Burnley Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1607         Views: 655,631         Comments: 2,380

Burnley Grammar School

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There's pleny of room in the modern-styled gymnasium for muscle developing, where the boys are supervised by Mr. R. Parry, the physical education instruction.
Source: Lancashire Life Magazine, December 1959

2380 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by Chris G on 6th July 2019  

John - not a strange practice at all. My school was about 50/50 boarding and day boys and we all used the boarders dormitory cubicles for changing. This meant two sets of stairs and a long corridor to the gym, and we were expected to wear our tops for this. This we did for the first couple of weeks, stripping off once we reached the gym. However once the no-vest-on-PE-days fashion caught on, virtually nobody bothered to take a vest to wear for just the few minutes that it took us to get toand from the gym.

Comments by Simon D on 5th July 2019  

Hi John, Honestly I don't think it bothered anyone, especially in the gym where we were all expected to show sweat during each lesson. I w tended to sweat up a little earlier than some of my friends so not wearing a vest was a good thing. It was the same outside we'd line up and be picked into teams of vests and skins until the beginning of December we'd regularly play football in shirts vs vests. Cross country was performed everyone with everyone bare chested with no exception. I don't think it was harsh telling us to "strip to the waist" or "strip" We knew what they expected but knew they'd look after us at the same time. No one wants teachers who were to "friendly" that would be creepy.

Comments by John on 5th July 2019  

Simon D,
Your school seemed to operate a strange practice, if your PE teacher always made lads strip to the waist in the gym there was no point in putting a top on the the changing room. It would have made more sense to come out the changing room shirtless. Did you never think that this was a bit of a waste of time?.

Comments by Simon D on 5th July 2019  

Hi David, we did go out to run in heavy rain. I don't recall thunderstorms but definitely remembered hail stones. Now they did hurt!

Comments by Simon D on 5th July 2019  

Our teachers used the phrase "strip to the waist" or simply "strip off" at the start of the lesson. At that point we removed our vests and dropped them in a line at the front of the gym where the girls could easily see them.

Comments by Chris G on 5th July 2019  

Rachael - Rachael - you said that a lot of boys wore vests under their school shirts and simply put a PE top over. My experience was similar, in that virtually all of my PE group wore vests under our school shirts every day, but also different since most of us didn't bother with dedicated PE tops, and just took our shirts off, put our PE shorts on and there we were, all kitted out.

All this changed when topless PE was introduced. Dad's initial reaction that we wouldn't have to buy me any more PE vests, was soon put down by Mum pointing out that I had been wearing my ordinary underwear vests for PE for a number of years. Her greatest concern came a couple of weeks later, when she realised that an unintended consequence of taking my vest off for PE was that, after the class, I generally "forgot" to put it back on again. In fact, unbeknown to her, within a couple of weeks I had stopped wearing a vest to school on PE days, and by half-term, I had given up wearing them altogether. Mum protested for a while, prophesying that I would be dead from pneumonia by Christmas, but the worst never happened, and I lived to turn my old vests into cleaning cloths.

Comments by John on 5th July 2019  

Roy F,
I didn’t mean to be pedantic I was explaining from a personal perspective that I was entirely happy that I was not allowed to wear a top for PE. Unlike some guys who’ve posted on here we went into the changing room stripped off completely and put on a pair of white gym shorts and pumps, no underwear was allowed to be worn under the shorts. We all entered the gym wearing just shorts and pumps, we weren’t made to ‘strip to the waist’ in the gym.

Some lads have posted that they were made to strip to the waist as soon as they entered the gym and there was a line of vests or shirts left at the side of the gym. I still think that when guys post ‘we were made to strip to the waist’ it sounds as though they disliked the rule or regarded it as some form of abuse. People could have posted that their PE teacher said ‘shirts off lads’, I personally don’t find the word ‘made’ appropriate because I was perfectly happy with the stripped to the waist/no shirts allowed rule.

Comments by Luke on 5th July 2019  

John, I understand the point you're making - you were just wearing the required PE kit, which didn'f happen to include a top. However, at my school, boys were indeed 'made to strip to the waist' in that you might begin a PE lesson wearing your vest or T-shirt, but be told to take it off during the course of the lesson. Sometimes that came about if we were playing shirts against skins, but teachers might also make a boy take his top off as a form of discipline. It could be surprisingly effective if you were singled out to do extra press ups or laps of the playing field wearing only shorts, with every other lad in the class in full kit.

Comments by Matthew on 5th July 2019  

To John,

I think we know what Simon meant! He had to do PE stripped to the waist whether he liked it or not. It was a practice imposed upon him and, in that sense, he was "made" to do it.

Comments by David on 5th July 2019  

Hi Simon D. I want to ask you if you ever run shirtless in ram thunderstorm. Because you wrote that you were shirtless whatever weather conditions. I’m asking you this because mee to had a similar experience. Our lesson was always the same. We used to play inside the gym a basketball match, then those who lost the match had to take off the shirt and to give them to winners. At that point we started cross country run which was through mud pitches and wood nearby school. The rules were the following ones, guys who won had shirts of guys who lost, and they could decide. If one of the winners wanted to give back shirt to a guy who was shirtless, he could do this but then he had to run barechested, so that always half of the class had to be shirtless. In this way, losers went always shirtless regardless weather or mud which made very dirty chests of guys who run without a shirt

Comments by ROY F on 5th July 2019  

At the risk of sounding pedantic what is the difference between "being made to strip to the waist for PE" and "not being allowed to wear a top"?

Comments by John on 4th July 2019  

Simon D,

We weren’t ‘made to strip to the waist for PE’ the rule was that we were not allowed to wear a top for PE. The rule was shorts and pumps only, we went in the changing room and we weren’t going to do gym in our school shirts and at Senior School all lads I knew had given up wearing vests underneath their school shirts. So in reality all we did was to take off our school shirt and simply not put on a vest or a t shirt in the changing room.

When guys on here comment that ‘we were made to strip to the waist’ it sounds as though it was harsh or in some way a punishment; we were glad that we could enjoy the freedom of exercising shirtless and were not ‘made to wear a top’.

Comments by Rachael on 3rd July 2019  

A lot of boys wore vests under their school shirts and simply put a PE top over. You'd see boys strip both t-shirt and vests off in the gym which was good to watch. I didn't object to seeing boys show their upper bodies either indoors or outside. Watching boys strip off on a cold morning was an experience.

Comments by Rob on 3rd July 2019  

Julian, Surely, in the 1960's it would have been normal for boys to be stripped to the waist and in many schools, barefoot, in the gym and for cross country. If the girls reacted in this manner at the sight of a lad in just shorts
at your sports day, what did you all normally wear for PE?

Comments by Simon D on 3rd July 2019  

Our school did not hesitate in making boys strip to the waist for everything bar football, which we wore either a pale blue or white vest depending on whether you were in an odd or even numbered class. Cross Country was always done stripped regardless of temperature or condition and we waded through brooks and shallow water. One teacher's favourite thing was to make lie down in the freezing cold water. Reinforced windows ran the whole length of the gym so it was easy for girls to see us. We our school competitions in all sports in addition to sports day. For things like basketball one team would wear a vest for the first half, strip for the second and vice versa so the girls who were allowed to cheer and watch would see both sets of boys stripped to the waist. For cross country and physical fitness competitions coloured ribbons tied round each competitors arms so all boys could be stripped. There's so much lacking for males. It's it's ridiculous making boys exercise in tops and I wonder at the effort going in. For us it really was a case of no sweat, no effort! And I cannot believe girls no longer want to see boys stripped off!!

Comments by Rachael on 3rd July 2019  

Hi Matthew I'd volunteer to take messages to other teachers and took a detour to the gym to see boys topless and if I were lucky and see them glisten with sweat. There were always a line of PE vests down by the front of the gym. Were you singled out to go topless by teachers or was the whole class the same.

Comments by Chris G on 2nd July 2019  

James - my memories of topless PE was that our shorts were somewhat more extensive, and less anatomically revealing, than our "speedo - style" swimming trunks. We were more likely to have been embarrassed on the beach or at the swimming pool than in the gym.

Comments by Julian on 2nd July 2019  

I remember a School Sports day in the 1960s.
One of the sixthformers-a tall well-built 17 year old youth- was running stripped to the waist and barefoot.
When girls saw that he was bare-chested they flocked over to get a closer look at him.

Comments by James on 2nd July 2019  

To Mathew,

We were were often watched by the girls when they were passing through the corridor on the way to their lessons, but there was no segregation from the girls and we often shared the gym when the weather was unsuitable for them to go outside.

Comments by Andrew on 2nd July 2019  

John, it was a mixed school but PE lessons weren't so boys outside while the girls were inside and vice versa. There were direct doors from both changing rooms into the gym but another into a public corridor so we wouldnt see each other or at least not in theory.

Claire, you sound like what our girls must have been like! I felt happier about being shirtless as I got used to it so that tallies.

Comments by Matthew on 1st July 2019  

To James
How were the girls able to come and watch you? Should they not have been in lessons themselves?

Comments by Matthew on 30th June 2019  

To James.
How was it that the girls were able to come and observe the boys? Should they not have been in lessons themselves?

Comments by James on 29th June 2019  

Claire,I'm sure most boys were extremely shy and self-conscious about stripping down to just our shorts.
The gym had huge viewing windows and we frequently had an audience,mainly of girls who obviously enjoyed watching us exerting ourselves in our strenuous exercises.It probably had the benefit of making some of the boys more self confident,but some us remained inhibited about displaying our bodies in minimal clothing.

Comments by Maltamon on 28th June 2019  bisha7@hotmail.com 

I teach PE at a school in Allentown. I make the boys go barefoot and topless so I can look at their bodies.
My friend Phil likes it too.
Bob says I am a pedifile.

Comments by Claire on 28th June 2019  

Andrew, no doubt your girls would have loved to see you all shirtless in gym! We used to hang around longer then we needed to in order to see which boys were stripping their shirts off,until the teacher yelled at us to get a move on.Often we could sometimes find a way to sneak back and watch them. I did notice as time went on most of the boys overcame their shyness and did enjoy the attention the girls were paying to their bare chests.

Comments by John on 27th June 2019  

I know some people won’t agree but I think that girls eyeing up lads doing PE shirtless makes a good case for single sex Senior Schools. Confident lads might be happy showing off in front of girls but other lads might feel embarrassed being barechested with girls watching them.

A shirtless PE kit rule makes a lot of sense but lads need to become confident with their physical appearance; they can gain this confidence better without girls watching and commenting on their appearance whilst they are developing as teenagers.

Comments by Andrew on 27th June 2019  

Claire, I also remember our girls being curious about boys not wearing tops. While indoors we went barechest and they couldnt see but they did know, but outdoors its was optional. More precisely not optional but not our official kit, but teachers turned a blind eye to anyone doing it and the girls did appear to like gossiping about who did this based on any glimpses they might get or information from other boys.

Comments by Alfie A on 27th June 2019  

Regarding the last message and prudish , I read in the newspaper that an elderly lady has been told not to wear her bikini in her garden because children in a nearby nursery can see her sunbathing!!! Parents have objected!!! What will any of the parents do if they go on holiday and people are in swim wear including bikinis.

Comments by Claire on 26th June 2019  

Speaking as a female, I don't think most girls mind when young guys go topless! I think athletecism and self confidence is very attractive in guys (and girls) I just love to see the body and muscles hard at work in motion. So getting to see boys stripped to the waist for the first time at school was a real eye-opening experience.It was at the beginning of one particular year in secondary school we had a new PE teacher that year and on the first lesson it was promptly announced that as part of a new programme to improve students overall fitness level, girls and boys would be split up every class from now on for different activities with the boys group focusing on more intensive gym workouts and sports. It was also added that moving forward, the boys should also be prepared to remove their shirts in certain activities. There was a murmur of surprise among the boys as well as quite a bit of chatter from us girls.Of course our minds immediately went to which boys' bare chests we fancied having a look at! Having heard from boys in other classes that they did in fact have to go shirtless, some of the girls seemed to grow more excitable as the week went on and they took pleasure in teasing and reminding the boys that they'd soon have to strip for us! There was eager discussion about which boys we looked forward to seeing shirtless.Sure enough when the anticipated day came, we were split off from the boys and then they were split up again into seperate teams for basketball with one group of boys taking off their shirts for the skins team much to our pleasure! Sadly we could not enjoy the view for long as we were hustled off elsewhere for our own games. Still from then on I enjoyed every chance we got to watch the boys in PE, more often than not there would be half or more running about stripped to the waist and drenched with sweat. I do remember looking at their bare chests with admiration and abit of envy too, wishing we could strip off as well but of course it was frowned upon then as it would be today. I wish people nowadays(of both genders) would overcome such prudishness and let young people exercise in as much or as little as they choose.They do need as much incentive to stay in shape as possible as it is without silly clothing restrictions!

Comments by Bradley S. on 24th June 2019  

Hi Fiona, The females had t-shirts over their bras. There were around 4 who said they were fine stripping to a bra, the other 3 were definitely sheepish and remained silent. I'm aware there are those who'd love to give it a real go, given a choice. It's highly unlikely it will ever happen but they all seemed happy it was our group being made to strip off outside on a freezing cold afternoon!

Comments by John on 23rd June 2019  

I didn’t like having to strip to the waist for PE at first but soon got used to it and then preferred not having to wear a top. It’s better and fairer to play skins vs skins and give lads different coloured bibs to wear, a lot of lads don’t like being selected to be a skin and having to take off their shirt. If all lads are skins it helps lads to become more body confident and is a far more comfortable way to exercise. Cross country running is also more enjoyable shirtless.

Comments by Jordan on 23rd June 2019  

Thanks for your reply Bradley S, that's interesting to know. As I said, I didn't honestly enjoy my single experience of running topless, but I might have felt differently if that had been a regular thing and I'd had to get used to it. In a way, it also seems more fair if every boy had to wear the same kit as opposed to vests against skins - where obviously some boys wore a different kit to others. What did you and others who experienced both feel - was it a better system for everyone to be skins?

Comments by Fiona on 22nd June 2019  

Bradley S - did the females in your group ever strip down to their bras, either voluntarily or because they were told to? That would have been less discriminatory.

Comments by Chunky on 22nd June 2019  

I always felt skins teams bonded better as each team member was equal and if you weren't sweating you weren't trying hard enough.

Comments by Bradley S. on 22nd June 2019  

Hi TomS We had 7 females in our selection group and they did their physical exercise away from us. It didn't stop them getting a great view of our group when we were told to strip to the waist. It really gave them a good laugh.

Comments by Bradley S. on 22nd June 2019  

Hi TomS We had 7 females in our selection group and they did their physical exercise away from us. It didn't stop them getting a great view of our group when we were told to strip to the waist. It really gave them a good laugh.

Comments by Bradley S. on 22nd June 2019  

Hi Jordan, at school we all did x country without a vest on. In the TA we did quite a few runs on MOD land. They were always timed. Being stripped off always gave an extra edge to prove yourself.

Comments by Rob on 21st June 2019  

Robert,very similar comments were posted by 'Eric' on 11/08/2018 and read in disbelief. I also remember reading comments about the bush. I certainly want it to be known that I have no connection with the writers of these posts. The great majority of us who contribute truthfully recall our life experiences for the interest of younger readers to tell them how times have changed since we were young.

Comments by Jonathan on 21st June 2019  

I agree with Robert regarding running shirtless for not damaging your clothes. Technical clothes are not so cheap so it is a pity damaging it. Moreover, when I run near my home, there are a lot of puddles full of mud and each time I went there with a shirt, it was difficult to clean it completely. So I made a decision, I run shirtless everywhere I could dirty my shirt. If you think about it, it si simplier to clean yourself than a shirt, especially if you pass in fields. My chest becomes always very dirty, but I prefer to run with a dirty chest rather than a dirty shirt

Comments by Robert on 20th June 2019  

Hi Jordan, reading your question have made me remember one day when I run shirtless in rain, but it wasn’t only rain. One time we were doing PE and we were playing football at sea. It was winter and we were with a vest because there were around 35/38 F. degrees. One of my friend made my a strong foul and I reacted so that teacher order me to take off my shirt and to play without it as a punishment. It was very cold but I was used to it because sometimes I run in snow bare chested. The problem was that I threw her my shirt so that she got very angry and said: “ok if you don’t want to go to the headmaster for this, just go into the sea” I was frozen, without a shirt and it also started raining, in fact my classmates went to repare under a palm, but I had to do this thing to avoid the headmaster so I entered in the sea and remained there for some minutes. When I came out she didn’t give me back my shirt so that I was shirtless with pouring rain on my chest and I couldn’t warm in any way... unluckily I reacted another time to the teacher so after we went back to school on foot, obviously I was still shirtless under rain, she said ok we must continue. She said ok I put your shirt in your class but you’ll go back school after other 2 hours of excericises. She let me run for other 10 kilometer in a park near school. It was very muddy and my chest got dirty. Then she let me made a lot of push ups near puddles so that I can got more dirty. At the end of the punishment, which lasted 3 hours, she said “ok you’re tough, you can go back school on foot, I’ll go back by car because there are 5 kilometres”... the last 5 kilometers I was too tired, it stopped raining but it started hailing and my chest was covered in mud, grass, water and other dirty things.. at the end I discovered that it wasn’t only a punishment because she also gave me 10 which is the maximum vote so that all this effort was paid.. moreover it was very exciting too and I think that in the future I could do this thing another time, maybe even more tough. In fact, nowadays when I go out running, near my home there is a wonderful road where to run but to reach it, I have to pass inside an enormous bush, and each time my shirt was damaged. But after that experience I said “no, if I resisted to what my teacher made to me, I’m able to pass inside that without a shirt”. So now I solved the problem of damaging shirts, even though sometimes I hurt my chest.

Comments by Jordan on 19th June 2019  

Bradley S - just to be clear, were you running without a vest in the rain during PE or in your TA days?
I wondered because I was once made to do a run at school without my vest. Fortunately it wasn't raining but it certainly wasn't all that warm either!
Although I was used to vests v skins in the gym, which we did from ages 11-16, that was the only time I had to be a skin out of doors.

Comments by Bradley S. on 19th June 2019  

Ben, We found running without a vest in the rain more than helped getting used to cold showers.

Comments by TomS on 19th June 2019  

BradleyS - interesting to hear your TA experiences, very similar to my own. Yes, the TA were strict regarding the kit-list. And, when I joined up in 2000, they'd only recently relaxed the rules on women joining front-line infantry roles. On my selection weekend, there were two women amongst 40 or so blokes, and they did a lot of the physical tests separate to the men. I'd be interested to know whether that's still the case.

But yes, that weekend was one big sweat-fest from the very start to the very end. Good fun, mind!

Comments by Bernard on 18th June 2019  


You're quite right - we got used to cold showers very quickly and they made sense. At the end of p.e. lessons we were usually very hot and sweaty so a cold shower was perfect for cooling down. Sometimes in the winter we might have wished for less cold water after a cross country run or football outside but generally we were happy enough.

Comments by Ben on 16th June 2019  


You got used to cold showers quite quickly! For anyone not fully under the spray, thoroughly wet and washed there was a plimsoll waiting to warm up their bottom and they were sent straight back in. I still have a cold one after my gym sessions these days and still enjoy it but it's not to everyone's taste.

As for towel dancers, well do they know how silly they look!

Comments by John on 15th June 2019  

I would have been happy with the PE kit rules at your school, the only thing that I wouldn’t have liked were the cold showers that you had to endure.

I’ve always thought that the towel dance that some guys do in changing rooms is just so ridiculous, we always showered naked communally after sports at school and lads didn’t try to cover up whilst getting changed.

Comments by Ben on 14th June 2019  

When I see younger guys today at my gym I'm glad I'm more comfortable in my skin than some of them seem to be these days.

I was a 60's grammar school boy and remember many sessions in the gym like the one in the pic, wearing only shorts and plimsolls. It was the same running outside in fact the only top we had in our kit was for rugby and that's the only time you wore anything more than a coloured bib which the school provided for team games. Most of the time it was just stripped to the waist.

Underpants were not worn with PE shorts and showers were compulsory and usually icy cold. At home I shared a room with two brothers so stripping in front of other lads was not something that bothered me especially after the first time.

I went on to join the navy where there wasn't much privacy either and communal showers were the norm and they were usually pretty sociable places where there was plenty of banter.

These days I still go to the gym several times a week. The age group of those I see is anything from eighteen to ninety (he's a great old guy and I hope I stay as fit!). There isn't much awkwardness at least that I see but there are a few lads who dance in their towels to get their underpants on and off. I always wonder why when the showers are communal.

Most guys take off their underpants when changing and are commando just as we used to have to be under their shorts. Showers are communal but at least they're also warm unlike school and I think almost every guy uses them. Showers are pretty sociable too and there's usually some good chat goes on in there.

Comments by John on 13th June 2019  

I think you’re absolutely right that most lads would benefit from a standard PE kit of shorts and footwear, with no top permitted. It should be possible for schools to have enough bibs to differentiate when team games are played. Some schools used to divide lads into houses for sports and each house would wear different coloured shorts, so shirts are not necessary.

Comments by Jacob on 10th June 2019  

Bradley S, so much of what you wrote rings true with my own experiences.

I never did PE in skins until I was 14. The reason was that at that stage they rejigged all the classes into 'sets' depending on which subjects you were taking at GCSE and that meant PE involved larger groups of boys (it was an all boys school, by the way).

All of a sudden when we did team sports like football or basketball there weren't enough different coloured bibs to go round for each team. I don't know why that hadn't occurred to anyone! So after a quick head count the PE teacher announced that one of the teams would have to be skins and selected a group of boys, including me, to take their vests off.

Aside from swimming, it was the first time I'd ever had to do any sport with no top on and, like many teenage boys, I was quite shy and insecure about my body. I felt really uncomfortable and self conscious being stripped to the waist when the vast majority of my classmates kept their vests on, so it was a big relief when the lesson was over.

A couple of days later was our next PE lesson and I started feeling nervous again - with good reason. The teacher divided us into teams and, to my horror and disbelief, I was picked to be a skin again! So while most of the other lads sprinted off to collect their bibs, I found myself reluctantly taking my vest off, wondering if every PE lesson would be like this from now on. It wasn't, of course, but at the time it did feel as if I had to do it in skins more often than not.

Anyway, looking back more than 20 years later, I agree with much of what Bradley said earlier.

Yes, being a skin did force me outside my comfort zone and I probably needed that as part of my development. I continued doing compulsory PE until I was 16 and by then I had grown in confidence - not just being more confident about my body, but generally as well.

Being a skin probably encouraged me to work harder at PE and my overall fitness because I wanted my body to look good. That in turn made me more inclined to strip to the waist for exercise or sports in my adult life.

With that said, I would definitely have found it easier if I'd got used to being a skin at a younger age. By 14 I had body anxieties and insecurity which may not have been there if I'd been required to strip to the waist a few years earlier.

It would also have worked better if every boy had been in skins, instead of just a few. The whole point of any uniform is that it's the same for everyone whereas, in those early weeks, it felt almost as if I was being singled out and made to take my vest off.

I can't imagine schools would go down this road nowadays but it would probably benefit boys in the long run if their standard PE uniform comprised just shorts and footwear, with no top permitted. Then as long as they stock sufficient coloured bibs for team sports, it should all work fine!

Comments by Alfie A on 10th June 2019  

Just an observation. apart from P E in schools there seems to be two methods of dress for males for the summer. There are the young men who seem to be covered up and do not expose any skin and at the other end of the scale there are those who walk around with trousers have way down there backside "advertising" their preferred brand of underwear