Hesketh Fletcher Gym Team

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1935         Item #: 1741         Views: 101,786         Comments: 457

Hesketh Fletcher Gym Team

Image scaled down from 1000px to 740px wide. Click the image to view the original.

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

457 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by Pete on 10th July 2015  

It is strange that while vests and shirts are seemingly obligatory for PE/Games many youths are prepared to go about outside of school stripped to the waist.

Comments by Oliver on 9th July 2015  

Sounds like we were quite lucky when I was at school by comparison! I can't remember any boy ever having to do outdoor PE in bare feet. And apart from that punishment session, the only times I had to do it with a bare chest was for shirts against skins team games. But this was the late 80s and things had clearly changed a lot.

Comments by Roy on 8th July 2015  

Oliver our normal kit for all outdoor PE was bare chest and barefoot.

Comments by Oliver on 6th July 2015  

Thanks for your reply Roy. Was that your usual kit for outdoor PE or only for punishment sessions?

Comments by Roy on 3rd July 2015  

Oliver, the "Punishment PE" sessions were always outside and were always done stripped to the waist and barefoot.

Comments by Oliver on 2nd July 2015  

Roy, did the punishment PE sessions at your school always take place in the gym or were they outdoors as well?
I remember being ordered, along with a few other boys, to report back after school for punishment PE, which I assumed would be indoors and in full kit (vest and shorts). But the teacher had other ideas. First we were told to take off our vests, then we had to go outside and run laps around the football pitch. After several laps, everyone else was allowed to return indoors and shower, but the teacher told me I hadn't been putting in enough effort and made me run two more laps. Somehow those last two, running shirtless and on my own, felt more humiliating and I was so relieved when it was over.

Comments by Roy on 1st July 2015  

"Punishment PE" was quite common when I was at school and was imposed seemingly at the teacher's whim for minor breaches of the rules.
It would always be done outside usually after school hours from 4 until 5.30 or even 6 o'clock.
You were always stripped to the waist and barefoot.
If you were deemed to be slacking the punishment was another session of "Punishment PE".

Comments by Andrea on 25th June 2015  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

Early 2000's.
They did have the choice of skirts or shorts and the older girls who chose skirts tended to wear 'fitness shorts' under their skirts.

The other thing I recall is that by the final year at Primary, most of the girls seemed to be wearing tween bras or crop-tops rather than the vests that I wore at that age!

Comments by Katie on 24th June 2015  

Andrea, what a shame that your child's school introduced inappropriate PE kit. Skirts seem the worst of all for indoor PE! When was this?

Comments by Roy on 23rd June 2015  

Things have certainly changed.
When I was at primary school boys and girls did PE separately and changed in different rooms but the boys were always stripped to the waist with many barefoot as well.

Comments by Andrea on 20th June 2015  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

It had all changed by the time my son was at Primary School.
The girls and boys changed in separate rooms after the age of about 8 and all wore T shirts and shorts or skirts for PE.

Comments by Katie on 4th June 2015  

I was at primary school until 1993. We all changed in the classroom, but since we basically just undressed there wasn't a lot of point changing in the toilets! At secondary school we had proper changing rooms near the gym, with showers.

Comments by Andrea on 3rd June 2015  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

Katie and Rose,

What decade were you at primary school?

I was at primary in the late 1960's boys and girls all had to change for pe in the same classroom, but that was only to vest and knickers as we put on our pe kit. When a few of the girls started to wear bras rather than vests (I never got to that stage at primary school!), they were allowed to change in the toilets.

The early developers did get a bit of a hard time from some of the boys, either trying to 'ping' their bras or making comments if they hadn't started to wear one yet.


Comments by Katie on 25th May 2015  lcclinton4@yahoo.co.uk 

Hi Andrea

Yes, topless PE continued all through primary school. In the last year, there were some girls who were wearing bras or at least training bras, but they still had to take them off for PE and do it in just their knickers.

At senior school PE was single sex and for the first term of the first year we still did it like at prime school in just our underwear knickers. After that we has gym knickers as white vests.

Comments by Rose on 24th May 2015  

It was topless PE at my Primary school too for girls & boys.
Girls were allowed a vest in the final year if they had started to develope but hardly anyone bothered.
The boys gave you a harder time if you wore a vest than if you left them bare!

Comments by Pete on 23rd May 2015  

To John Lavender:-
When we started doing PE stripped to the waist we did normally wear different coloured shorts depending upon our houses etc.
It was difficult with touch games etc having to try to grip others' bare backs!

Comments by John Lavender on 22nd May 2015  finswimmerjohn52@gmail.com 

Good Afternoon Pete

After your Class converted to doing PE Stripped to the WAist, how did you tell Teams apart when doing Gym-Games?

Did you wear different-coloured Shorts , for example , if you had different 'Houses' did the Different Houses have a different House Colour for the Shorts?

Did the fact that you were all Topless not cause some confusion in Game-situations, like Rucks or Group-Tackles?

Comments by Pete on 21st May 2015  

At my secondary school the official PE uniform was vest and shorts but a new boy joined us mid-term and at his previous school no vests had been worn.
He didn't have a vest and appeared in the gym stripped to the waist and gradually more and more of us removed our vests so that eventually the master in charge told the boys still wearing vests to remove them so that we were all stripped to the waist.

Comments by Charles on 19th May 2015  

When I moved up to my first secondary school, PE kit was shorts and vest, styles unspecified as long as the colour was white. Back in those days most kids wore vests as underwear all the year round, so making underwear vests double as PT kit made sound economic sense (this was the mid 1950s, with clothes rationing still a recent memory). After I had been at this school for a couple of years, the powers that be decided that it would be healthier for us to do PE topless. I don't remember anyone in my class objecting to this, although my mother, who regarded vests as year-round essentials for young and old alike, wasn't too keen on the thought of me going bare-chested for an hour or so several times a week, and even less keen once it dawned on her that I had worked out that not wearing a vest for PE was a good excuse for not wearing a vest to school on PE days and, by extension, for not wearing a vest at all, a project I had been working on for a couple of years.

Comments by Andrea on 17th May 2015  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 


Was your PE topless until the end of Primary School?
That would have been OK for me, but would have been embarrassing for a few of my classmates who had developed enough to be wearing bras during our final year at Primary.

What was you Secondary School PE kit like?

Comments by Katie on 13th May 2015  

I did PE at primary school like other peole have posted. Indoors we did everything in our bare feet and boys wore just their underpants and girls wore just knickrs. We weren't allowed to wear vests even when we were older. I don't remember anyone doing PE naked apart from one time when we had all got wet through playing with water so our teacher made us undress completely before PE.

Comments by Billy on 25th April 2015  

I went to a mixed primary school. We did PE together, in knickers/underpants, all 'topless'. Some pranksters (not me, I was too shy) used to wait until the teacher's back was turned and then lower their pants - I don't remember anybody getting caught, but I reckon the teachers knew more than we realised! Did that happen anywhere else?
At grammar school (boys only) we did PE bare chested in white shorts and plimsolls, and in summer had swimming lessons in the school's own open-air pool. If you forgot your trunks, you had to swim naked - gym shorts weren't allowed. One lad 'forgot' his trunks so often we were sure he did it deliberately - perhaps he just enjoyed swimming in the nude!
Fortunately everything was out of sight of the girls' school next door! I've no idea what they wore for PE.

Comments by Julian on 22nd April 2015  

Like Roy I attended a mixed school with PE being done separately so again I didn't know what the girls wore but boys were always stripped to the waist.
This included the cross-country runs. Initially I was scared of the prospect of running through the streets while stripped to the waist but I soon got used to it and eventually I had a hairy chest as well and felt quite macho!!!

Comments by Roy on 21st April 2015  

I went to a mixed school and PE was always done separately.
I don't know what the girls wore but the boys were always stripped to the waist and many also went barefoot.

Comments by Andrea on 18th April 2015  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

Although we never did PE topless at either Primary or Secondary school, in the summer I would sometimes take 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 (I was always a bit od a tomboy).

This carried on until just before I started at Secondary school. By the following summer I had to make sure I was wearing a swimsuit top and I started to wear a bra at the beginning of the new school year.

Comments by Barbara on 17th April 2015  

I attended a mixed junior school aged 7-11 in the 1950s P E was done together all topless and barefoot girls in knickers/boys underpants only.I remember on occasions both boys and girls me included doing
P E nude I dont think anyone was embarressed I loved it.
In the summer I went to school barefoot which made me the envy of others girls whose mums wouldnt let them.
At the secondary school boys wore just shorts,girls wore vest or tee shirt if wearing a bra,and knickers.I was flat chested and for the 1st year was topless outside and in the gym when the girls did P E on their own with a note from my mum was allowed to do it nude.

Comments by Roy on 17th April 2015  

It was with boys only.
I don't think I would have minded being stripped to the waist and barefoot kin a mixed class

Comments by Will on 16th April 2015  

Roy, did you do PE with girls or was it boys only? How did you feel/would you have felt about the very basic PE kit in front of girls?

Comments by Roy on 15th April 2015  

We always did PE stripped to the waist and barefoot but never naked.

Comments by Philip on 11th April 2015  

To Johnny.
I don't believe you.

Comments by Anthony on 9th April 2015  

We never did pe nude we were lucky then .
Just shorts and those pumps if you were lucky to have some most of us did it in our barefeet inside gym your feet did get black

Comments by johnny on 7th April 2015  

i went to a school where the PE instructor was a woman.
we had to do PE naked.sometimes we had to do PE with younger lads who hadn't reached puberty and she thought it was embarrassing for them, so we were made to shave all body hair,so we were all the same.no thought about how embarrassing it was for us.
i think she got off on it.

Comments by Roy on 11th March 2015  

I agree with Philip re nude cross-country. If that were tried today it would quite rightly be regarded as a form of child abuse. I suspect that even then if Social Services got to hear of it they would also regarded it a form of child abuse.

Comments by Philip on 8th March 2015  

To Rick. I can believe what you say about the swimming but what you say about cross country is nonsense.

Comments by rick on 4th March 2015  

at the small exclusive boarding school i went to all PE was done naked as was swimming.
because the grounds were well enclosed cross country was also
done naked.

Comments by Dave on 3rd March 2015  

It was normal when I was at school to do all PE stripped to the waist whatever the weather.
I well remember being stripped to the waist with snow on the ground.

Comments by The original Pete on 1st March 2015  

I was at an all boys boarding school and punishment runs were very frequently given and you'd see small groups or individuals doing laps of the field on a very regular basis. These were given with some relish by our rather brutal PE teacher and it was often given for slightest things like if a perceived lack of effort, a vest wasn't sticking to you or if your bare chest/back wasn't showing at least a thin sheen of sweat at the end of a lesson.
Our kit was simple, a vest, shorts, indoor trainers and another for outdoors. Teams were always picked by the teacher half would strip off, half would keep a vest on. I can vouch through experience that some of us were definitely stripped off more
than others for some reason!
Nobody seemed really bothered by the mimimal kit but there always dark mutterings about the temperature in winter - being stripped down for a fitness sessions outdoors in the snow was brutal by anyone's standards.
The punishment you always wanted to avoid was 2hrs in the gym. You
were required to wear your vest when you entered the gym. Due to the nature of the exercise the school nurse gave you a quick checkover before you stripped down to the waist to begin the punishment. Needless to say it wasn't long before you began to drip with sweat. A lot of lads endured this and being given attention by the nurse afterwards was not seen as unusual.

Comments by Will on 9th February 2015  

In reply to Stuart, at my all boys school in the 80s we were given extra punishments for forgetting our kit, usually a PE detention. These usually took place in the gym and lasted the same time as an ordinary PE lesson but sometimes there would be a punishment run outdoors instead. I had to do one of these as a penalty for not having my PE vest; what I didn't realise until we got outside was that I would be doing the actual run bare chested as well! We were told to take our vests off, leave them on the ground at the starting point and then set off on the run. All part of the punishment. It certainly wasn't a warm day but the worst aspect of it was having to run past a group of girls from a nearby school - that prompted a fair bit of giggling and whistles etc! It was a real relief to get back to base and I was always careful to bring my kit in future.

Comments by Stuart on 6th February 2015  

Like a lot of secondary schools in the early 70's if we forgeot PE kit we had to strip to just our underpants and do PE as normal.

Did anyone else get additional punishments for forgetting kit, like detention, punishment runs or even caning ?

Comments by Anthony on 14th January 2015  

I if you forgot your kit for pe you had to borrow shorts and do it in barefeet in sports hall and gym didnt do us any harm your feet was black with dust that's all

Comments by Max on 6th January 2015  

At my school, if rugby was cancelled that usually meant the weather was too bad for any other outdoor activity. So we had to join in with other classes going on at the same time - half of us in the gym and the other half in the swimming pool. Sometimes boys brought swimming trunks but if not you had to swim in your black rugby shorts. If you were joining the gym class it was the same - black shorts instead of the white ones we usually wore indoors, shirts off and bare feet. It was often a bit of a squeeze but we had to make the best of it.

Comments by Steve on 6th January 2015  

If it was frosty and we were unable to play rugby, we had to do a cross country run instead. In theory we could have used the gym, but in practice another lesson was already in progress.

Our cross country kit was navy shorts and plimsolls, always stripped to the waist. If you just had rugby kit with you, you had to strip to just the shorts and run in bare feet. Some boys brought plimsolls with them just in case rugby was cancelled, but most ran in shorts only.

What happened with other boys if it was unsafe to play rugby.

Comments by Andy on 24th December 2014  

We were the same indoor shorts only and bare feet.

Comments by Pete on 23rd December 2014  

Like Steve we were stripped to the waist and barefoot at all times for PE.
Again white shorts in the gym and black shorts for cross-country(again stripped to the waist and barefoot.)

Comments by Steve on 19th December 2014  

We had to strip to just shorts in the gym, so bare feet and stripped down to the waist. Same kit throughout the school, no one was ever allowed to wear a vest or t-shirt or anything on our feet.

For pe we wore white shorts, with navy rugby shorts for cross country (still shirtless). Anyone wearing the wrong colour shorts would have been in deep trouble !

To tell the difference between teams we wore plastic sashes/bands which came in various strong colours.

As far as I recall there were never any problems telling teams apart.

Comments by Mark on 16th December 2014  

We would wear different coloured shorts-white or black.
Being stripped to the waist there was sometimes confusion about tackling but not as frequent as you would think.

Comments by Pete on 14th December 2014  


I remember at the start of the first lesson and after changing into our new kit, we were told to stand in a line out on the yard and our PE teacher picked a lad to stand facing the class and told him to take his vest off and drop it on the yard. About a minute (if that)later we were all stood stripped down. Vests were only used to make up a second team only for inter class competitions like basketball/cross country/fitness.

This lasted from the age of 9 to 18, after A levels and had the same teacher throughout this time.

Comments by Toby on 14th December 2014  tbaird45@yahoo.co.uk 

Reading John's questions to Mark made me think back to a brief experiment at my school when different coloured shorts were used to denote teams in the gym. At first one team had a coloured sash worn over the shoulder but, as John pointed out, these tended to slip down too easily! So the PE department came up with a new system. Each boy owned a pair of white shorts for lessons in the gym and black shorts for outdoor games. So boys whose surnames were in the second half of the alphabet were instructed to bring their black shorts to gym lessons instead of white and both teams were stripped to the waist.
The system just didn't work because you kept having to stop and think about what colour shorts someone was wearing, there were a lot of misplaced passes and the games were chaotic. So the school scrapped the idea after a few weeks and instead brought in a set of bibs that fitted over both shoulders and were secured at your sides by elastic. One team wore the bibs while the other team reverted to the usual kit of white shorts and bare top. That worked much better because it was easy to spot straight away who was on your team and we kept that system throughout the rest of my time at school

Comments by John Lavender on 12th December 2014  finswimmerjohn52@gmail.com 

What happened when it came to playing Team Games in the Gym , like Killerball (A Sort of Gym Rugby) or Basketball, or Football?
Did the different teams wear different Colour Shorts?
Some Schools used coloured Bands that you wore over the Shoulder but these could slip off quite easily!
Did you find that having all Boys stripped to the Waist
made identifying an Opponent or "Enemy" difficult in a quick-reaction situation like a Scrum or a Tackle?

Comments by Mark on 13th November 2014  

Nick, This was in around 1963 at a Grammar School and the PE teacher encouraged us to go stripped to the waist.