min later we were freezing and vests are banned. Our gym got little use despite the harsh Northern Irish winters.
You refer to wearing shorts. W this school uniform? Even in secondary school (all boys) I had to wear the regulatory short grey uniform shorts until about the age of 13. Before that age you was not considered old enough to wear longs. O how I longed to allowed to wear grown up trousers. I should mention I was in the minority most all though not all wore long trousers. At least,it was not such a shock to me when I had to wear shorts for pe in winter. Also because I was a Scout I was used to wearing shorts for uniform up to the age of 16.
Of course there were no designer labels those days, and alot of clothes were hand me downs(except underwear)or bought as cheap as possible.
Simon, I agree that today's youth are becoming wimps. However the Heath & Safety environment restricts activities we took for granted!
A video of two lads diving into the sea during the recent storm Desmond caused uproar from the Cotton Wool Society! The video shows the youths leap from the famous Blackrock diving tower in Galway into stormy waters.
Although completely moronic I was still glad to see some tough lads exist and reminded me off my youthful macho bravado and competition!https://youtu.be/Ui0vpIg7G3Y
Sterling, my experience was like your's wearing severall layers with the ibligatory vest(singlet).Then pe in barely nothing very cold in winter. As you say no colds or flu. Futhermore no heating in bedrooms . In the winter we woke up to freezing rooms literally.
Re Ron Our school swimming lessons were held at a public pool although a closed session. However, we wore trunks (sppedo style). I do recall at Scout camp swimming in rivers(no elf & safety) but some boys did not have trunks and so swam in their pants. (same thing). Howvwer, I recall eventually we all decided to skinny dip & though nothing of it and the leaders did not stop it although they wore trunks.
Nowadays I see young lads at football mathces in the winter with long shorts almost tights underneath and long socks. Heaven forbid that their legs should get cold!!
I also remember woolen vests as Simon has mentioned. I also remember my Mother insisting I wore a vest during winter. Our PE Master insisted on bare chests and no underpants. It was a stark contrast on a freezing winter morning. Going from four or five layers, when one includes the horrid woolen vest, shirt, pullover, blazer and coat, to nothing but shorts.
We endured cold showers while the girls had hot water!
The double standards were quite stark also!
However I never had colds or flu as a youth!
Did anyone here have nude swimming at school?
Having read the previous comments about swimming trunks, I remember those awful wollen trunks and I was so pleased when they were no longer available. I also remember wearing the horrrible wollen vest and pants "to keep us warm" in the winter
My pe kit at al all boys secondary school was white shorts (no pants) and no top in the mid 60's
In my experience boys didn't worry about doing PE shirtless.
In fact you often see lads going about shirtless as a matter of course
Re PE kit outdoors as far as I remember for football etc we wore either a singlet or football shirt which was non descript. No team brand shirts those days.
Being a school in town Cross country or the rare occasions we did it was confined to lapsof the secluded sports field and we were topless for that. I do not remember winter runs..
The PE kit was explained to parents at an evening before we joined secondary school. Dad came home with a uniform list and said pe was white shorts(mine were nylon I think they were cheaper) and no underpants would be worn and plimsolls (the old type black ones and no socks)
In that era 1961 to 1966 during which the pe kit was always the same I do not think we had any inhibitions about going shirtles. It was an all boys school.
In fach because of the cut off the shorts I can rememebr during handstands with feet up in the air being suppoted by another lad there was quite a bit of exposure of our anatomy. But as I say we seemed to have no inhibitions what with communal showers and changing room.
With regards to have no tops on it is evident all the time at swimming pools and in the summer. Ater all nowadays with the baggy pants lads seem quite keen to advertise their underwear, some thing we would never consider doing.
I am sure now at schhol for pe it is all cover up protect health and safety. How did we ever survive?
Were you shirtless for outside lessons for example track and fields and cross country either?
How did you play team ball games everyone being barechested.
How did you get to know your PE kit for the first time.Was it in a PE uniform list that you have to do PE shirtless or the teacher was the one who told it to you?
What was the reaction of boys about the PE kit. Was it ever a topic of conversation amongst you?
How did you feel having to be barechested for PE?
To Tim Yes memories. You refer to the nylon swimming trunks. I remeber that up to the mid 60's I onl;y had horrid wollen swimming trunks in a briefs design which were both saggy when wet and extremely itchy. I was so pleased when the seemed to be no longer available and parents had to buy I suppose they were nylon.
We certainly did not know about "named" brands. Cheap & cheerful was the mantra.
The only time this changed was one Christmas I was given the actual brand Y Fronts briefs. though it was wonderful to have a brand name. Usally presents were hand knitted cardigans. Bit of a differnce to Christmas present for children these days.
My PE kit was thin white nylon shorts in secondary school 1961 to 1966. We were not allowed a top or underpants. ( All boys school )
Tim is right. I was at school in the 60s and we wore those loose white cotton shorts for PE, much like those shown in the picture.
Some here mention that they wore those thin nylon short shorts for PE, but as far as I remember those type of shorts were only seen in the 70s, or later.
As for swimwear there were all types from shorts like to briefs, mostly cotton, not like the later modern synthetic and nylon types like speedos.
About compulsary nude swimming in some schools I was not aware of this happening in any school before the advent of the Internet, on forums such as this.
It seems that this nude swimming requirement was even more common in American schools, both public and private, though only for boys.
I've been meaning to make this post for ages. Back in July Sterling commented:But we didn't have Nike, Speedo or money back then!
Memory plays tricks but I can say with certainty that in the mid-1960s you could buy a pair of boys swimming trucks from Wakefield's Army Stores (Remember them?) for 1/11d (10p). A pair of men's trunks were 2/11d (15p). I have a recollection that you could buy a pair of nylon trunks from Woolworths for 2/6d round about this time, whilst a pair of cotton football shorts (as worn by Bobby Moore)from a proper sports outfitter was about 10/- (50p). As a comparison a Series 1 'Airfix' construction kit was 2/- (10p)- the most expensive was 12/6d (63p).
Dave - yes it should remain normal and healthy from a common sense point of view but it seems that political correctness has little to do with common sense and forbids such a natural habit where it can.
For some years now it has been fashionable to feminise boys in the interests of "equality." I heard the sad story of a Scout Leader who, soon after he took over, stopped the boys in his care from taking off their shirts at camp. The "reason" he gave was because the girls couldn't do it! Presumably he should be instructing the girls not to have babies later in life as the boys can't.
"Exercising shirtless seemed so normal and healthy for boys in those days."
Yes it did but still seems normal and healthy.Boys still enjoy exercising shirtless.Many of them take their shirts off at sport courts for ball games...etc. They don't seem seeing it as a big deal.So I can't see what's the function of T-shirts for PE nowadays.
I see there are a number of interesting comments since I last visited this site.
Max - your attack on those who claim to have run cross country barefoot and shirtless seems rather harsh and unnecessary. Things were so different in the 60s - often better then though I'm sure many schools had their boys run with both shirts and shoes. I would not dream of calling you a wimp for doing so - we all did as we were told back then.
Martin - having read your post it makes more sense that we ran barefoot and I'm all the more grateful for it. Our course was usually muddy and plimsolls getting stuck in the mud could have been a problem if we had worn them. It might have led to boys trying to avoid the muddier patches by going round them whereas we were happy to go straight through them in our bare feet. The most significant advantage in running barefoot, however, seems to be that we did not have to clean filthy plimsolls after each run - being naturally lazy that would have been quite a chore. I am all the more grateful to my school now for their common sense approach. Exercising shirtless seemed so normal and healthy for boys in those days.
Like Martin I was at a Grammar School in the 1960's.
Although it was mixed PE etc was done single-sex.
Kit was simple:- stripped to the waist both indoor and outside and again barefoot was the norm even for cross-country.
I was at secondary school in the 60s but only attended one Grammar school so can't claim to be an expert on other schools. I do, however, have a little knowledge of what other school teams wore for cross country.
At my all boys school we wore just a pair of shorts for indoor p.e. and for athletics and various games on the playing fields. When it came to cross country we were told we had to wear our plimsolls though we weren't told to wear shirts so we didn't. There was quite a long stretch of the run which was normally very muddy and it was not uncommon for plimsolls to come off feet in the mud. We pleaded to be allowed to run barefoot to avoid the problem of getting plimsolls out of the mud and having to clean them when we got home. Unfortunately, we were never allowed to run barefoot.
I wasn't good enough at cross country to be in the team but a group of us non-competitors turned out on Saturday afternoons to be markers along the route for inter-school fixtures. If the visiting team wore shirts our team didn't but if the visiting team didn't wear shirts then our team had to. So there was always one team in plimsolls and shorts and one in plimsolls, shorts and shirts. Until one day when a visiting team changed into their kit - just shorts - no shoes or shirts. Our team had to wear their plimsolls and shirts and were soundly beaten by their less well clad opponents, in part at least because the barefoot boys could get through the muddy section much more easily. Even after this we were still not allowed to run barefoot, either in class nor the team - no reason was ever given.
Like thousands of other British schools our official indoor PT or gym kit consisted of white shorts!
Footwear and vests were optional for XC!
The plimsoles we wore offered our soles very little protection
Forgetting them would not excuse a boy and, if unable to borrow plimsoles, he would HAVE TO go barefoot!
One must remember we often went barefoot at home then and some simply had not the money to buy them!
A recent genealogy search turned up photos from 1940s and 50s when barefoot was often the order of the day.
It's easy for a young person or someone with little knowledge of recent history to think you guys are barking mad
But we didn't have Nike, Speedo or money back then!
While I'm sure this forum has its' share of fantasists, I think it's a little unfair to call them paedophiles. They are fantasising about themselves and wishing, that in their schooldays, they had had the opportunity to show off and prove how macho they were.
Reading through all these comments, I don't personally believe a fraction of them! I was a child in two different UK Grammar schools in the 60's and 70's and all this stuff about running through the streets in winter bare chested and barefoot, I think it is just sad paedofile fantasy!
Like Kevin we were always stripped to the waist and barefoot for all PE (indoors and outside) and again I don't recall any injuries resulting from running barefoot.
I was at secondary school during the 60s and bare feet and chest were required for all p.e. including cross country - not just detention. I don't remember any-one being particularly bothered by our rather sparse kit and I certainly don't remember any injuries from running barefoot through the streets and nearby countryside.
P E detentions were quite common - always done stripped to the waist and barefoot and normally also done after school hours usually from 4 p m until either 5 or 5.30 p.m.
Like George our PE teachers had us stripped to the waist and barefoot for all sessions both inside and outdoors.
It was difficult running over gravel and in the streets outside but we got used to it and I don't recall any injuries as a result.
No we never were informed who's parents complained, probably some of the overweight lads who detested being skins. It was encouraging my mate to lose weight!
After school sports could still be done shirtless but during PE and X country we were not allowed to remove a sweat soaked shirt. We used sunscreen during football matches and it was used for PE once during a mega Sept heatwave.
George, I suppose feet quickly toughen.
Can't see it ever happening again here due to our 'claim culture' but I'm told its commonplace in Oz and NZ!
My old school took health and safety to extremes!
Calvin - why did parents object to Shirts vs Skins - that must have humiliated their sons!
As for injuries whilst running barefoot - I was certainly not aware of any and I think the school would have stopped it if there had been any.
The first lesson we had P.E. outside the teacher had us running round the grass running track barefoot and shirtless and made sure we did not land on out heels. He said this would help us avoid injuries to our joints. At the end of the lesson he had us run up and down a rough gravel track nearby to see how we could cope with the surface. I don't think any-one had any great problem and, from then on we were always barefoot and shirtless inside and outside including for cross country. You could feel if you stepped on something sharp but it never punctured the skin.
We really didnt believe our PE teacher when he told us how he punished guys by making them run barefoot!
He still used shirts vs skins until their were objections by parents then on rare sweltering day it was prohibited to take off a shirt which was sticking to you!
Were there many injuries to the feet??
PE detentions meant running laps around our large school yard in just PE shorts, which was football pitch size but no turf, till we were exhausted. Then, all sweating, we were marched to the showers for a good wash, with shorts off.
Incidentally did anyone have female teachers supervising in the boys changing room or showers? Not at my school, but just curious.
There is also mention on other forums on this site that some schools had compulsory nude swimming for boys.
Oh yes, I remember the PE and games punishment of having to run around the perimeter of the field throughout the lesson if you forgot any kit.
In my case I am not sure what was the bigger punishment, the running or the particular game at the time.
My school was like Stuart's in that we had PE detentions where we had to strip to the waist. If you got detention you had to report back to the gym after school and change into usual PE kit (white vest, shorts, socks and plimsolls). Then after inspecting your kit the teacher would order you to remove your vest. That seemed a bit pointless but I suppose the idea was just to remind you this was a punishment. Then it was a question of whether you'd be told to go to the gym (which wasn't too bad) or outdoors for a run (which was no picnic when it was cold or raining, or both). Still, from some of the other accounts here I should probably be grateful we only had to run bare chested and not in bare feet too!
Our normal PE and cross-country kit was white shorts and bare chest and bare feet.
We also had PE detentions. For these we had to wear black or navy blue shorts and were again stripped to the waist and barefoot.
These always took place after school from around 4.p.m. until 5 or 5.30 p.m and involved continual running around the athletic track.There were usually other boys watching us and sometimes jeering at us.
Our kit for all PE (indoors and outside)was just white shorts i.e. stripped to the waist and barefoot. This was OK when it was fairly warm but going barefoot and bare chest in snow and ice was a different matter!!
For normal indoor PE we wore white cotton shorts, plus some boys wore plimsolls, and for xc we wore shorts, vest and plimsolls, all year around.
We also had PE detention sessions and all this changed. All boys had to strip to just a pair of shorts, no top, bare feet. This wasn't too bad inside but the same kit rules applied for the cross country run which we also had to undertake as part of the punishment, so in all weathers we were made to run 5 miles stripped to the waist and with nothing on our feet.
I first got a detention within a couple of weeks of starting at the school, aged 11. One evening immediately after school we had to report to the gym, and get changed. To say the least it was a bit of a shock when I realised that I was going to be forced to run outdoors in the freezing cold with bare feet, and even worse, stripped completed to the waist !
Yes, we could run quite fast in snow if it was not too deep as it was not slippery and it didn't matter if you fell over anyway. Ice was another matter - we were always aware how easy it was to slip over running on ice and how painful it would be later if you did land on a hard, unforgiving icy surface. Running in a few inches of snow was no problem but running on icy surfaces was not much fun at all!
Doing cross-country stripped to the waist and barefoot in snowy and icy conditions would certainly stop you dawdling along and make you get a move on.
I think it helped getting used to doing p.e. barefoot and stripped to the waist at primary school like Pete but we didn't go out of the school gates like that until we did cross country at Grammar School.
I remember running in snow barefoot was quite fun - what I wasn't so keen on was running along the pavements or across roads where the slush had frozen into ice. Running barefoot and topless in such conditions was certainly exhilarating and did us no harm.
Like George I enjoyed doing PE stripped to the waist and barefoot most of the time.
It did take some getting used to doing it in the depths of winter with ice and snow around.
It was also strange at first doing cross-country in the roads near our school while stripped to the waist and barefoot.
It looks as though most boys weren't, in fact, all that bothered about doing cross country barefoot and stripped to the waist - as I said before my class enjoyed it most of the time.
I'm intrigued by your talk of doing p.e. nude, Barbara,- presumably this was not in Britain as I can't really imagine that happening here, even fifty years ago. The only exercise done nude here tended to be swimming and that was nearly always just boys.
When I was at junior school I knew that the boys at secondary school always did PE stripped to the waist and I looked forward to it.
However when at secondary school and actually having to be stripped to the waist was a different matter.
I did eventually get used to it and did quite enjoy it.
The 2nd year was very different to the 1st at Secondary school I was now expected to wear tee shirt and knickers both indoors and out which I hated, but after a about two months I would have to wear a tee shirt any way as I had now started to develop.
We had communal showers which I didnt mind , but we were not given enough time and I always seemed late for the next lesson.
By the following spring I had a bra which I found really
uncomfortable and always took off soon as I got home.
In the summer holidays between the 2nd and 3rd year I hardly ever
saw the boys I'd played with the year before, I now had a new friend a girl who lived nearby.I was13 now and finally growing up.
In the summer holiday between the 2nd and 3rd year I hardly ever saw the boys I'd played with the year before and had a new friend a girl who nearby.I was 13 now and finally growing up.
Interesting to get the ladies views, especially on 'tom-boys'. Do 'tom-boys' still exist?
For us the big difference in PE was between Primary School and Secondary School. At Primary both girls and boys used to wear a T shirt and shorts or a skirt, but we used to all have to change in the same room (except for a few girls who had developed early).
At Secondary School (all girls) indoor PE was in Gym Knickers and a Polo Shirt, but we all had to shower afterwards (there hadn't been any showers at Primary.
The summer between first and second year at Secondary isn't one I remember fondly. For one thing, because girls and boys now went to separate schools, I didn't feel as much of the 'gang' as I had previously. This wasn't helped by the physical changes that were becoming evident. Going topless was out of the question and even with a T shirt on my 'bumps were becoming an issue. If I wore a bra the outline was noticeable, wearing a vest was quite warm and wearing just a T shirt some movement was evident. Some of the time I wore one of my old (flat) bikini tops which at least tended to flatten things down.
Did you find it hard to adjust too?
Like Pete it never bothered me about being bare-chested.
I can well remember doing PE outdoors in snow while being stripped to the waist.
I went on a caravan holiday the summer between the 1st and 2nd year and spent nearly the whole week topless.
You were treated alot different at the Secondary school in the 2nd year,I had to wear tee shirt and knickers even inside,for P E, when it was all girls, right from the start of the year, in the first year the same teacher let me do P E nude inside.
When we came home from school I often played out with two boys,we used to ride our bikes round the street and across the field if the weather was good I was usually topless even when the boys kept their tops on.
I usually played out barefoot I hardly ever wore shoes, so my feet were very tough.
I did a cross country run which involved running round the streets in the first year at the secondary school topless and barefoot , when I got back to school the teacher was told me off for not wearing enough, she hadnt seen me go , all I had on was a pair of white knickers.
Thanks for the clarification.
When I was Primary School age I was always a bit of a tomboy. I had short hair and in evenings and weekends used to wear jeans or shorts rather than skirts or dresses. Although mum didn't really approve, when I was out of her sight, if the boys went topless so did I (from a distance I looked like a boy anyway).
I started to develop during the winter of my first year at Secondary School. Mum actually bought my first bra for my 12th birthday (in May), but I hated it so much that I refused to wear it at first!
I had a bit of a growth spurt during the summer holidays, so when I went back to school at the start of the second year I was wearing a bra.
Did you ever go topless outside school (until you developed) or was it only for school PE?
We could go barefoot for indoor PE (which I did), but had to wear canvas hockey boots or black 'pumps' outdoors.
We used to
Yes all the girls were expected to wear tee shirt and knickers for the 2nd year. I loved being topless and really was quite jealous of the boys who were always topless. After a couple of months I started to develop so would have to cover up anyway.
I remained barefoot for P E both indoors and out right until I left school.
Unlike Barbara we never did PE topless at either Primary or Secondary school, but in the summer I would sometimes join the boys in taking my T shirt and vest off to have a splash about in our local stream or when we were making 'dens' on some waste ground.
The last summer I was able to do this was a few months after my 11th birthday. I was still flat-chested when I started at secondary school, but by the following summer I had to make sure I was wearing a swimsuit top if I wanted to take my T-shirt off. This was the end of my carefree Tomboy days and I started to wear a bra at the beginning of my second year at Secondary school.
Did all the girls have to wear a shirt for PE rom your second year onwards, whether they had started to 'develop' or not?
It certainly never bothered me about being topless and barefoot.
In fact I started being stripped to the waist and barefoot almost from the time I started primary school until I left school at nearly nineteen.
I cant see why all you boys were so bothered about being topless and barefoot I'm a girl and up untill I was 12 ,the end of the 1st year at the secondary school did P E outside topless and barefoot( I was flat chested) and for girls only P E inside after bringing a note from my mum was allowed to do it nude.
I was at school in the 1960s and always did PE stripped to the waist whatever the conditions and usually barefoot as well.
We coped with it.We had to.
But I can't imagine today's youths coping with being stripped to the waist at all times
All credit to your generation George. I was at school in the late 80s and on one occasion I had to do cross country bare-chested - it was freezing! I can't imagine what it must have been like to run without a shirt every single time, let alone in bare feet! You're right, I don't think boys could cope with that today.
Looking back through the comments here I can see that my experience was typical of boys who were at school in the 60s. We did cross country running mainly in the winter and always barefoot and stripped to the waist just as other p.e. activities. We didn't think we were particularly hard done by - it was just the way things were done then and we quite enjoyed it most of the time.
I don't suppose boys could cope with that these days but times were different then. When I started at Grammar School we had no central heating at home and I remember scraping ice off the inside of my bedroom window in winter!
The era I'm talking about (1970s) was well before sports bras were invented!
Obviously I've never tried on a jockstrap, although I washed my ex-husbands plenty of times and bought my son his first one (with a 'box') when he first started playing cricket.
Seemed to dry as far as I remember. The lockers were metal with ventilation slots so I suppose that helped, but I know what you mean about putting wet things on.
I can't say I have tried a bra, let along a sports one, so I can't comment on that!
Your comment that you found wearing a jockstrap very comfortable and that it stayed in place without adjustment certainly contrasts with my early memories of supportive underwear. The first time I tried wearing a bra it felt like it was cutting me in half and I seemed to be forever having to pull the straps up! I guess it was because it was so different from just wearing a vest as I had up to then.
For several months after mum bought me one I left it in my drawer, but eventually running around in PE without one became too uncomfortable (and noticeable)!
You mentioned that you used to was your jockstrap in the shower and keep it in your locker. Did it dry properly? One of my pet hates is if I have to put on a still damp swimming costume!
I don't think it was so much that they had an open back.It was more that they were designed to do just one job and support what was at the front.
Really they were very comfortable because they did just that and there was no spare material to flap around and get into places where it shouldn't. They allowed total freedom of moving around and stayed in place without adjustment.
I do remember the first time wearing under shorts outdoors and being somehow more conscious of the wind whistling around than I had been with only shorts for some reason. Probably because you just expected underware of any sort to stop that.
With regard to the comments by James, I can recall our teacher having a conversation with some of girls about it perhaps being time they started to wear appropriate supportive underwear (or a different kind) for PE lessons!
Going to an all girls school and not having any brothers or a sporty father, the first time I came across a jockstrap was when my ex's appeared in the washing basket when we were first married. It did seem a strange looking thing! Does anyone know why they're designed the way they are, with the open back etc?
( I am just copying my comments across from a different photo as it is relevant here as well !)
I attended an all boys grammar school in the midlands in the mid 60's. I well remember the scenes set in these comments.
We had to wear the almost transparent white nylon shorts and we were ordered not to wear underpants. Shirts and skins was the norm for any activity in the gym. Showers were compulsory and we had to go into the communal shower naked.
We were lucky enough to have a pool and it was quite common after a PE session in the gym to have a shower, put our shorts back on and then go into the pool. The shorts went almost totally transparent but we just seemed to assume that's the way it was and not take any notice.
The first time I can remember this being a problem for any of us was one friend who was obviously an early developer started to have problems with hanging out of his shorts. He was embarrassed and of course the rest of us made a huge joke of it, not thinking it would become a problem for us in time!
I remember one day at the beginning of the lesson, the PE teacher sat us down in the changing rooms and talked to us about growing up and that if we felt uncomfortable in just our shorts, we should get jockstraps like the older boys, and in any case we would need them if we were going to play rugby. He had them on sale at school if we wanted to buy them.
Few of us knew what a jockstrap was but as the changing rooms were a shortcut to one part of the school we started to notice older boys getting changed and worked out what they were. Those with older brothers also knew already.
From then on, they started to appear at changing time and, of course they were plainly visible through the almost transparent shorts, especially when we went on to swimming after pe. Often the waistband showed above and the leg straps showed below but, to us, that was a sign of being one of the older boys.
Coming from a family with no older brothers, I had never talked about such things with my parents and they were not at all sporty. I couldn't imagine asking them to get to buy me a jockstrap so I summoned the courage to go and buy one at school. I just remember feeling like one of the big boys and never worried about it showing through the shorts. Like a lot of the others we washed them in the showers and kept them in our lockers.
I was never over sporty so didn't get onto the major teams but we did have to do "cross country running" which took us through the woods but also along public roads. An interesting sight for some passers by, I expect, on a wet day when things had gone particularly transparent!
In response to the question, I meant in the vicinity of the school buildings and grounds, so away from the general public.
The gym was raised with full length windows. When the sun shone from behind while we were running on the spot, for example, our shorts especially white nylon were somewhat revealing. I recall some of my fellows staring and pointing at my shorts while I was jogging.
Showers, which were open with no privacy, were compulsory after PE or Games. Teachers normally supervised from a point between the changing rooms and the showers in order to ensure the rules were obeyed. I sometimes used to try and keep my shorts on and dash in out of the showers without taking them off. I remember once being spotted, and having to run back naked after handing my shorts over to the teacher.
Like Andy while at junior school I used to see secondary school boys doing cross-country runs stripped to the waist and barefoot and thought how tough they looked.
I actually looked forward to doing it myself.
Again it was a different story being stripped to the waist and barefoot in cold icy conditions.
But I did enjoy being stripped to the waist and barefoot during the Summer terms.
Bob, do you mean that the boys caught wearing underpants were made to strip in public, since you mention that they could be seen by anyone in the vicinity?
Also, how common were compulsary showers under the supervision of teachers after PE?
One of the senior schools in my home town had a cross country course that involved running past my junior school.
Irrespective of the weather all the boys always ran stripped to the waist, and most of the classes everyone has bare feet as well. At 10 I thought how tough this looked and how grown up.
It wasn't until I was actually at the school and was made to do cross country on a freezing day stripped down to just a pair of shorts that I changed my mind !
We too wore thin white cotton shorts with nothing underneath for indoor gym and for cross country but I don't remember them becoming translucent. We were barefoot and bare chested for cross country like so many others and you didn't dare argue with a teacher. I don't think any-one was too bothered as far as I can remember - this was in the 60s.
When I was at an all Boys Grammar School we were not allowed to wear anything under our PE or outdoor games shorts. I found this highly embarrassing, as the thin white cotton or nylon shorts were rather short and translucent in sunny or damp conditions, and I hated being seen like this, especially by the public when out cross-country running.
There were random kit inspections by teachers, who would be sent to check boys were not wearing underpants or vests. Any offenders would have to strip naked and remove them before replacing their shorts and continuing their PE lesson or cross-country run. This humiliating process was found highly entertaining by anyone in the vicinity, I recall.
I remember that when my parents received the Uniform List for secondary school the PE uniform made no mention of vest.
My next door neighbour was in the third year and so I asked him if there was a mistake.
He said No and you did PE bare chested and so it was.
Some boys who had come from different junior schools already did PE shirtless but for me it took some getting used to although I eventually quite enjoyed do PE stripped to the waist.
I went to school in the 70's had PE teacher who was very strict on what you could wear. Indoor was normal Shorts only barefeet was compulsory. Don't rememeber having to cross country shirtless but if you forget your footwear it was barefeet no choice.
Andy is quite right.
I remember that although our school uniform list showed a vest for PE as soon as we had our first lesson the master in charge made it quite clear that boys in his class did PE stripped to the waist and barefoot.
Again as Andy says it was no point in complaining as you still had to do PE stripped to the waist and would receive at least six strokes of the cane afterwards.
At grammar school in the early 60's we wore just shorts for indoor pe throughout the school.
In year 1 we wore shorts, vests and plimsolls for xc, although a few boys ran in less. At the start of the second year we had a new teacher for games. When we changed for xc he told us all to strip to just our shorts as boys in his class ran with bare feet and stripped to the waist. It was a freezing cold day but in spite of this we just did as we were told and soon 30 odd shivering 12 year olds were lined up outside all with bare backs/chests and nothing on their feet ready to be sent off on a 4 mile run.
It was pointless saying anything or even refusing as we would have still be made to do the run and would just have received some additional punishment like being given 6 strokes of the cane when we got back.
Grammar Schools had pupils up to the age of 18 and a higher proportion of sixth formers than any other secondary schools. I can well imagine the boys in the photo were pupils at a grammar school.
I agree that the photo looks somewhat posed - they really don't look as though they are coming back from a run. They might have been told to wear tops especially for the photo - would account for the variety, perhaps.
Was this the school that was known locally as "The Old Boys School, or was there another one in Clitheroe called that?
I also think that the boys look too old to be of grammar school, or even secondary school, age, as the photo description suggests.
They look more like being college age students, if they are students at all.
From the lads in the photo they seem to be some kind of athletic team rather than a normal class of students.
I agree that they look clean, but if you look at the gates, they've opened inwards which makes me think that they are turning into a yard!
Is this a posed shot, methinks?
I agree too - this does not look much like a team - different colour shoes and shorts and a wide array of tops.
I had only been at primary school for a year in 1959 but by the time I got to Grammar School it seemed to have been normal to run barefoot and shirtless. We only wore a pair of white shorts and, although I was not in a team, we all looked alike apart from the amount of mud we wore when we got back. If you slipped over in a particularly muddy part your shorts were not white when you returned.
I too agree with Stuart.
We did cross-country stripped to the waist and barefoot and usually returned covered in mud.
I agree with Stuart - it looks to me as if those boys are setting off rather than returning from a run. When I was at school (mid 1980s) you usually finished cross country with your legs spattered in mud, at least up to the knee. If you didn't spend too long in the shower - as most boys didn't - you'd often go home with mud caked to your legs.
Thankfully, unlike at Stuart's school, we did wear running shoes rather than having to go barefoot, and the uniform for cross country included vests as well. However, there was scope for confusion as we did gym lessons in just shorts and bare chest and sometimes boys would mistakenly turn up for cross country with no vest. Unless someone had a spare by chance, that could mean a chilly 40 minutes or so... and even less fun if you were the only boy running barechested!
The boys in the photo look far too clean and tidy to be coming back from a cross country run. When I was at grammar school in the 60s we usually came back with at least a little mud on our feet and legs, often a lot. As with many others who have commented we ran barefoot and shirtless - it was just the way things were done in those days.
Like Brian I always was stripped to the waist and barefoot for PE etc.
After a few weeks we got used to being bare chested whatever the conditions.
My experience was the same as Peter's - we wore just white shorts, ours were cotton, for PE and cross country. After the first couple of weeks no-one seemed bothered by running barefoot and shirtless. Once we knew the route it was good to get out away from the teacher!
I was like Josh with the difference that we did have to do outdoor gym and cross-country stripped to the waist throughout the year.
I was definitely one of those lads Peter referred to when I started at secondary school. At my primary school PE was always done in a T-shirt and shorts (any colour you wanted) and I assumed it would be the same in secondary school. It was a shock when the uniform list arrived and listed 'white shorts, gym socks and plimsolls' for boys with no mention of a top of any kind. I still thought it might be a mistake until I asked my next door neighbour, who went to the same school but was a year older. To my horror he confirmed the accuracy of the uniform list and told me I would not only have to be bare-chested in the gym but also for outdoor PE like cross country. To my relief that turned out to be an exaggeration - we were permitted to wear football shirts for cross country in the winter, then in summer we had to take them off. However, I felt queasy the first time I got changed for PE and it took me a while before I got used to to being bare-chested in public. In a way I think it helped that there were boys even less comfortable with stripping down to shorts than I was but of course they had to deal with it too.
At my old secondary school the normal PE kit was just white shorts. So we were always stripped to the waist and barefoot both indoors and for cross-country.
I had doe PE bare-chested at primary school so it was no big deal but some lads were mortified at having to bare their chests but they had to get used to it!!!
Interesting thread. I went to a catholic all boys school in Newcastle in the early 80's from the age of 13-18. Our kit consisted of trainers, white socks, white shorts and a long sleeve house shirt which depended on what house you were in in terms of the colour. This was worn for all outdoor PE including cross country. we had what was called games done outside and PE Indoors,. Full Kit was always worn outdoors but for indoor pe, the house shirt was not allowed,it was compulsory to go topless and barefoot. I remember some of the fat kids being mortified. For me it was never a big deal, you just took your shirt off and thought nothing of it, though I guess as I shared a room at home with two brothers, I was relaxed about showing my body off as lads did not wear any pjs to bed back in those days so going topless in the gym was no big dealto me. What was really strange was when we went into 6th form. We were told that shirts were optional in 6th form and the strange thing was that me and all my mates continued to go topless. By that stage most of us had developed good masculine chests, I had a hairy chest which I rememeber thinking was so damn manly, and enjoyed showing it off. Although beingmade to do pe in mimimal clothing back then as 13 year old kids, I don't think it was a bad thing as it made us proud of our bodies and into the men we are today. Certainly made me much more comfortable about taking my shirt off when I was a young man
I agree with Tim about the fabrics used for PE gear in the sixties.
Our PE shorts were white lightweight with football shorts being dark and of a heavier material as were our football shirts.
For PE both indoors and outside we were stripped to the waist.
Interesting comments from John on the new styles of footwear - I'm starting to see them in the gym, too.
Fabrics have changed completely over the years as well. At Grammar school in the early 60s our gym shorts were white cotton - in quite a lightweight fabic, whilst our football (& cross-country) shorts seemed to be a much heavier weight (black) cotton - almost a twill. Tops for football were a cotton rugby style shirt; for gym most of us wore cotton T-shirts. The much shorter cotton & nylon shorts of the 70s and later hadn't made an appearance. The manufacturers would have been people like Gymphlex & Bukta, or whoever the local outfitters would have been buying off at the time.
To Tim, Re: Shirtless and Barefoot Running.
Yes Tim, Barefoot/Minimalist/'Natural' Running is definitely on the rise. I work in specialist Retail at Northern Runner in Newcastle and we sell a Lot of Natural Running Shoes, much more than even One Year ago. we also have a Chi/Natural Running Practitioner who organises Masterclasses Locally in Newcastle and uses our Shop as a Focal Point for them.
I run Shirtless when I can and as much as I can, although I always carry a Breathable Top or a Singlet in my Bumbag with me. Even if it is raining I still find topless/shirtless, whatever you want to call it, more comfortable as there is No Clothing to stick to your Upper Body or get sweaty in warm, or wet and heavy in rainy, weather.
Worth commenting that bare-foot running is coming back. Living opposite a large piece of common land, I saw a young guy running stripped to the waist and bare-foot, on a not particularly nice day last week.
This was especially true if you had to go barefoot on cross-country outside the school grounds.
There didn't seem to be much bother about being bare-chested wherever it happened.
i remember boys being more concerned by being bare foot rather than being bare chested
I think that most lads would have no problem with having to be stripped to the waist and would probably quite enjoy it.
I vividly remember my first day at comprehensive school as if it was yesterday. I was terrified of starting at the big school. On our very first day there we had a PE lesson and we obviously didn't have our kit. Boy and girls did PE separately at our new school. There were pupils from quite a few middle schools. We had always done PE in just our underpants but I knew that not all schools were like this.
The gym master was a small man and carried a large plimsoll(slipper)He took us to the changing rooms and said that we would play shirt and skins games.Half the class would do it in just their underpants and the other half would do it in their pants and school shirt. There were gasps from many pupils who had never done PE stripped down to underwear. So we quickly stripped down. The top half of the alphabet did it in just underpants and the other half in pants and shirt. I was a B so it was just in pants. Some boys did not want to go bare foot and ran into the gym in their socks. They were told in no uncertain terms to take them off. One boy was almost in tears as he took them off in front of us all. Another boy was very overweight and had kept his shirt on. The master went through us all one by one asking our names. This boy was a C and was told to take his shirt of. He started to cry and got a whack of the slipper and told to "grow up"
Many boys were extremely uncomfortable at being so exposed.I never quite understood why so many got upset at being bare foot. I imagine they must have gone bare foot at home at some point. Or maybe they always wore carpet slippers.
I remember when we did gym after this that we had to take a communal shower after. None of us liked it. Anyone just running through the shower was made to stand at the entrance naked and then take a cold shower, he also go a good whack on his bare behind.
Looking back i now realise that our gym masters had all been in the war. Consequently they were damaged goods. I had a few friends who told me that family memebers who had been in the war had come back very different people. Most had become very sadistic without realising it.
I have to say that some of our teachers were psychotic and incredibly strict. They simply should never have been allowed near children.
I started school in 1967. PE kit at infant and middle school was simple. We didnt have a kit. Boys did it in just their underpants and girls did it in pants and vest. We all changed in the classroom and files down long corridors to the school hall in our underwear. At comp boys and girls did PE separately. Our indoor kit was just a pair of white shorts. We were barefoot and bare chested. Outdoor sports varied. We played football cricket or did cross country. If we forgot our football boots or running shoes then we were made to run around the grass fields bare foot. If we brought the wrong kit then we got PE detention that was done in just shorts. We were never allowed to wear underpants in any PE activity at comp. Showers were mandatory and we had to spend five minutes in the shower as a minimum.
I remember the gym master running the cross country with us and he carried a green flash slipper which he applied liberally to our backsides if he thought we were slacking.
Had a really good chuckle at this picture "The team Captain leading the Cross-Country team to victory against St Botolphs" It really is like an illustration from Boys Own Paper! I can almost hear the caption being read by a thin guy with a pipe and moustache and a plumy BBC accent. :-)
Sorry for being flippant, but it really is such a great photo and is so evocative of a long gone era! Wonder if they are all still around, they will be in their mid 70's now I guess?
When I was at secondary school in the 1960's all boys had to do PE stripped to the waist both in the gym and outdoors. This also included cross-country runs.
We were also barefoot in the gym and like Stewart we also had to do cross-country barefoot.
The only time we wore footwear was for football and there some boys also stripped to the waist for that.
I went to an English grammar school in the late 1960s and early 1970s and it was compulsory for both boys and girls to run cross country events barefoot.
In fact all P.E. for both sexes had to be done barefoot, indoors and out. The only time footwear was allowed was for rugby in the winter.
I attended an all boys school in the 1980s and I can't remember anyone ever doing cross-country barefoot. If you forgot your running shoes what usually happened was you were told to join one of the other classes doing PE in the gym, or sometimes swimming instead.
However, it wasn't unusual for boys to do cross-country barechested - sometimes by choice, but more often when we had a House run. There were two Houses at the school and we had inter-House competitions in most sports. About three or four times each term, cross-country would be designated as a House run, with every runner scoring points towards the House total. The easiest way to tell which boys were running for which House was to have teams of vests and skins, so when we got to the changing room the teacher would announce 'House run, House X in vests, House Y in skins'. You never knew beforehand there was a House run or which team you'd be in, it was just decided there and then. Not surprisingly, most boys preferred to run barechested in summer, but of course it was pot luck.
As far as shirtless cross country runs are concerned, it is certainly very rare these days if it happens at all. However, there are plenty of videos on youtube that show young teen boys training for cross country barechested, oftentimes alongside girls who are clad in just sports bras.
When I was on my school's cross county team not that long ago, it was not too different either. When I started out I used to run in a t-shirt and shorts, but as I spent more time training with my team mates some of the girls kept encouraging me to lose the shirt altogether, which I eventually did. I suppose whenever a new boy joined up, they had some sort of competition to see how quickly they could get his shirt off!
The teacher certainly never raised an eyebrow at most of the boys going barechested (or the girls wearing what might have been considered scandalous back in the day). To be fair, we usually trained in pretty hot and humid weather. For actual competitions though, a singlet/vest was the minimum attire.
I've been following the comments here for a little while and finally got round to adding my input. I must say, Oliver, you seem to have been let off lightly, so far anyway. It looks like there are around 20 people here who report running cross country shirtless and around a further 10 who ran shirtless and barefoot. In your first, rather inflammatory comment you effectively called those 30 or so people liars although I'm sure you didn't mean to.
I'm only a few years older than you and no-one I knew seemed to think it at all inappropriate for boys to go off on a cross-country run topless or barefoot.
It might be that, having stayed in the education system and been swept along by changes that result in topless/barefoot running being very unlikely at schools now, you find it less easy to remember the times that those of us who left the education system when we were still young can remember well.
For my part we were expected to go out on cross country runs shirtless as was, I'm sure, quite common at the time. We were told that we could wear our plimsolls or run barefoot. Most of us wore our plimsolls at first but abandoned them before the end of the first term. Our route had no streams but did include a couple of fields which sometimes contained cattle. To get out of the second field and back on the track we had to climb over a gate in the corner of the field. Next to the gate was a cattle trough which always seemed to be overflowing which led to the area around the gate being a quagmire. While negotiating this area with plimsolls it was quite common to pull a foot up leaving the plimsoll in the mud thus requiring a great effort to retrieve said footwear. It soon became clear that the barefoot boys were right and we all ended up running barefoot without any ill effect - happy days indeed.
Hi Richard. Sorry you feel you have to patronise me, but I am neither young nor ill-informed, I was born in 1956 and attended two secondary schools and later taught in several others in the Manchester area before a career change to the Dept of Education in the 1990's. I received the cane (twice) during my time t school, saw the introduction of computers, calculators, even felt pens. Saw the disappearance of short trousers, showering after Games and mandatory nude swimming! (although this was not a requirement at any school I went to) However I have NEVER seen or heard of anyone doing Cross-country in bare feet, even in pre H&S days there was far too much risk of injury, and no PE teacher I have ever met (and some of them were real bastards!) would send boys off school grounds without shoes or shirts/vests. I know it wasn't 'indecent' for boys to go without shirts (poor choice of phrase on my part) but it was considered 'inappropriate' by all the teachers I knew, fine on the school field, but outside the gates? Never!
To Oliver - I'm not sure what the problem is. Quite a few people have commented that they ran cross country shirtless and barefoot many years ago. It was no big deal, except perhaps in the coldest of weather. There were certainly no "public decency" issues with boys exercising shirtless 50 years or so ago and bare feet gave as good a grip as plimsolls which were the only alternative then.
There is a short video on the internet of Ohope Beach School's 2011 cross country event. This is a primary school in New Zealand and most of the children ran in bare feet - the fact that some were wearing shoes makes it look as though they had a choice - the terrain was not all grassy.
We all had varying experiences in our schooldays and the lack of one particular experience in the life of one individual should not be taken as meaning that no-one else had that experience either. I appreciate that, in the interests of equality and political correctness, it seems that boys have become somewhat feminised recently and are discouraged or even forbidden from removing their shirts in situations where once it would have been quite normal and acceptable.
Reply to comments by Matthew
I know what Mathew is saying, and agree completely with him. I was at school a few years after that and it was exactly the same. At our school we wore t-shirts in the gym but I know that friends at other schools didn't, and indoor football was always shirts V skins, although we always wore shirts or vests for outdoor PE! Nude showering was compulsory, and heaven help anyone who tried to 'skip' it, and while we swam at the local council pool, so like Mathew we all had to wear trunks, but a couple of the boys in my patrol at Scouts went to Manchester Grammar which like many other 'Public' schools, famously had compulsory nude swimming for all the boys! We also did X-country in all but the most severe weather, dressed only in shorts and running vests or t-shirts (AND shoes of course!) with the PE teacher following us on a bike in a full tracksuit!!!
What I am very dubious about is these claims of boys doing X-country completely topless (round the school field perhaps, but certainly not out on the local streets and footpaths) and the frankly pretty unlikely claim of running X-country in bare feet. This is Britain guys, not S.Africa! Professional runners and modern schoolboys manage to run through puddles and mud without their shoes 'quickly disintegrating' and the potential for foot injuries is very high. With the possible exception of a few 'sadistic' PE teachers (and there were some!) I doubt this ever happened!
To Oliver - you are obviously young and ill-informed. In the 60s there were no computers in schools or homes; there was corporal punishment and some boys ran cross country barefoot, shirtless or both. Just because it might not happen now does now mean it didn't happen 50 years ago. I'm sure boys were a lot tougher then and it wasn't thought of as indecent for boys to be seen outside without shirts.
To Oliver. In the 1950s and into the early 60s, the school system had total power over us - conscription in post-school life would take the control to even greater levels. I never ran in rain or snow but, in my case, PE (including running) was always done stripped to the waist and wearing plimsolls and there was the compulsory communal shower afterwards. There was no swimming at my school but I had a friend who went to an all-boys school where swimming was done naked throughout his secondary school career (11 - 18)
Oh come on! Doing cross country running barefoot and topless? I just DO NOT believe that on the grounds of safety and public decency! There is a few too many erotic fantasies going on here!
Those lads look positively over-dressed! It was a little later when I was at secondary school but we always ran barefoot and stripped to the waist. These boys may have had to wear a bit more as the photo was going in a local paper, perhaps - what they are wearing is hardly uniform. We used to run through deep mud and streams - any footwear would not have lasted long so bare feet were the only sensible option.
Good for you John! It's interesting that you've found some of today's teenagers so accepting of people who prefer to exercise shirtless, even though they don't choose to do so themselves. I can't help thinking they might be more likely to go shirtless if it was something they had experienced at school, as we did in my day (and clearly yours too). The majority of PE lessons at my school involved Shirts v Skins so I had to get used to being shirtless from a young age. I remember the first time I was a Skin and had to strip to the waist it felt a bit strange but, like John, I soon found I actually preferred it. We weren't required to do cross country shirtless but one summer's day another boy in my class asked to take his top off and was given permission to do so. When I saw that I decided to join him, along with a couple of other lads, and I loved the feeling of freedom, of the elements on my bare skin. After that I ran shirtless whenever I could and have continued to do so. I think it's a shame that boys today aren't given the same opportunity because, as far as I know, Shirts v Skins just doesn't happen in schools any more.
I have been following this thread for a while and note the comments. I'm an older person and have no qualms about running Shirtless, like Dave I used to try and do without a Vest or Tee in Gym/PE class at school and used to prefer being on the 'Skins' Team when it came to "Skins v. Vests" for any team games played in the Gym. I run shirtless when ever possible as well. I'm training for an off-road event including obstacles at the end of March (which I intend to do shirtless in view of the extreme wetness/mudiness-likleyhood of the event); last week I was doing a Shirtless run and Obstacle Practice at a local Outdoor-centre, I had finished-up and was going to get showered-off when I got talking to one of the Centre Staff. They had no objection to me running shirtless personally and that the *kids* present at the centre probably would not mind but that any *parents* picking up their kids Might, so they asked me to stick a shirt on for my walk-back to the Changing rooms, which I did.
)I think it might have been half-term for some of the local schools).
What does this say about the Parents, as opposed to the Children?
I did a shirtless Run yesterday at the same place yesterday, involving more muddy off-road sections and Obstacles Practice, I cam across a group of about 6 or 7 16-18 year olds practicing Bouldering/Climbing on a large Boulder edifice. I stopped with them for about 5 minutes and we had a general chat about what they were doing; they were cool about my Shirtless-ness although of course they were dressed for THEIR activity including the customary 'Slogan' Tees and hats.
I explained that I was 'old-school' and that running shirtless as such wasn't really a big deal for me and I got the impression that they did not mind at all. The day's weather was cool - around 7c and breezy with occasional Rain squalls interspersed with brighter intervals. I had around 50minutes out on the trails at the Centre and the Obstacle Course and felt fine afterwards, no ill-effects.
re: Andrea's reply,
We were the same for swimming, as I stated we had to wear normal swimwear for 'official' swimming lessons, gala's, competitions etc. The school swimming lessons when we all went in the pool completely naked were additional, and were held on weekday lunch-hours, Wednesday being mixed boys and girls, and Saturday mornings being mixed and open to everyone, swimwear was optional and most of us went nude!
With regard to changing for PE, we had to use the classrooms for things like sportsday, (because of the numbers involved) but for normal PE and country dancing lessons we had a changing room, and of course at our school boys and girls did these lessons together, all of us had to strip-off, we were only allowed to wear a pair of shorts with no underwear, shoes or tops, and the no-tops rule applied to the girls as well! I didn't like PE or country dancing as I wasn't any good at them, but at the end of the lessons Miss Newman (who took us for PE) always told us all to take our shorts off and go in the showers with nothing-on. Somehow I doubt if a female teacher would be allowed to supervise a crowd of naked 11 year old's in the showers THESE days! I confess that I might not have liked games or PE, but I DID love going in the showers, I could have stayed there for hours!
Martin - I think you must have been at school later then me. I was at a boys grammar school in the 60s and we did "proper" cross country runs - along a rough track, out on to a road and on to a large area of open countryside where we ran on paths, across grassy sections, through a muddy stream and around the edge of a ploughed field. We did this all barefoot and shirtless throughout the year but mostly in the winter. There was probably less broken glass around then but plenty of sharp stones etc but no-one ever came to any harm. I don't think I could do it now but youngsters feet are tougher than adults or they were then. From seeing visiting schools cross country teams it seems as though it was not uncommon - some teams wore plimsolls, some ran barefoot.
I never knew what a jock strap was - I heard of the boxes that cricketers wore but otherwise nothing was allowed under shorts for any p.e. or games and certainly no shoes or shirts!
This is a repeat of a post I made under the Burnley Grammar School thread, but relevant as it's about primary school pe.
There was no nude swimming when I was at primary school in the 1960s. The boys wore swimming trunks and we wore one piece bathing costumes.
For pe. I generally wore a pe skirt or shorts and a T shirt. As there were no changing rooms we had to change in our classroom along with the boys, so by the final year I got quite adept at putting on my pe kit before removing my school skirt! I was still flat chested when I left primary school so changing into the T shirt wasn't an issue (I generally wore a vest anyway), but a few of my more 'developed' classmates were allowed to go to the toilets to change.
To Spence again we would only see the girls on Sports Days etc.
I do recall on one Sports Day when after Running the mile race stripped to the waist a few girls came up to me and spoke to me.
Yes we were always stripped to the waist whatever the conditions.
When we went outside the school grounds I don't recall anyone making any comments.
Were you aleays stripped to the waist outdoors, regardless of weather/time of year? Did you do cross country through streets where you could be seen by the public? If so, what was their reaction?
You say you never saw the girls. Did you never use the playing fields at the same time?
Reply to Mark: My previous comments about boys and girls at my school doing swimming lessons together completely nude and doing PE 'topless' related to Primary school, ie we were all under 12, and while swimming nude was optional, topless PE was mandatory for everyone! I then went to a boys only Grammar School, but even in the Co-ed Secondary Modern school I very much doubt PE lessons would have been mixed, largly because of the much greater number of pupils at secondary schools! I do know that we would NEVER have been allowed to do cross country 'topless', out on the local streets a vest was considered the minimum for 'decency' and running barefoot simply wouldn't have happened, I am slightly skeptical that anyone actually did 'proper' cross country in bare feet, there would have been far too many opportunities for foot injuries from tree branches, broken glass, sharp stones and other debris. I think the limit of outdoor barefoot running would have been round school fields, and given the number of inconsiderate people who exercise dogs on school fields, that also would be a potentially rather unpleasant activity (YUK!) As for the enthusiastic discussion about types of jockstraps, we never used them, I don't recall ever having seen one in all the time I was in secondary school, and certainly never wore one (not that I ever had very much for it to support, sadly!) the only 'protection' we ever wore was a cricket 'box' they were mandatory and were held in place by wearing swimming trunks under our flannels, the ONLY time we were allowed to wear any form of underwear for PE or sport.
I went to mixed schools throughout my school career and doing mixed PE was unheard of.
What the girls wore I don't know but boys were always stripped to the waist for indoor PE and many also went barefoot.
For outdoors and cross-country again we went stripped to the waist and again some lads went barefoot.
I went to Shears Green Junior School in Kent, from the 1960's until the late 1980's boys and girls did PE and country dancing together, before the lesson we had to take ALL our clothes off and were only allowed to put on one item of clothing, cotton shorts for boys and PE knickers for the girls, everyone (even the girls) did PE topless and without shoes or underwear. Girls in year 6 were allowed to wear t-shirts or vests if they wanted to, but ONLY if they had started to develop noticible boobs! After PE and dance lessons we had to take our PE kit off and go in the showers naked, we also had nude swimming lessons in the school pool, this was for everyone, right up to 11 years old, girls only on Monday, Boys only on Friday and mixed nude swimming lessons (for which we needed our parents written permission) on Wednesday and Saturday morning, which were always very popular! Shears Green has pages on facebook and Friends Reunited and there are many, many memories of those days, many people think now that it was a bit 'weird' but we really enjoyed it at the time
Like Dave I was shocked at having to do PE and cross-country stripped to the waist especially as I wasn't very well-built or muscular.
When I started at Secondary School in the late 1950s I was shocked to find out they we had to do PE stripped to the waist.
After a few sessions indoors we were told we would be doing cross-country going out of the school grounds - again stripped to the waist.However I soon got used to it.
The pe kit at my secondary school in the 1970s was just white shorts. I was more bothered I suppose with being barefoot than without a top. In the hall that we sometimes used our soles became black with dust within a couple of minutes and climbing wallbars in the gym meant getting boys' barefeet in your face, or climbing onto your hands which I didn't like. PE outside was also sometimes done in shorts only which could be cold and the wet grass made it quite unpleasant until you got used to it. I always did cross country in plimsolls thankfully, though.
Like Mark I had to do cross-country stripped to the waist and barefoot running almost entirely on pavements.
When I did cross-country we all were stripped to the waist and barefoot running mainly on pavements and grass.
Mostly paths some grass some dirt and pavements . I new the rules if we had P.E that day you had to do it . Not having the right kit was not a reason for getting out of it. So if you forget you trainers you did it in barefeet.
That seems tough. Did you run across rough ground or just on grass?
I went to school in the 70's I remember forgetting my trainers and we had cross country and he made us run in barefeet
Those lads were lucky.
We were bare-chested whatever the conditions.
The winters in the 1960's always seemed to be cold and again at my school we always had to do PE stripped to the waist whatever the the weather.
This also included doing cross-country bare-chested.
I well remember coming back to school after the Christmas holiday in January 1963 with maybe upto a foot of snow on the ground.
The boilers had also frozen and we were sent home for the rest of the week.
But when we came back on the following Monday we had PE and we still had to strip to the waist albeit indoors in the cold gym.
A few days later we had to go outside and again we were all stripped to the waist.
If you were in the pack those playing at No.8 flankers or locks would often hold onto the shirts of those plaing in front of them in the scrum
Hello Rob (from another Rob!)
I am very interested by your comment (7th June) that you sometimes played rugby bare-chested. We were not allowed shirts for any indoor activity, but outdoors kit always included a t-shirt, football or rugby shirt, though we were allowed to take them off if we wanted during tennis, cross country and athletics. A junior school friend of mine who went to a different secondary school told me they played shirts v skins rugby but I never really believed him until I saw a brief clip of such a game on a TV local news programme - this would have been late 60's.
Going shirtless never bothered me but I would have been terrified of playing rugby like that. When the ground was rock hard during dry weather, and probably with a few odd stones and twigs on the surface, I guess it must have hurt like hell tackling and being tackled and your bare chest and stomach being scraped along it, causing grazes and sometimes cuts. It was bad enough on our bare knees! Was it really like that or am I imagining it to be worse than it was? And what exactly did you mean about it being difficult in a scrum? I am fascinated - tell us more!
Lie Daniel I had to do PE stripped to the waist in all weathers but I actually enjoyed it.
Those lads were lucky. We had to be stripped to the waist whatever the conditions.
At my school in the sixties it was the usual practice for boys to do PE and games while stripped to the waist.
Few objected and if you did you would probably end up doing a detention outdoors while being again bare-chested.
Aye, when I was a wee lad we used to sprint naked out in the cold. Most of us died, but I was the only one left in my class. Aah, they were the days. 1902 - best years of my life! Then, If we survived, we ate each other. It was like lord of the flies. I especially liked roasted heart on a stick.
We often played football while bare-chested and also rugby.
It was a bit difficult for boys in the pack having to do the scrums while stripped to the waist.
Quite a few lads(me included) not only went stripped to the waist for PE but when about bare-chested in school at break times etc.
When I went to secondary school we boys were all told that we had to do PE stripped to the waist and I also quite enjoyed it.
My start to secondary school was a bit like Sam's, mainly because I didn't pay enough attention to the uniform list. Although it stated that boys had to wear a PE vest bought from the school shop, I made the (incorrect) assumption that an ordinary white t-shirt would do, as had been the case at primary school. When I wore it for the first PE lesson, the teacher was less than pleased. Why wasn't I wearing my vest, he wanted to know? I didn't have one, I told him. That seemed to make him more angry and, unsurprisingly, I was ordered to take my t-shirt off and do the lesson barechested. I was the only boy in the class without a vest and that felt really humiliating.
To make matters worse, when I went to the school shop the next day there were no vests in my size, so although I ordered one it still hadn't arrived when my next PE lesson came around. I hoped if I explained the situation to the teacher he might agree to let me wear my t-shirt this once. Wrong. My pleas fell on deaf ears and once again I found myself forced to do PE barechested. Tthis time it was cross country too and I've rarely felt so miserable as I did during that run. Oh, and I got detention as well. Thankfully my vest arrived the next day and I made sure I brought it to every lesson from then on!
When I went to secondary school at the age of eleven my parents received info from the nedw school including uniform etc.
On looking at the PE uniform I noticed that therfe was no mention of a vest/singlet.
When I mentioned it at school the next day I was told that we would have to do PE topless.
I wasn't very happy and when I started at the new school I dreaded PE.
On the first day we trooped into the changing room and the other boys soon were stripped to the waist so I had to join them and strip to the waist as well.
What made it worse was that we had cross-country and had to run through the nearby streets bare-chested.
The other lads seemed to enjoy it and I soon got used to it myself.
My father also made me go shirtless nearly all the time.
As soon as I got home from school I had to strip to the waist and I remained stripped to the waist for the rest of the day.
I was stripped to the waist throughout the weekend and I vividly remember sitting down to Sunday lunch bare-chested.
Like Robbie I was kept shirtless most of the time and actually got quite used to it
Sam's comment reminded me of a friend I had at school called Tom, whose parents made him go shirtless a lot of the time. They were very into healthy living - no junk food etc - and believed it was healthier for him not to wear a shirt if possible. In summer Tom was almost always in shorts and nothing else, as was his brother who was a couple of years older than us and both of them would be well tanned. Tom was usually shirtless for playing sport, including PE classes at junior school where he was the only boy (or girl!) with no top on. The rest of us used to tease Tom about his minimalist PE kit, but he took it all in good spirit and made it clear he was comfortable with being shirtless.
When we went to senior school Tom was no longer the odd one out in PE classes because it was made clear that all boys were required to do it in shorts and bare chest. That didn't bother Tom at all as he hadn't brought a PE top anyway and I don't think he could quite understand why most of his friends, including me, felt less comfortable about having to take our tops off.
However, having Tom around definitely helped me get used to it because he was so at ease with being shirtless. I was nervous when we had to do cross country, in case any of my family or neighbours saw me running with no top on, but Tom just ran confidently and naturally and after a while I found I could do the same. I surprised Tom when we played tennis together on a hot day the following summer - of course he was shirtless as usual but when he saw me take my top off as well he gave me a sarcastic round of applause!
I lost touch with Tom after school but I'd be interested to know if he kept up his shirtless habit - and, if he had any sons, whether they were expected to follow his example.
When I did cross-country I had to go stripped to the waist whatever the conditions.
Although I didn't like it at first I soon go used to it and eventually I went bare-chested whenever I could.
I remember there was one lad whose father kept him shirtless for most of the time and he refused to wear a shirt even when offered one.
I think one major reason for doing PE shirtless was that when you got sweaty after vigourous exercise it was more comfortable not having a vest clinging to your sweaty back and sweaty chest.
Certainly I enjoyed doing PE stripped to the waist whatever the weather conditions and it also helped me when I worked as a builders' labourer in my vacations both from school and college.
I always was stripped to the waist on site.
Like Paul I well remember doing bare-chested runs after lunch but during the lunch breaks.
We would be cheered on not only by fellow pupils but also by a group of workers on a nearby building site.They were of course all stripped to the waist themselves.
At my school gym was done in underwear. Girls wore navy blue knickers and a white T shirt (bras where allowed for the over 13s). No footwear indoors but outside plimsolls allowed.
Boys wore only tight white briefs both indoors and outdsoors
Outdoors plimsolls were allowed.
X-country in the wet mud was great fun!
In reply to Rob's question about shirts v skins sports that took place outdoors, we sometimes played football that way at my school. Our football/rugby tops were reversible but they were also quite thick and heavy so in warmer weather it was often preferable to play shirts v skins instead. Most boys welcomed the opportunity to run around more freely instead of having to wear a heavy sweat-soaked shirt that clung to your skin.
The school teams wore a different shirt, made of lighter material, for matches against rival schools, but these weren't reversible. That meant that in warm ups, if we played five a side, half the team would be instructed to take their shirts off. Personally I disliked being a skin in the warm up, not because I was embarrassed about going barechested but it felt uncomfortable having to put a shirt on when my chest and back were sweaty.
Cross country at my school was a serious thing. If you weren't good at it, then you had a hard time. Luckily I was (and still am) very good, but that automatically made me a XC Captain and extra training sessions, where failure not an option. Me and a few others were living skeletons -ideal for long distance running and able to take the punishing training schedule handed to us.
Most lunchtimes were comprised of an almost hour-long run with the PE teacher pacing us on his bike, not letting us lose pace. The thinner we got, the easier it was, due to never having lunch, but running instead.
Was great in the summer, with us 5 team runners going out the gate for our lunchtime run - shirtless, usually ending with a lap or two of the field, whilst the others were on their break - getting cheers off the girls and encouraging us till we finished.
It paid off, winning the regional champs and secured places for a 10-day xc camp, which was hard but fun.
Rob, We played skins and vests games outdoors too - basketball on the yard (using the girls netball rings when they were indoors) football both 5 a side and full matches and cross country for which we were all made to run with vests off. May sound harsh but really it was normally good fun until it started to snow
Gary, I'm intrigued by what sports you played shirts v skins outdoors...? Like many here, my PE kit was white shorts only for work in the gym, but outside we did cross country, cricket and athletics in shorts and a t-shirt and had football and reversible rugby shirts for those sports.
In my school in the 1960's it certainly was the rule that all PE was done stripped to the waist and we were all bare-chested whatever the weather even in 1963.
Ed, the 1980s? I left Catholic Secondary at 16, in 1992. We played shirts vs skins year round in the gym and outdoors in all but the worst weather.(When we'd be in gym, 50% of us shirtless.)This practice continued for a number of years after I left, as did communal showering in an area designed for much smaller classes.
Although things were possibly changing by the 1980's there were still many schools where bare-chested PE both indoors and outside was insisted on.
Things had clearly changed by the time I went to school in the 80s because I had a PE teacher who actually refused to let me do cross country barechested. I realised when we were getting changed that I'd left my vest at home but just put on the rest of my kit (shorts, socks, trainers) and assumed it wouldn't matter. A lot of boys chose to run with their vests off in summer and, although it was November, I thought it'd probably make me look hard in front of the other lads if I ran barechested on a cold day (the kind of thing you tend to think as a 14 year-old boy, which I was at the time).
But the teacher wasn't having it, even though I insisted 'I don't mind Sir', he said it was too cold outside and he wouldn't be responsible for me catching pneumonia! I'm not sure how much extra protection from the cold he thought the cotton vests worn by the rest of the class would give them! However, I wasn't allowed to do cross country that day - instead he told me to go and join the class doing PE in the gym. Ironically they were just about to start a shirts and skins basketball session, so I fitted right in! But I would have been quite happy to run barechested and, from reading some of the messages here, it's clear that I would certainly have been made to do so 20 years earlier.
As with Philip, at my Grammar School in the 1960's I did cross-country stripped to the waist and barefoot.
Again we started at the beginning of the Autumn Term and were used to it by the time it got colder.
Nobody complained and we quite enjoyed showing off our bare chests in the local area especially as many of the lads were quite well-built and muscular.
Several of the older lads had developed hairy chests as well.
I was at grammar school in the 60s and, like many others, ran cross country, mainly in the winter, but always barefoot and bare-chested. This seemed quite normal and, as we started before the weather got cold we got used to it as the temperature dropped. I don't remember any-one being upset by it - we were all treated the same and being shirtless or barefoot was never used as a punishment. Some people these days seem to get upset about a little discomfort - it seems a shame barefoot and shirtless cross country is no longer the norm.
Hi, I am Lars,19, from Germany.
I really like this picture, because of these good locking boys. I wish, the where running stripped to the waist, to see there nice chests.
As Roy said being stripped to the waist for PE was normal in the fifties and sixties.
Boys accepted it and certainly there was also an element of discipline involved as well.
Lads did have to do press-ups etc outdoors while stripped to the waist as a form of punishment.
At my school it was simply the normal practice for all boys to be stripped to the waist for PE and nobody questioned it.
I've read the last few posts about shirtless PE being linked to discipline and there's certainly no doubt this was the case at my school. Unless you forgot your kit, the only time you did PE shirtless was as some kind of punishment, often running around the football pitch in detention. Even if it was just a round of press ups, it wasn't unusual to be instructed to take your vest off first.
Like many teenage boys, I was probably a bit too cocky and lacking respect and I think the idea was to take you down a peg or two. For me it certainly had that effect. I remember suddenly feeling quite small and embarrassed on one occasion when I was told to get my vest off and do laps of the gym. Finally I was allowed to rejoin the rest of the class but the teacher made it clear: 'that vest stays off'. I felt even more uncomfortable because I was surrounded by about 30 other boys all wearing full PE kit and me in just shorts and bare chest.
I'm sure it would have felt different if we'd all had to do PE shirtless on a regular basis. Because we didn't, it was an effective punishment and probably helped to keep boys in line.
I agree with Ben.There seems to be no discipline these days and if doing PE stripped to the waist brings this about then I'm all for it.
I did PE stripped to the waist throughout my school life and it did me no harm
well, if it helps to discipline boys I am all for it. Boys these days need a bit more discipline a firmer approach. Shirtless PE certainly puts them in their place.
Daniel, I think there's a difference between boys choosing to go shirtless because they find it comfortable in warmer weather, and being forced to go shirtless for PE. Swimming was a bit different because no boy would expect to do that wearing anything other than shorts or trunks. But it can be a real shock for boys, especially those who are shy or self conscious, to suddenly be told they must go running or play football bare chested, something they wouldn't normally do. I could see no logical reason why I needed to be shirtless for physical exercise, it always felt like it was more about discipline.
I don't see what is the problem people seem to have about lads having to strip to the waist for PE etc.
You are stripped to the waist for swimming so what is the difference in having to be bare-chested for PE.
Also you often see youths walking around stripped to the waist in hot weather in the summertime in any event.
I went to a boarding school in the early 60s which was spartan to say the least running over the moors and through the bogs. Cross Country was always done in vest, shorts and plimsols. No underwear of any kind was allowed or rugby shirt under the vest. The first puddle in winter and the toes turned blue. In winter the ice on the frozen puddles cut the ankles.
PT in the gym and the school yard was done barefoot and in some strange stretchy shorts that were more like swimming trunks. PT included running outside barefoot in all kinds of weathers.
To his credit our ex-army didn't stay in his office drinking tea but joined us similarly dressed and was always ready to encourage us along with a quick swipe on the buttocks or legs.
Many of our runs were timed so that he could punish any boys who had been lazy and brought in a slower time.
Happy days though.
When I was about fifteen a group of boys from a secondary modern school joined our Grammar School to do O Levels.At their previous school they were stripped to the waist for PE and at their new school they continued to be bare-chested.Gradually more and more of us started to strip to the waist and eventually we were all stripped to the waist!
My parents had moved home so I changed schools too. Our PE teacher was hard (ex Army) and following a sharp frost early November I changed into my PE kit - vest, shorts and trainers for my first lesson. After leaving the comfort of indoors we were lined up on the school field and being the new boy was singled out to stand in front of the class and told to drop my vest on the freezing ground and form a skins team. Upon seing me react to the cold our teacher yelled out "You'll have your vest off until I tell you otherwise. I'll toughen you up!" For the next 5 years he was as good as his word regardless of the time of year/conditions or temperature I remained barechested for PE and Games lessons until I left at 18.
To answer Stuart's questions, we always did cross country in vests, shorts and trainers or plimsolls. The only variation was when it was really hot or humid and some boys would ask to take their vests off, but I don't think anyone ever asked to go barefoot.
Personally I was quite shy so I always kept my vest on for PE unless I was made to take it off. This happened quite regularly in the gym where most team sports were played as shirts versus skins. One boy in my class frequently used to turn up without his vest and therefore would almost always be on the skins team. If you were a skin you played in just white shorts, but never barefoot.
Outdoors we had reversible football/rugby shirts which were worn for team sports, and black shorts instead of white.
At my school all boys did PE stripped to the waist and most went barefoot as well.
For cross country again we all went stripped to the waist and although we could wear plimsolls many went barefoot.
When you were allowed to wear vests & plimsolls, did everyone do so, or did some boys still stick with bare feet, and do PE stripped to the waist ? What did you do ?
Did you wear vests/shirts for cross county, or were you made to strip. At my school on the very odd occassion that we couldn't play rugby outside, we used the gym, but everyone had to take off their rugby shirts - in effect the same kit as for PE, just navy shorts replacing white shorts, nothing on our feet and bare to the waist.
Reading this blog brought back painful memories. I attended a boys grammar school (that became a comprehensive under the Wilson/Callaghan governments) in London during the late 1960's and early 1970's. The rich tapestry that was our formal school uniform was strictly enforced. However the PE uniform was minimal to say the least. There was a school pecking order in those days. First and Second Year boys wore only a pair of white shorts for indoor PE, which comprised mainly gymnastics. Discipline was strict and at times brutal with plenty of "thick ears" and the occasional slippering. All indoor activities were performed barefoot. However, the regime relaxed as we got older. Senior students could wear vests and plimsolls.
Outside activities were limited to rugby union, cricket and athletics/cross country. We had to have a sports uniform for these. We were expected to play in rain, hail or snow. Occasionally we were allowed to retire to the gym during periods of exceptionally cold weather. If so, we continued minus our shoes and socks.
Nearly fifty years ago was the harsh winter of 1962/63 and at my school the lads still had to do PE etc outdoors while stripped to the waist.
A few months later when it was quite hot we again we were bare-chested for athletics and our annual sports day.
Our school was in a built up area and from the outset when we went out on cross-country runs we had to go stripped to the waist.At first many lads found it embarrasing running through the streets bare-chested but we soon got used to it.
At my school you could buy a blue sweatshirt which could be worn over your PE vest for cross country. The teacher didn't mind that so a few boys, including me, got into the habit of wearing them. Sometimes I didn't even bother to bring a vest, I just wore my sweatshirt. That was unwise, as I found out when we had a new teacher who insisted it was vests only and ordered those of us with sweatshirts to take them off there and then. 'Tough' he said when I protested that I had nothing underneath my top and made me take it off anyway. I got a lecture about the importance of bringing the right kit, then I was given detention and finally, of course, I had to go and do the lesson bare-chested and shivering. I'd never run without a top before and it was a miserable experience. I had goose pimples and my teeth were chattering, plus of course I felt really self conscious - the other boys all had vests, so I was the only one stripped to my shorts. It was a huge relief when the lesson was over and I was determined to make sure I didn't repeat the experience.
As it turned out, I had to do it again the very next day in detention! There were four or five boys altogether and we all got changed into PE kit as instructed - this time I wore my vest instead of the sweatshirt. But I might as well not have bothered, the teacher announced that we'd be doing detention - which consisted of another outdoor run - with our vests off. So once again I found myself trudging around with goose pimples and chattering teeth, the only slight consolation was that this time all the other boys had to bare their chests as well.
As many people have said, there was no point in complaining or arguing if you were told to run bare-chested. I found it quite a shock when I started secondary school and learned that my PE kit was shorts, socks and plimsolls and nothing else. At first I thought it must be a mistake but realised it wasn't when I started getting changed for the first PE lesson and saw the other boys in my class stripped to the waist. Many didn't like it and one or two were in tears but nobody dared to question it, we just had to get on with it because those were the rules.
Like Adam and Mark our school shared a site with a secondary modern school and the boys there always did PE stripped to the waist.
One lad at our school started to take his vest off and more and more boys followed suit so that eventually all of us were stripped to the waist both indoors and for cross-country runs.
We were supposed to wear a vest for PE but one lad sarted to go stripped to the waist.More and more boys followed suit and eventually we were all stripped to the waist.
As Matt and others have said it was the norm for boys to do PE stripped to the waist in the fifties and sixties.You would start doing it often from the age of seven right up to the Upper Sixth when many hairy chests were on display!
As Ronan said how fortunate those boys were.At my school we had to run stripped to the waist in all conditions including fog rain and sleet.
I noticed that whenever a boy was stripped to the waist for games especialyy on sports days the girls always seemed to hang around by them!!
I agree with Roy that being stripped to the waist as a matter of course made us proud of our bodies.
If you stripped to the waist for PE it tended to make you look after your bodies properly.I grew to be quite proud of my muscular body especially when I developed a hairy chest!!
Doing PE etc stripped to the waist was normal in the fifties and sixties normally from the age of seven.Boys got used to it.We had to.
I remember having to do PE outside while stripped to the waist whatever the weather conditions.Thiswa also in the sixties.
Like Adam we shared a site with a secondary modern school and again the boys there did PE stripped to the waist while we had vests until we shared a PE teacher with them.He made us go stripped to the waist as well and eventually we got used to it and accepted it.
Our PE kit was shorts and plimsolls so we did games etc stripped to the waist right from the start.This included the winter of 1962/3.It was also common for the boys to go barefoot as well.
I went to a grammar school in the sixties.The school shared a site with a secondary modern school.The grammar school uniform for PE was vest and shorts while the secondary modern boys were stripped to the waist.However it was not long before we shared a PE teacher with the secondary modern and on the first lesson we had to strip to the waist.It was cross-country and it was raining heavily.I remember running through a built up area stripped to the waist and with the rain water running down my bare back.Thereafter we had to do PE stripped to the waist all the time.
Like JB we were supposed to wear vests and shorts for PE but one boy started to go stripped to the waist and afterwards more and more lads joined him and evetually the entire class was stripped to the waist.The teachers said nothing.We were about eleven when this started and this carried on into the sixth form.By this time some of the boys had hairy chests.
We were suuposed to wear vest and shorts for PE but gradually the lads started to go stripped to the waist.Evntually the master in charge made us all go stripped to the waist whatever the weather bot in and out of doors.
I agree with Mark.When boys did PE stripped to the waist and nothing was said more lads took off their vests and did PE bare chest.
Like JB our kit was singlet and shorts but many boys went stripped to the waist.The masters said nothing but as time went by more and more boys went bare chest both inside and out of doors.
Like RF I had a similar experience but I was not only stripped to the waist but barefoot as well.
On my first day's PE all the boys put on our shorts and bared our chests.The master in charge then made us take off our socks and plimsolls and go barefoot both inside and out doors.
I remember the harsh winter of 1962/3 when all the boys had to do outdoor PE in the snow stripped to the waist and barefoot.
Then after that we had to have a cold shower.
I too wasn't used to seeing other lads naked but soon got used to it.
When I was about to move to secondary school in the late 1950s my parents had to go to a new parents evening at the new school. While there they were told about the uniform including that for PE etc.
When they came home my dad told me that I would be doing PE stripped to the waist.I was apprehensive about it as I had never done bare-chested before.
When the new term started we had PE on the first day and we all changed and most of the other new boys(from other primary schools to mine ) were used to going stripped to the waist. I reluctantly took off my shirt and went into the gym bare-chested along the other lads.
However once I had stripped to the waist for the first time I found it perfectly natural and had no qualms thereafter.
I was also worried about showering naked alongside other lads but there again I soon got used to seeing other boys naked.
The school uniform listed our kit as a vest, shorts, ankle socks and plimsoles. However after changing for our first PE lesson we were to find our teacher thought differently. After being taken outside and lined up on the yard he walked up the line letting us know what was expected in terms of effort and when he reached the end of the line randomly picked a boy and made him face the class and take his vest off. Regardless of the activity,the time of year or the weather,indoors or outside, we remained barechested until we left. As you moved up the school there was no shortage of interest from girls watching and eyeing you up.
My first experience of being stripped to the waist at scool for games etc was when I started at junior school.I was nearly eight and we had to do a short cross-country run through a built up area near the school.When we changed the teacher made us boys strip to the waistI.After that it was quite normal to be bare-chested for all games etc. I was nearly nineteen when I left school and by then I had been stripped to the waist for games for nearly eleven years.Also now I was quite muscular and with a hairy chest.
Steve and others.Boys' attitudes to being stripped to the waist didn't matter as if the masters told you to strip to the waist for games etc then you stripped to the waist-end of story.
Steve, Our kit was simply a vest, shorts and plimshoes however our teacher would have either the whole class stripped to the waist or keep half in vests.
I was 12 when during an outdoor fitness session when I made the fatal mistake of answering back. Our teacher really didn't "do" comments and picked me to remove my vest when he turned and said "You'll not be saying that after I'm finished" After the lesson ended I was told "press ups and laps of the field for you tomorrow". The following morning it was chucking down with rain and I thought my punishment would be put back....erm no. I was taken out of my English lesson and down the changing room. Having changed I was taken out onto the school yard, which ironically the English block overlooked and told to get my vest off and leave it on the yard. I was made to start my press ups and a few minutes later was completely soaked. Then came the run - 13 laps round the field. After finishing I thought that would be it but was made to do another lot of press ups in one of the puddles that had formed on the field before I could finally go in. I never stepped out of line again and nor did my PE teacher ever pick me to wear a vest again at school.
In those days there was more discipline in school and if told to do PE stripped to the waist you did it and didn't get stroppy.
In those days school rules said that boys did P E etc stripped to the waist and sometimes barefoot as well.It was no use complaining(not that many boys did) because you would more than likely receive up to six strokes of the cane while stripped to the waist.
I agree with David. Being stripped to the waist certainly toughened you up.That is what youths need today.
I think that in the fifties and sixties most boys accepted that you did P E etc stripped to the waist whatever the weather both inside and outdoors.
I also did cross-country stripped to the waist and barefoot.As our school was in a built up area we ran through the streets so that passers by could see us.No one was bothered by that.Many of the sixth formers were quite muscular with well developed shoulders and chests and some of them had hairy chests as well.
Did cross country shirtless, too. Just like the boys in this photo;
Like Steve I had to do cross-country stripped to the waist and barefoot.This was in the sixties and it was the done thing that if you were a boy you stripped to the waist.
I agree with Dave and always stripped to the waist not only at school for P E but when playing in the street or the park etc.
Being stripped to the waist caused me no problems.If you are a boy you strip to the waist as often as you can.No big deal
Like Roy and others I had to do cross-country stripped to the waist.It was quite enjoyable in the summer terms when I was usually bare-foot as well but you had to put up with it in the winter and eventually you got used to it
I'm glad I'm not the only one to feel that it is normal for boys to be stripped to the waist at all times for P E etc.
I agree that it should be perfectly normal to do cross county etc stripped to the waist whatever the weather
In addition many boys normally would be wearing jewellery including not only a wristwatch but also necklaces such as a cross and chain or a St.Christopher medallion.Some masters allowed this but others made them remove them.
In the sixties we did cross-country stripped to the waist and barefoot.We mainly ran through built up areas near to the school and many locals were watching scores of bare-chested youths(some sixth-formers had hairy chests) running through the streets with some shouting comments at the youths
Like Alec our cross country runs were performed barechested. Personally I didn't find running in the rain too bad, it was the snow where I struggled. If we didn't perform to the teacher's expectations we were taken out of a lesson to be given either laps of the field (anything between 10-15 laps being the norm), or a fitness session outdoors. Obviously punishments were done with your vest off and could be quite brutal during a freezing winter.
Like Robin I suffered a similar cross country experience. However we were compulsory shirtless (year round in Scotland). I can still remember the cold getting right into my bones. Running shirtless in hailstones and almost gale force wind was sheer torture and extremely cruel. Sleet or heavy rain and driving wind was much worse than falling snow. Although I don't recall running in heavy falling snow. Snow, ice and wet grass soaked through the thin plimsolls as soon as we left the unheated changing rooms. (I recall boys getting chilblains frequently) This had the effect of making our feet begin to freeze while the cold wind lashed bare legs and torsos. We wore no underwear and the thin shorts offered little protection. The showers were often freezing (The actual pipes bursting upon thawing)and never trully warm. CP in the form of Slipper weilding P.T. teachers and the daily queue for the Cane outside the Vice Headmaster's door completed a trully horrid experience.
Our school cross country course was 4 miles long, and included surfaces of grass and earth, passing through woodlands and open country, and included hills, flat ground and gravel roads. The cross country season was from immediately after the Christmas holidays until February half-term, and included weather conditions of rain, sleet, snow or hail, and a wide range of temperatures.
Cross-country was run in our outdoor PE kit of white shorts and white football shirt.
At the end of the lesson, everyone undressed for a communal shower.
how lucky were they! We were shirtless whatever thet weather