Hesketh Fletcher Gym Team

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1935         Item #: 1741         Views: 161,856         Comments: 732

Hesketh Fletcher Gym Team

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Hesketh Fletcher Gym Team of Atherton, Greater Manchester.
Source: G. Smith.

732 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by William on 30th March 2020  

I was at a boys' grammar school in the '60s. For gym we wore shorts (no pants) without a top. How boys got changed reflected their confidence. At first I was shy and skinny and changed in the way described by Andy, even though we all saw each other nude in the showers. But the way the confident boys just stripped off looked more manly and after a while I followed their example. Hiding behind a shirt started to look more embarrassing than having nothing on.
For the shy boys getting changed for swimming was worse than gym. We went to the local pool and two boys changed in a cubicle designed for one adult. You can't dry yourself wearing wet trunks so you just had to take them off and get on with it. Modesty was impossible.
We never wore anything under shorts: gym, rugby, hockey, athletics, cross country. I don't think we were inspected. None of us would have dared to disobey our gym master; he would have noticed in the showers. No top and no pants quickly became ingrained. It helped that it was the same for everyone.

Comments by Chris G on 30th March 2020  

I was a "top-off-first/top-on-last" dresser right from early childhood, probably responding to a domestic ethos of covering at least one's "rude bits" even if otherwise completely bare. In that respect, I was perhaps one of Simon's "confident boys" although as my mum, unlike Simon's, was rather keen on vests, until I was about ten I rarely went without one, except for the few weeks of the school summer holidays. And so it continued into secondary school, until the introduction of topless PE eliminated the need to take (or wear) a vest to PE classes and with it ultimately eliminated the need to wear a vest to school, or anywhere else, at all. I certainly had no issue with wearing just shorts and plimsolls for PE, and three years of topless PE certainly prepared me for my transition to boarding school and life in an open-plan dormitory, where nobody wore vests and where almost everyone slept bare-chested.

Comments by Paul on 30th March 2020  

Biggles: we had a no underpants rule and PE shorts were thin and white so anything underneath was quite obvious. Periodically there would be a check when we all had to turn to the benches in the changing room and bend over and anyone wearing underpants had to take them off, step back into their shorts and stay bending over for a dose of the strap, six was normal and it stung so much I take my underpants off on autopilot to this day.

The PE teachers were often in the changing room when we were changing and any lad dithering over taking off his underpants would be reprimanded. Equally they were there when we were stripping for showers and if you were wearing underpants you were as good as caught.

It really wasn't worth the risk of the strap and I would say compliance was over 95% if not 99%.

Comments by Biggles on 30th March 2020  

To Josh and others who had the no-underpants rule for PE at their school.

Were there any inspections or supervision by the coach or teacher to make sure that no boys wore underpants under their PE shorts?

We only wore shorts for PE at my secondary school but we didn't have to take our underpants off.

Also, for the female posters here, were there any girls schools which applied this no-underpants rule for PE, or was it just for boys?

One last question, was this rule for boys ever applied in primary or junior schools, or just in secondary and other older boys schools?

Comments by Andy on 29th March 2020  

I too was at school in the 80s, I remember always getting changed for PE in the same order. Being shy I always took my trousers and underpants off first, that way my shirt offered me some cover while putting on my shorts. I always put my T- shirt on last. I noticed others changed their top half first and this left the lower half fully exposed while putting on their shorts. Some also changed sitting down, but I found shuffling into shorts a difficult so always stood to pull up my shorts.

Comments by Josh H on 29th March 2020  

I attended an all boys secondary school 1961 to 1966. I do not ever worrying about having to do pe with not top or just wearing shorts with no underwear and plimsolls with no socks. It just was that way. I suppose I was a bit ready for it because my elder brother attend the same school I already knew that when I went there it would be the same for me.

Comments by Simon on 29th March 2020  

Rachael, to answer your question my mum didn't insist I wore a vest - I'm sure if I'd said I preferred to go without, she wouldn't have made a fuss. It just wasn't something I'd ever thought about but you're right, PE probably did influence me to gradually stop wearing a vest. I was 12 the first time I did PE barechested and probably started to leave the vest behind within a year.
One thing I remember noticing, as a general rule, was that the more confident boys tended not to wear vests. Also, they would often get changed for PE in a distinctive order - taking their school shirts off immediately to show their bare chests before even untying their shoelaces or anything like that. Then, if we were doing PE outdoors, the T shirt or football shirt was the last thing to go on. If PE was in the gym it was mandatory skins anyway.
Boys who were a bit more shy tended to change in a different manner and I was no different at first, anyway - I'd put on the rest of my PE kit and postpone taking my vest off until last.
Did anyone else find boys had a particular order for getting changed?

Comments by Chris G on 28th March 2020  

Rachael: Introduction of topless PE when I was about 13 had the unintended consequence, for me and for virtually all of my mates, in that instead of going to school wearing our vests, taking them off for PE and putting them on again after the lesson, we soon "forgot" put them back on and we generally went vest-less for the remainder of the day. Inevitably, it was then just a short step not to bother with a vest at all on PE days, and a further short step to not wearing one at all. Mum, always keen on kids wearing vests, even in summer, had been surprisingly encouraging when I first told her I wouldn't need a PE vest any more, but was less enthusiastic when she realised that I had stopped wearing them altogether, even in winter, as a direct result of this.

Comments by Rachael on 28th March 2020  

Hi Simon, did your mum make you wear a vest under your school shirt? I remember there were plenty of colours vests that lay discarded by those on the skins team. Did being picked to strip off to the waist influence to stop wearing one and what age were you when you stopped.

John, thank you for taking the time to reply to my post, it's appreciated

Comments by Chris G on 28th March 2020  

I was about 13 when topless PE was introduced in my school. The PE master gave us advance warning just before the summer holidays that from the beginning of the next term the only kit that we would require for indoor PE would be shorts and plimsolls, and actually asked what we felt about the change. I don't remember anyone, in my class at least, having any objections or reservations. As far as I can remember, all of us thought it a good idea and there was a lot of working on tans during the holiday months in readiness.

Unfortunately, after three years of topless PE at this particular school, I moved on to a boarding school because of family circumstances. Here, heavyweight cotton T-shirts and rugby shorts were required PE wear at all times, a ruling which concerted pleas by myself and a number of like-minded classmates to the headmaster and PE teacher failed to influence.

Comments by John on 27th March 2020  

Simon, Rachael,
I totally agree with both of you that requiring boys to strip to the waist for PE was a good thing. Iím sure that the boys that I was at school with were more disciplined exercising bare chested and it helped to deal with any body issues that any of us might have had. I was a skinny kid but soon realized that I was amongst other skinny kids and lads who had weight issues. We tried harder at PE and did want to look look good as we got into our teens.

The skins team in shirts vs skins team games always seemed to work together and often beat the shirts. Making lads wear tops for PE is wrong if lads donít want to wear them.

Comments by Simon on 27th March 2020  

Rachael, you're absolutely right. Even when I was at school a lot of us boys had hang ups about our bodies and I suspect that problem is worse nowadays. I was initially shy about going barechested in PE because I had excess puppy fat. But there were other boys who found it difficult because they were worried about being too bony, or having acne, or later on having too much or not enough body hair... whatever it was, we all had to deal with our issues. I think in the long run it helped being required to strip to the waist. You wanted to look good, in front of the other boys as well as the girls - and later on it was such a confidence boost if you realised a girl was impressed by your body!
I don't know if others agree, but I think gping barechested also helped to make us more disciplined overall.

Comments by Ryan on 27th March 2020  

I agree with Danny. Following Mr.Dando's comments where is this all going to lead. Are we going to expect a return to the Victorian swimming attire and arrangements for male and female? The majority of males do not wear a top when they go swimming. Furthermore does he expect that men will be made to wear tops at all time even in the summer?
When swimming my preference is to wear brief style trunks and that should be my prerogative without anyone else saying what should be worn. Unfortunately, there are some people who want to dictate otherwise. Likewise it is up to individual schools and institutions to set out what should be worn as uniform or sports gear.

Comments by Andrea on 25th March 2020  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

Mr Dando,

My reading of the original rules is that boys had the OPTION to go bare chested for indoor PE if they so wished, not that they were FORCED to. So it could be argued that the new rules are more restrictive. Similarly it has removed the option for year 4 to 6 girls to wear leotards if they wish to.

Comments by Rachael on 25th March 2020  

Mr Dando, surely encouraging boys to strip to the waist is a good thing. It would help reduce the do called hang ups with their physique and done in the safety of school and fully CRB checked teachers.

Comments by Danny on 25th March 2020  


Maybe your other campaign to make boys wear tops for swimming to cover their chests will also be adopted in swimming pools and for school swimming.
Who knows.

Comments by John on 24th March 2020  

Mr Dando,
I completely disagree with you, boys are different from girls and this is a biological fact. Boys should be allowed to decide if they wish to wear a top or not for indoor PE; if boys prefer to do gym classes barechested they should be allowed to do so and not forced to wear a vest or t shirt.

Comments by Mr Dando on 24th March 2020  

No boy should be forced to ever have to do barechested PE and I'm glad my campaign stopped this school from having a shirtless rule for males. Here are the old rules:


PE Indoor
ē Girls R-Y3 - Navy/black leotards
ē Girls Y4-Y6 - Navy/black leotards or white T-shirt and dark shorts
ē Boys R-Y6 - Dark shorts and white T-shirt /bare chest

Here is the new gender neutral kit


PE Kit
White round neck cotton t-shirt
Black shorts
Optional plain black tracksuit (to be worn during winter if needed)

It is optimistic to see that now children are self-isolating and doing PE from home pupils are no longer forced to have school showers or wear discriminatory PE kits.

We must use this hiatus in institutional schooling to repeal all mandatory shower rules such as this one:

Corbridge Middle School maroon shirt with school logo (compulsory)
Corbridge Middle School maroon shorts (compulsory)
Corbridge Middle School outdoor rugby top (optional)
Corbridge Middle School blue base layer top (optional)
Long socks for outdoor lessons
Strong footwear (boots or trainers) for playing rugby/soccer/hockey (pupils should bring both types of footwear to outdoor lessons)

Towel (showers will be taken if the weather has been inclement or the ground muddy)

Please note. Earrings must be removed during P.E. lessons and sporting activities

Together we can make schooling a better experience for all kids!

Comments by Rachael on 24th March 2020  

Hi Simon, Although we had separate lessons we could still see boys in the gym due to the reinforced windows that ran the length the of the corridor so we were treated to a good view either of boys exercising or stripping off their vests at the start of a lesson. We did have a boys vs girls basketball and netball game each year normally in May. The boys always played as skins, it was a laugh but always was competitive. I always enjoyed seeing boys go topless for PE/Games lessons but it was good to see boys being able to demonstrate their masculinity. It's something that is sadly lacking in today's world.

Comments by John on 22nd March 2020  

I was 9 when the stripped to the waist for boys PE rule was introduced at Primary School. I felt self conscious just wearing shorts and pumps but after the second lesson I forgot that I wasnít wearing a top and with the rest of the lads actually preferred it. At Senior School indoor PE was topless for gym, basketball was played with both teams shirtless and wearing different colored bibs.
Football was occasionally played shirts vs skins outdoors in winter if the PE teacher ran out of colored bibs, we were lined up and half of us told to take our shirts off. I got to enjoy playing football shirtless in winter, the skins team always seemed to gel better and work harder than the shirts.
For cross country some PE teachers made us run in shorts and trainers, but even if we were allowed to run in t shirts or vests many lads used to go topless anyway.

Comments by Simon on 22nd March 2020  

Hi Rachael, I was one of those boys who wore a vest under my school shirt during the 80s although not everyone in my class did! Interesting to hear your perspective on boys' PE kit,  I wasn't clear whether boys and girls did PE together at most of the schools you attended?
At my school it was usually separate PE classes for boys and girls, alternating between the gym and outdoors. Boys and girls wore the same kit outdoors - T shirt and shorts - but in the gym it was shorts only for boys. We did team games in coloured bibs or skins.
On occasions when the weather was really bad, outdoor PE was cancelled and we all had to squeeze into the gym together. Of course that meant us boys all had to take our T shirts off with the girls looking on and they certainly seemed to enjoy the spectacle! I remember feeling self conscious at first, along with many of the other lads, but as I grew into my mid teens I wanted to look good in front of the girls and having to go barechested probably made me work harder in PE.

Comments by Rachael on 22nd March 2020  

John, I hope you don't mind me asking at what age did you first start to be stripped off for PE, what sports did you play when you were skins and did you not mind being topless when it was cold? Thanks for your time.

Comments by John on 21st March 2020  

I think that it was good discipline and character building for lads to be stripped to the waist for PE/games, the policy didnít do my brother and I any harm.

Comments by Andrea on 21st March 2020  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

Yes, at Primary both girls and boys wore T shirts and shorts for PE, with our normal underwear beneath.

Did the girls who had just started to develop get any comments / teasing from the boys (or the other girls for that matter)?

Comments by Danny on 21st March 2020  

Andrea, I don't remember any girls wearing bras in primary school, even in last years at age 10-11.
A few may have had small breasts at that age but I think they were too small to require a bra.
As I said before we all wore vests under our shirts at school, both boys and girls, so girls with even small breasts could be seen under their vests when we changed for PE.
We all wore the same PE kit at primary school, both boys and girls, white shorts and white vest or t-shirt.
Did you have the same PE kit as boys in your primary school?

Comments by Rachael on 21st March 2020  

Hi Danny, I attended mixed secondary schools though due to my parents work we moved around quite a bit. One thing was constant though and that was boys doing PE/Games stripped off to the waist. My last school had lads from 13 to 18 stripped off both indoors and outdoors often when it was cold. Again teams of vests vs skins and just plain skins were very common. It must have been tough doing sit ups and other exercises on a bitingly cold winters day stripped off to the waist.

Comments by Andrea on 20th March 2020  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

When you say that both girls and boys wore shorts and vests for PE, do you mean your normal underwear vests or ones specifically for PE.

Although most of my classmates only started to wear bras when they were at secondary school, a few wore them during our final year at primary. Was this the case at your school too?

Comments by Danny on 20th March 2020  

Rachael, you are right, most boys and also girls wore vests under their school shirts when I was at school in the 60s.and it remained so till at least the 70s and 80s from what I remember.
The girls only started wearing the more loose t-shirts in secondary school when they started to wear bras.
So the other posters must be talking about today or more recent times. In which case I want to ask them what the kids wear today under their shirts.

I also wanted to ask you if you had mixed PE classes at school since you say that you girls preferred to see the boys doing PE bare chested and whether this was in primary or secondary school.

Comments by Rachael on 19th March 2020  

Back in the mid 80s a lot of boys wore vests under their school shirts. I remember at one secondary school I was at, boys were split into teams of vests vs skins, quite often the teacher had the whole class stripped to the waist for PE. I preferred to see all the boys be made to strip down, I imagine they'd prefer it too.

Comments by Bernard on 17th March 2020  

Sarah - Yes, I'm sure many kids would have stopped wearing vests before they start school but I wouldn't have thought it need be a problem for either boys or girls to do p.e. in just pants at that age.

Comments by Sarah on 17th March 2020  

The only downside of infants doing PE in vest and pants is that many kids have stopped wearing vests long before they start school.

Comments by Jim on 16th March 2020  

"INDOOR - Infants
The children change down to vest, pants and bare feet for indoor P.E."

Mr.Dando, what is so outrageous in infant kids doing PE in vest and pants?
Little kids that age don't care what they are wearing and feel more comfortable doing indoor PE that way, which is also probably safer and healthier.
In primary school we did PE in just underpants till age 8 or 9. After that age in the last years of Primary we wore white shorts and vest, both boys and girls.

Comments by Mr Dando on 14th February 2020  

I remember back in the 1980's if a boy did not have his kit some were forced to do PE in just vest and knickers or they had to get something filthy and mouldy from the "lost property" box.

It is unbelievable that there are still some schools that degrade children by forcing them to do gym in just their underwear. Here is one such institution:


INDOOR - Infants
The children change down to vest, pants and bare feet for indoor P.E.

This is cruel to force kids to PE in such a manner and bare feet where they can get verruca and other foot diseases. Lets us stop this outrage!

Comments by Andrea on 12th February 2020  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

Did your PE teachers give any reasons as to why they didn't allow girls to wear any tops for PE?
Also, did any parents object?

With regard to vests, mum usually insisted I wore one, except in warm weather. The styles didn't change much from when I started school (just before I was 5) until I started to wear a bra (at the start of my second year at secondary school).
Teen bras then were just scaled down versions of what our mums wore, so going from a vest to a bra seemed like a big step.

As I mentioned, by niece didn't want to wear a 'childish' vest by the time she was about 8, possibly influence by some of her friends, whose mums had bought them the half-vest styles. The first ones Sis bought for her looked just like half a vest, with elastic round the bottom, but subsequent ones became shorter, with thinner, adjustable straps, but still a pull-on style.

Comments by Anna on 12th February 2020  

I remember a little teasing, but as everyone was in the same boat it was minimal. Yes, it probably was a little easier for the boys to be in their pants than it was for us, given that we didn't wear tops.

At middle school I think we all wore vests, bras or nothing under our uniforms. I don't recall seeing anyone in a "half bra", though wearing one wouldn't have made any difference to our PE teachers.

Comments by Mike on 10th February 2020  


We all got changed together in the classroom for PE.

As far as I remember most of the girls did wear vests, though might've been more like half vests as you mentioned. My memory's gone a bit fuzzy on that part.

Swimming lessons were at a local public pool so obviously we got changed separately for them.

Comments by Andrea on 9th February 2020  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

Did boys and girls get changed for PE together when you were at primary school and if so did most of the girls wear vests?

When I was at primary in the 1960s, we did change together and I did wear a vest.
By contrast, when my son was at primary, boys and girls started to change in separate areas from the age of about 9 and he rarely wore a vest.

When my niece was about 7 or 8, her mum (my sister), bought her some half vests as she didn't want to wear a vest (which she regarded as childish).

Comments by Danny on 9th February 2020  

I am also surprised that there were schools like Anna mentions where they made boys and girls do mixed PE at age 12 and 13 in just pants, which I assume to mean just normal underpants,
Even as a boy I would have felt embarrassed at that age wearing just underpants for mixed PE class, which were normally cotton or nylon briefs in those days and I was in secondary school at that age. We just wore the normal white vests and shorts for PE.

Anna, was there any teasing between the boys and girls about doing PE in just pants?
I assume it was more embarrassing for the girls being seen by the boys in just underpants at that age, though not much less so by the boys.

Comments by Andrea on 7th February 2020  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

Hi Anna,
I remember our teacher telling a few of my classmates that they should start to wear bras for PE, so it seems ironic that yours made girls remove theirs!

Comments by Mike on 7th February 2020  


I'm surprised they made girls take bras/vests off in mixed classes. Can't imagine how embarrassing that would've been.

You also mention your mum insisted on you wearing a vest. Mine did as well (I was at primary school early to mid 1990s). Brings back memories of how embarrassing it was getting changed and often finding myself the only boy wearing one. Haven't worn them since.

Comments by Anna on 7th February 2020  

Hi Mike and Andrea

I don't know what my old school does these days but I'd e shcoked if they still make the pupils do PE in just their pants! Like you say, I don't think even many infant schools do it now. I left middle school in 1995.

Yes, when I say "just in pants" that's literally what I mean - we weren't allowed vests even if we wore them (I did, my mum insisted!), an even the girls who had started wearing a bra had to take them off and do the lessons in JUST their pants! I didn't wear a bra at middle school, I didn't habve anything to put in one! But quite a few of the girls in my year, especially in our last year, did, and I guess for them it was uncomfortable as well as embarrassing as it was for us all. Even though I didn't need a bra, I had started to develop a bit and I was always really aware of my nipples standing out as I ran around the gym topless!

Comments by Andrea on 6th February 2020  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

Like Mike I would be surprised if any schools made pupils do PE in just their pants nowadays. The only exception may be children in reception class, but even this must be rare.

When were you at middle school?
I'm assuming that when you say "just in pants", you weren't allowed to wear a vest or similar? That must have been both embarrassing and becoming uncomfortable by he time you left Middle School at 13?
Although I was still flat-chested when I left Primary School at 11, I was wearing a bra when I started my second year at Secondary (which would be the same as your last year at Middle School.

Comments by Mike on 6th February 2020  

Wouldn't have thought any schools would dare make kids do PE in just their pants these days

Comments by Anna on 5th February 2020  

I donít know if many schools now make boys and girls do PE together in just their pants, but as your say or used to be quite common. I went to infants school then onto middle school until age 13.

At middle school we were basically treated in PE as though we were still at infants. Although we had bigger and more impressive apparatus, were still did lessons in mixed classes and we still had to do them in just our pants! The rule applied to all our indoor lessons so it included gymnastics, dance, circuits and even occasionally things like volleyball.

Comments by Mr.Curious on 17th January 2020  

I agree that it is no big deal for boys to be topless for PE, especially if it is just a boys class.
They usually showered naked all together after PE class anyway.
But do you think that it is OK to make boys and girls in primary school do PE in just underpants, which was very common in many schools?
I wonder if this is still allowed today.

I also agree that a school is a safe place if they have the proper supervision at all times.

Comments by Emma A on 15th January 2020  

John, You are absolutely right. Schools are the safest places to give the boys experiences they may not otherwise get. The boys are in a protective environment in the gym so exercising topless shouldn't cause any issues, anxiety or fear. It's not unjust, sexy or anything like it, going topless is simply the most effective way for boys to exercise in the gym throughout school.

Comments by John on 4th January 2020  

Mr Dando,

Schools have a duty to educate children and teaching the importance of good personal hygiene is essential for a childís wellbeing. After doing gym or playing sports children will have become hot and sweaty and will require a shower in order to maintain their personal hygiene.

Your suggestion that children should be able to opt out of taking a shower after sports is a bad one. You will create a division between those children who are perfectly happy to have a shower after sports and those who choose to opt out. That situation could provide an environment for bullying to take place, bullies have a tendency to pick on children that they consider to be vulnerable and those who do not conform.

Parents are not forced to send their child to a school with rules that they disagree with. Headteachers and School Governors should be able to formulate policies and rules which they consider to be in the best interests of their children. there is no need for every school in the country to be exactly the same.

Comments by Mr Dando on 3rd January 2020  

John it is time to end Mandatory ablutions in our dismal educational institutions. Hygiene is a poor excuse for compulsory nudity in schools!

The time has come to name and shame these schools until they promise voluntarism and privacy as part of their new year resolution!

PE Kit
Compulsory Sportswear:
Boys/Option 1:
White shirt with gold band
White shorts
Pale blue socks
Football/rugby boots
Swimming trunks or shorts (not Bermuda Shorts)
Shower towel
Girls/Option 2:
Blue polo shirt with school logo
Pale blue socks
Navy blue shorts
Hockey/football boots
One piece swimsuit
Shower towel
Optional Extras:
Athletics vest, white with yellow bands and school logo, dark blue sweatshirt with school logo, cotton training top and dark blue tracksuit bottoms.

Each individual item must be clearly marked with the studentís name.

Cross Embroidery
Units 5 & 6 Lower Cherwell Street
Oxfordshire OX16 5AY
United Kingdom
Tel: 01295 270555


It is time to learn from past sins and abolish the school shower forever as part of our 2020 vision for effective child protection.

Comments by John on 27th December 2019  

Mr Dando,
What on earth is wrong with having a shower after getting hot and sweaty playing sports?. Surely it is unhygienic to return to the classroom without having had a shower?

Comments by Mr Dando on 26th December 2019  

The next school term is fast approaching and there are still some pupils who will have to return to the dreaded shower in January.


Physical Education takes place both on and off site. The PE kit consists of a white tee shirt, white shorts, white socks and trainers. Students should have additional games equipment including footwear and should not wear any part of their school uniform during PE. In winter a track suit of any colour is advisable. All students are encouraged to take part in PE and showers may be required at certain times.

The school has representative teams in a number of sports Ė the school has some special kit for these or parents/carers will be advised accordingly.

Let it be our New Year resolution for 2020 to ban mandatory school showers.

It is time to get modesty done in all UK institutions!