Hesketh Fletcher Gym Team

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1935         Item #: 1741         Views: 161,841         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 Claire on 9th February 2019  

My brothers were encouraged to sleep topless too from the 12yr old.Being stripped to box is a good thing, I've never seen the point in boys/men wearing vests to exercise.

Comments by Roy on 5th February 2019  

From what I recall the boys themselves decided to be stripped to the waist

Comments by Andrew on 5th February 2019  

John, it was crazy that early morning lesson could be affected, but although tops were expected in later years it wasn't uncommon for us to break that rule sometimes and some teachers turn a blind eye to it.

Afterall, if we didn't bring a top (or at least claim we didn't claiming we thought it was an indoor lesson) we weren't prevented from going outside.

Comments by James R on 4th February 2019  

My dad made me go topless as much as possible and had me sleep topless when I turned 9. Out of school I was made to box. Nearly all lads trained topless, a few wore vests. When we were in the ring you always fought stripped to the waist regardless of your age or level of experience. I boxed from the age of 8 to 27 and some of the remarks directed at you were amusing. From not having tattoos to my naturally hairless chest but women enjoyed seeing you stripped off and see how you looked as you fought.

Comments by Toby A on 3rd February 2019  

Hello Roy, Until the whole class stripped to the waist did the teachers decide who stripped off, like skins Vs vests?

Comments by John on 3rd February 2019  

I would have thought that if lads had an outdoor PE lesson in summer starting at 09.00 and finishing at 10.00 they would have been safe from getting sunburnt. It seems a shame that lads cannot enjoy the freedom of exercising shirtless during spring, summer and autumn.

Comments by Andrea on 2nd February 2019  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

That's what I was thinking. I went to an all girls school too, but that was well before sports bras were invented!

Comments by ROY F on 1st February 2019  

Certainly when I was at secondary school in the 1960's there was no specific rule about wearing or not wearing tops for PE.In the first three years-Years 7-9 -in today's parlance - a few boys stripped to the waist both in the gym and outdoors.
However in Years 10 and 11 all boys stripped to the waist. This started when a new boy joined the school and went bare-chested.The next lesson we all joined him and went stripped to the waist.
This continued into Sixth Form(Years 12 and 13).

Comments by Andrew on 30th January 2019   andrew_bx@yahoo.co.uk

Fiona, all is good if your son is happy with that kit. My school was mixed although PE wasn't, but your brothers kit sounds identical to ours- so I am guessing no later than 1980s?

Comments by Fiona on 30th January 2019  

Andrew - my son is more than happy with his present PE kit arrangements. After his years at primary school doing PE in t-shirt and track-suit bottoms, being allowed to wear just a pair of shorts for PE is his idea of heaven. He's never liked wearing a lot of clothing, and even in winter will usually go to school without his coat, with just a shirt under his blazer, and in summer, he's topless for as many of the 24 hours as he can get away with

Comments by Fiona on 30th January 2019  

Toby - my brother was at an all boys school. PE in the gym was always topless, with plimsolls but no socks. Outdoor sports like football, cricket and tennis had conventional kit, and while vests were theoretically required for outdoor athletics in the summer, in practice everyone went topless, except on sports day, when parents etc were around. Swimming was always in speedo style swimsuits, which often doubled as supportive underwear for sports and PE.

Comments by Fiona on 30th January 2019  

Andrea - Mum went to an all girls school, which is probably why she wasn't sent straight back to the changing room to get her PE top.

Comments by Andrea on 29th January 2019  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

Fiona, did your mum go to an all girls school, or were there boys there too?

Comments by Toby A on 29th January 2019  

Fiona Despite not being too good at sport I always enjoyed PE/Games. Our teacher knew his job getting us to sweat up. I was a bit surprised we always had to strip off in the gym rather than go in topless but I think that taught discipline and respect. Being stripped off outside was something else but it woke me up after being in overheated classrooms.

Your comments are interesting and offer a different perspective. You mentioned your brother stripping off for PE what kind of activities did he do with his shirt off.

Comments by Andrew on 29th January 2019  andrew_bx@yahoo.co.uk 

Fiona, we had a similar kit to your son but outside tops went from optional to mandatory due to the long-term risk of sunburn. Much like yourself and Rob plimsolls were required outside due to risk of sharp objects. But yes its sad how such kits are now considered out of date, but what does/did your son think of it all?

Comments by Fiona on 28th January 2019  

Toby A - in answer to your question, I think boys stripping off for PE is a very good idea, and I have never really understood why this healthy practice has been allowed to disappear over the past generation or so. Both my brother and my father did PE topless at secondary school as a matter of course. At my son's school, PE tops are mandatory for outdoor activities like cross-country, but are optional, and rarely worn, in the gym. Towards the end of secondary school, about the time when the need for good sports bras for girls was starting to be recognised, my mother showed up for PE in just her bra, minus her PE shirt, and actually got complimented by the PE teacher for doing so, and although quite a lot of her class followed her example, that fashion now seems to have faded too.

Comments by Rob on 27th January 2019  

Although we wore plimsolls in the gym, most of us voluntarily went out in bare feet when did athletics on grass in the summer.However, away from our well maintained playing fields when we ran cross country the surface was rough ground with grass over chalk with sharp flints and therefore made footwear a must. Otherwise it didn't prevent us from enjoying the pleasure of running bare chested.

Comments by Ross on 27th January 2019  

Fiona, running around barefoot wasn't so bad actually during spring and summer being out on the fields barefoot was really enjoyable. Our cross country course was mostly grass, mud and more mud with a small stream to cross so looking back being barefoot was probably the wise descion as it meant we had no muddy clogged up water soaked plimsolls to clean afterwards. Also a quick Google search of school barefoot rugby will show you it is actually very common throughout the world.

Comments by Roy on 27th January 2019  

I tend to agree with Fiona regarding playing Rugby barefoot although I recall reading somewhere that George Nepia the great All Black of the 1920's did do so in his early life.

Comments by Toby A on 26th January 2019  

Hi Fiona. Indoors we all stripped to the waist, same for xcountry runs. Outside,skins vs vests for football and rugby.Trainers at all times. Do you think it's appropriate for lads to strip off for PE?

Comments by Fiona on 26th January 2019  

Stuart, Ross - I can just imaging cross-counry running in bare feet, athough it's not something I never had to do or even want to try. We almost always wore plimsolls for PE, except occasionally outside on grass in the summer, but on tarmac or rough ground for cross-country, footwear was a must. Playing rugby bare-footed seems utterly ridiculous. How on earth could anyone kick a ball,especially a rugby ball, without anything on their feet?

Comments by Ross on 25th January 2019  

Stewart, same here I was bare chested and barefoot for PE in or out including the cross country. Oh exception was rugby where we were allowed a rugby shirt but still barefoot.

Comments by Stewart on 21st January 2019  

Looking at some of these comments makes me realise how lucky you were! I was at an English Grammar School in the late 1960s and early 70s, and there was a strict no footwear rule for almost all PE, including cross country.

Comments by ROY on 5th December 2018  

I too had to do PE both indoors and outside stripped to the waist and soon got used to it even being bare-chested with snow on the ground!

Comments by Jason R on 23rd November 2018  

Well done to Chris C admitting he struggled being stripped to the waist when outside for PE. I thought I was the only one who found it cold! Harsh as it seems it certainly toughened you up. Some got used to being stripped outdoors before others but I enjoyed it too.

Comments by John on 21st November 2018  

I refer to the 1970s/80s. The Local Education Authority introduced a shirtless PE kit rule for boys for Primary and Secondary Education, this was in response to lads being injured whilst using wall bars and other gym apparatus. The lads had got their vests caught and had apparently sustained serious injuries. The Education Authority saw this as a health & safety issue. If all lads were stripped to the waist for indoor PE/gym these injuries could be prevented.

On the heath side the authority was aware that the Primary Schools had no shower facilities. In the 1979s most lads wore a vest underneath their school shirt, when they got changed for PE in the classroom they took off their shirt and kept their vest on to do PE. After PE lads would keep the same sweaty vest on and put their shirt on over it. It was thought that without a shower and keeping a sweaty vest on for the rest of the school day was totally unhealthy. Primary Schools didnít want to have to ask parents to supply their sons with a PE vest.

At Secondary School the PE kit list stated white shorts, pumps. No vests/ t shirts were allowed and no underwear permitted underneath the shorts.

Comments by Dave on 21st November 2018  

"I didnít do PE stripped to the waist until I was age 9 at Junior School when the Local Education Authority introduced bare chested PE for lads, before that lads wore shorts and vests for PE."

Hi John!

Which decade do you write about? Ive thought that PE kits were decided by the school themselves. So the Local Education Authority was the one to introduce the new PE kits in some areas.If it was it explains the fact that from about the 1940's till the late 80's most schools had a shirtless PE kit for boys in the same time.

Comments by Rob on 20th November 2018  

John, it seems that in my days at primary school the Local Education Authority had no power to decide whether or not pupils did any PE, yet alone what they wore for it.I remember aged 10 when it was our year for a physical examination and my mum was coming at a set time. We were called in to the school hall in small groups and told to strip to the waist in preparation for the exam which took place in the headmistress's office.As I mentioned,we didn't really do PE, just a bit of light exercise wearing our normal clothes and it was therefore a real shock and I resisted stripping off saying I would wait until I got into the office. The other boys laughed at me and I eventually had to take my shirt and vest off and wait my turn to see the doctor. If we had all done proper PE from infants school I wouldn't have had a problem later on. After that my parents encouraged me to play outside in the summer stripped to the waist as they had heard that if I went to the boys grammar school I would have to strip off for PE. The following year I found out this was correct at the first PE lesson when we were told to get changed into just gym shorts and plimsolls. I hadn't been prepared however for the open communal showers afterwards, but I soon got used to it and went on to enjoy being stripped to the waist for PE in the gym and on cross country runs with ever growing self-confidence.

Comments by John on 16th November 2018  

Jamie, you were lucky that you ended up with a sensible PE teacher. I didnít do PE stripped to the waist until I was age 9 at Junior School when the Local Education Authority introduced bare chested PE for lads, before that lads wore shorts and vests for PE. I was happy to do PE stripped to the waist and donít see why this sensible rule could not have started in the Infant School. There is no need for lads to wear a top for indoor PE.

Comments by Jamie on 13th November 2018  

Reading John's post I agree that making boys strip to the waist for PE is beneficial in the long term. It's something I didn't experience at school until the age of 14 but now I think it's a pity I didn't have to do it earlier. The reason was that my PE teacher for the first two years in senior school took a laissez-faire approach towards gym kit; he wasn't too bothered if boys wore the wrong colour top or shorts and even allowed non-regulation sweatshirts to be worn over our PE tops! Our next PE teacher was somewhat different, more of an old school disciplinarian who didn't put up with boys being late or misbehaving. And never mind sweatshirts, he made it clear immediately that we'd be doing each lesson bare chested with no exceptions. It was a real shock at first and I certainly wasn't the only boy who initially felt very self conscious. Yet I got used to it, as we all did - and I think it made a big difference that it was the same rule for everyone. Being stripped to the waist probably encouraged me to work harder in PE as I wanted my body to look good and ultimately I grew more confident. But maybe that would have happened sooner if I'd had that teacher at 12 instead of 14!

Comments by Andrea on 4th November 2018  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

I think the crop-top style running kits started to be adopted by female athletes in the late 1980s / early 1990s.

I've not come across any schools with that style of PE kit, but perhaps that's not surprising given that PE kit has to be worn by girls of all shapes and sizes, not just the slim athletics ones. I have come across a few schools which recommend that girls wear sports bras for PE. but that is in addition to their polo shirt or similar.

With regard to professional athletes, does anyone know what benefit the 'sleeve gloves' (covering the arms, but not connected to the vest) are supposed to give? Also why some wear their sunglasses even on cloudy days are at indoor events?

Comments by Fiona on 2nd November 2018  

Watching some athletics on TV recently, my partner and I tried to remember when it became normal for female athletes to wear just sports bras or crop tops instead of full length vests, and then started wondering why the men don't go topless, just like they used to do in PE. We placed the adoption of bare midriff running kit around the mid 1980s, probably about the time when topless PE for boys started to go out of fashion. Does anyone know of a girl's school where bare midriff PE kit was/is the norm.

Comments by John on 27th October 2018  

Chris C,
Great to hear that you enjoyed PE at school too. You were also lucky to have sensible PE teachers, skins vs skins was much fairer treating all lads the same. Shy lads became more confident being made to strip to the waist, the policy was good for boys.

Comments by Chris C on 25th October 2018  

John, We changed into vests,shorts and trainers for our first PE/Games lesson and told to line up out on the field. A couple of minutes with one lad singled out to strip in front of the group, we all followed and a line of vests lay on the grass. I struggled being stripped off outdoors in the winter until I turned 11 then I got used to it but was fine stripped down in the gym where it became normal for us to start to sweat about halfway through. I remember girls enjoying the sight of 30 lads stripped off and showing sweating the gym. Our scanty kit caught the girls attention and they relished seeing us stripped off especially outside in the winter months. I made the X country and basketball teams at school and had regular fitness competitions in the winter with some close-ish schools.Each years team was made up of 5 lads and comprised of a X country run followed by a hard workout in the gym. As the schools had different coloured shorts there was never a problem picking out a sweat soaked team member. Our PE teachers made sure skins Vs skins teams were the norm for all lads regardless of ability,physique or age. Everyone was encouraged to do their best, being stripped to the waist gave a bit more of an incentive to prove yourself especially with girls watching!

Comments by John on 5th September 2018  

Rob, I had the same PE dress code as you at Senior School but we were also stripped to the waist for PE for the last two years at Junior School.I was so glad that I didnít have to wear a top, we got so hot and sweaty doing PE it would have been very unpleasant. Like you we all enjoyed stripping off and having communal showers at the end of PE lessons.

Comments by Rob on 4th September 2018  

I agree that I couldn't imagine girls being made to do PE topless at secondary school anywhere even in the sixties.Nicola,even though you say that it wasn't physically uncomfortable for you, it must have been embarrassing for all of you. Making young women'prance around' in the gym for 90 minutes of vigorous exercise like that is certainly 'utterly ridiculous, and bordering on abuse'. When I was at primary school in the early fifties we used to do what passed as exercises in the school hall wearing our normal school clothes. However, when I went on to a boys grammar school in 1955 I discovered we had to wear just PE shorts with nothing underneath and plimsolls.This applied both in the gym and outside including cross country runs, but as boys,we found it really enjoyable being stripped off and made to exercise and sweat profusely, as all boys naturally need to do, before going back to the changing rooms and taking our shorts and plimsolls off and getting in the open communal showers together.

Comments by Nicola on 3rd September 2018  

Fiona, "prancing around" was how it felt sometimes, especially when we did dance in our PE lessons! For me personally, I was never too physically uncomfortable having to do PE with no top on, but I think a few of my class probably were. I remember looking out the corner of my eye when we were first told to undress, inquisitive about exactly what lay beneath the bras that some of the girls were wearing! Some of those girls were slow to remove their bras, but of course that was pretty futile as we'd all soon be gong into the gym for 90 minutes of vigorous exercise!

Comments by Charles on 3rd September 2018  

Hi Nicola and Andrea
I was at infant, middle and sec in the 60s and 70s
Before Sec PE was very informal with no set timetabling for it. Boys did PE in just their pants and girls their vest and pants. I suspect we did our PE sessions in underwear because they were not timetabled. Boys and girls got undressed together. We did it without worrying about our body image. We just did it
At sec, PE(actually we called in "games")was strictly segregated. When girls had it in the gym boys did it outside and vice versa.
We had games at least twice a week. For indoors boys wore just shorts(no pants allowed) and girls wore shirt and shorts.
Outdoors, in winter we played football and did cross country runs. In summer term we did field events and tennis. I don't know what the girls did outdoors because we were always indoors
Most of the sec pe teachers were tyrants. Before sec our class teachers took PE.
We went from very informal PE at infant and middle to very formal at sec.

Comments by JamieMac on 25th August 2018  

Andrea, I couldn't imagine girls being made to strip off anywhere even back then. We stripped for 3 double and 2 single PE lessons a week. We all stripped off in the gym but outdoors teams were hand picked by teachers skins + vests. In our class myself and 4 others were labeled sporty. This merely meant we'd strip off for every lesson.

Comments by Andrea on 24th August 2018  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

Hi Fiona,
Luckily we had proper PE kit at primary school too, but we boy boys and girls had to change in the same classroom, stripping down to vest and pants before putting on our PE kit. This was in the late 1960s and the majority of us did wear vests.

I agree with your comments about having to do PE topless at secondary school. I would have found it embarrassing and uncomfortable by the end of my first year and some of my classmates would have found it so right from the start!

Comments by Fiona on 24th August 2018  

Hi Nicola and Andrea,

Thankfully, I never had to undergo the indignity of prancing around in my pants and vest or, even worse, in just my pants! Right from primary school we had "proper" PE kit, which was just as well, as I had stopped wearing vests completely before I started school. Mum was very practical in that respect; she never wore vests herself, and saw no reason why I needed to, unless I chose to do so, which I didn't! So you and all others who were made to wear vests as children have my sympathy, As for girls doing PE topless in secondary school . . . That's utterly ridiculous, and bordering on abuse.

Comments by Nicola on 23rd August 2018  

hi Andrea

At primary school we all undressed and dressed together in our classrooms. There werenít any changing rooms.

At secondary school no one was allowed to wear a top in the first year. Quite a few girls wore bras but our PE teacher made them take them off, just like us girls in vests.

Comments by Andrea on 22nd August 2018  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

Hi Nicola,

If any of your classmates had graduated to bras rather than vests during that first year, were they allowed to keep them on?

Also when you were at primary school did the boys and girls change for PE in the same classroom? When I was at primary (late 1960s until July 1971) we always did, but when my son was at primary they started to change separately from year 5.

Like you I my mum insisted I wore a vest from when we started back at school in September until about May. New vests and pants were always on the list when she took me 'back to school shopping' towards the end of the summer holidays each year. This carried on until the summer before my second year at secondary school, when she decided it was time for me to start wearing a bra on a regular basis rather than a vest.

Comments by Nicola on 21st August 2018  

Hi Andrea and Fiona

This was at secondary school. At primary we did PE with our class so boys and girls together. I started secondary school in September 1990.

Yes, Iím old enough to be someone who used to be expected to wear a vest! Youíre right about only not wearing one in summer, the rest of the year my mum was strict about it! I donít know how cold she thought we were going to get.

Comments by Andrea on 15th August 2018  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 


Do you mean at Primary school or secondary?

Comments by Fiona on 15th August 2018  

Nicola, were you of the age, and was it the era, when girls were expected to wear vests as part of their everyday underwear, except possibly in the height of summer, or are you part of the liberated generation who has never been made to wear vests, even in the depths of winter, and whose last experience of vests was of the poppered babies' garment.

Comments by Nicola on 14th August 2018  

When I was at school we were split up from the boys for PE, which was good in some ways. But it meant that our gym mistress decided that we didn't need PE kit and should do all our gymnastics lessons in our underwear. She was really strict and for the first year she only let us wear our pants, we all had to go topless as well as in our bare feet. From the second year on we could wear a vest but even then she would sometimes decide it was "too hot" and order us to take them off.

Comments by Bob on 26th July 2018  

Frank, I presume you mean that you performed these star jumps etc. naked, as your punishment. it must have been humiliating, as you say. Were you being observed by others whilst doing these vigorous nude excecises?

Comments by John on 24th July 2018  

I hated not being able to have a shower after PE. I donít just think that we didnít get showers because of the timetable either, Iím sure that the school wanted to save money on hot water. Still I enjoyed PE and was glad that I didnít have to wear a shirt, I agree with the school that shirts werenít necessary.

Comments by Frank on 23rd July 2018  

Responding to Bob's comments on nude P.E.lesson,It was more of a humiliating punishment for me and three of my classmates when we were thirteen after school. This was 1973 I attended an independent school for boys,it was a way of bringing us down to size as we had been disruptive during the morning lesson.Press ups and star jumps running on the spot etc.for thirty minutes.Needless to say it had a subduing effect on us for quite some time.