Hesketh Fletcher Gym Team

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1935         Item #: 1741         Views: 161,855         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 Rob on 23rd July 2018  

John, I was surprised to read that you weren't made to take showers after PE, and especially after you got a new Head of Boys PE who banned you from wearing anything under your shorts.At least you had a complete change of clothing but it was a pity that he wasn't able to do anything about the lack of time you had to enable you to take a shower.I hope at least you had time for a good rub down with a towel before you got dressed and went on to your next classroom lesson. I wouldn't have liked that because we used to have to sit on the floor between activities in lines with our legs out straight and our arms supporting our bodies while the teacher instructed us what we had to do next. I remember the sweat trickling down my whole body especially my neck and chest and from my armpits down my sides. When we were running around it felt really great and I was glad that I wasn't wearing anything more than a pair of gym shorts and plimsolls and looked forward to the showers afterwards. Like you, sometimes we we'd be sent on a cross country run instead of gym stripped to the waist wearing just shorts, but still wearing our plimsolls. At least we could enjoy the fresh air on our bodies and we always got back in time for a shower!

Comments by Andrea on 23rd July 2018  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

As John says, different teachers had different degrees of strictness. The one I had in my first year at Secondary wasn't too bad, although the regime of compulsory showers still took some getting use to.

The one I had in my second year was definitely 'old school' and much scarier. She would punish us if our pumps weren't gleaming white or if our polo shirts looked like they hadn't been washed and ironed recently.
Unlike John's teacher who forbade underwear, she told several of my classmates that it was time they were wearing a brassiere for PE (she always used the old fashioned full name rather than jus bra).

Comments by John on 22nd July 2018  

Ian, Sadly we didnít have PE tests or exams, it would have been a good idea. At least it would have been possible to find out where you were going wrong and extra training would at least have given you the chance to improve. At my school you didnít get much feedback from sports teachers throughout the year, my parents used to get the end of year written report Ďyour son could try harderí. I would have loved to have made my parents proud for once by receiving a good PE report.

Your school had the right idea. A friend of mine attended a different senior school and had to attend school on Saturday mornings to play sports. I think that this was a great idea because there wasnít enough time devoted to PE and sports during the week.

Comments by Ian on 21st July 2018  

Did anyone have PE tests and exams?
Our head of PE introduced these near the end of each term to check our progress. If you did not come up to scratch, an appropriate number of remedial PT sessions were awarded. (PT = Punishment Training = detention).

Comments by John on 21st July 2018  

At Primary school from the age of nine a stripped to the waist rule became compulsory for boys indoor PE and there were no showers afterwards because the school didnít have any. It was a bit of a shock at first having to go barechested but we all got used to it quickly and thought nothing of it then.

At Senior School the PE kit rule for indoor PE was white shorts and pumps only but we were allowed to keep our underpants on. We were not made to shower afterwards, only because the timetable didnít allow enough time for it. At the start of the 2nd year at senior school we got a new Head of Boys PE and he appeared as soon as we entered the changing room and instructed us to strip off completely and we were then told that the only items of clothing that we would ever be permitted to wear from that day forward weíre white shorts and pumps. He told us that we were not allowed to wear anything underneath our shorts and that any lad who was caught disobeying this rule would be dealt with severely.

This was the rule for indoor PE, there were still no showers afterwards because of the lack of time provided in the timetable. Sometimes weíd be sent on a cross country run instead of gym and this was done stripped to the waist wearing just shorts, but we could wear trainers for running. Communal showers were compulsory after football.

Comments by Bob on 20th July 2018  

I was caught wearing underpants in the gym once. To avoid having to strip naked in the changing room I had kept them on. I regreted this later when the PE teacher called us together and made us stand in a tight circle facing inwards. We were told to pull down our shorts to our knees, and then to have a good look round at everyone else's naked private parts. He said this was necessary because there was too much shyness about seeing each other stripped, he said. I refused initially, but had to give in eventually. My pants were gleefully pointed out to the teacher by my classmates, and I received several strokes of the slipper later on my bare backside. I never wore anything under my shorts again.

Comments by Rob on 20th July 2018  

John, so did you all keep your pants on under your PE shorts for the first year and did you have to shower afterwards? At my small junior school we didn't do PE as such mainly because there wasn't a gym. We only had a small hall where we went weekly and did a few stretching exercises without removing any of our ordinary school clothes.Therefore you can imagine how I felt at my all boys grammar school at the start of the first PE lesson having to strip off completely and wear just a pair of PE shorts and plimsolls? Fortunately I had been used to playing barechested outside with the other boys at home in our road, so I didn't have a problem in PE. The shock only came at the end of the first lesson when we all had to get our shorts off and go naked in the open communal showers. I certainly hadn't had any previous experience like that, but soon got used to being nude with all the other lads after PE and soccer lessons. That was how it was and we had to get on with it. It did us no harm and made us more confident of ourselves. All lads today should have to strip off like we did and do PE barechested, indoors and outside,including cross country running,followed by showers to wash off the sweat which we were always made to work up.

Comments by Charles on 20th July 2018  

Nick. It was simply because we didn't have our kits. Also we didnt shower afterwards as they were closed at that time and we didn't have towels.

Comments by John on 19th July 2018  


My PE experience was the same as yours regarding not being allowed to wear anything underneath our shorts, this didnít happen with our first PE lesson. In the 2nd year at Secondary School we got a new Head of PE and he decided that lads would no longer be permitted to wear anything underneath their shorts. This came as a great shock, some lads had only just got used to being stripped to the waist for PE after coming from Junior Schools where they had been allowed to wear vests.

The new Head of PE came into the changing room as soon as we arrived for the lesson, like you we were told to strip off completely and were then only permitted to wear our white PE shorts and pumps. and nothing else. No one ever dared to try and defy him.

Comments by NickK on 18th July 2018  

Charles. What was the reason for PE detention in underpants? Was it because some boys might not have PE kit with them on detention day or was it meant to be embarrassing? How many boys were usually in the detention? And was it for certain ages? Thanks for answering the questions.

Comments by Rob on 18th July 2018  

William, Same as you,when we arrived for our first PE lesson we were told to take everything off including pants and socks and to wear just shorts with nothing underneath and plimsolls.We never wore anything under shorts for all sports and it certainly felt very cold in the winter at times when we played soccer but we weren't allowed to wear
anything else either under or over our shorts.

Comments by Charles on 18th July 2018  

I dont remember us having underpants checks in PE.
The teacher told us straight away in our first lesson at secondary school that he would slipper us on our bare behinds if he caught anyone in underpants
That was a sufficient deterrent.

Comments by William on 17th July 2018  

Andy, We never wore pants under shorts - not for gym indoors, nor for athletics, cross-country running, rugby or hockey outdoors. In very cold weather we were allowed to wear two pairs of shorts.

After we were told "no pants" at our first gym lesson, I don't think wearing pants under shorts ever occurred to us, and in the '60s I never saw jock straps at school either.

Comments by Rob on 17th July 2018  

We used to have random underpants checks in the late 50s when at the beginning of the PE lesson our instructor would line us all up and we had to pull one side of the top of out shorts out and down. I don't recall anyone found wearing pants, although once we had a student teacher take our class for PE.who caught a boy during the lesson. He told us all to stand in a circle around this chap and made him take off his shorts, pants and plimsolls and gave him six strokes across his backside with one of his plimsolls, then sent him to stand under a cold shower for the rest of the lesson.

I also recall once when I was about 15 years old our school was undergoing a periodic visit by a team of government inspectors. Our form had got changed for PE as usual into shorts and plimsolls and we all came into the gym and there was an inspector with our instructor. During the lesson we were doing various exercises and then we had to do one which we did regularly and which you are probably familiar with. We had to lie on our backs on the floor with our arms outstretched and lift our legs up 45 degrees and when instructed, open them apart and then together several times. Then we had to lower our legs to six inches of the ground and repeat the exercise several times before repeating it all over again. It was certainly good for the stomach muscles, but more to the point, allowed our instructor to see if anyone was wearing anything under their short shorts! Nothing was said afterwards, but was our teacher proving this to the inspector? After the lesson our instructor and the inspector came into the changing room and watched us as we showered naked in the open communal showers. Again, nothing was said by our teacher; we weren't accustomed to being made exhibits, but no-one said they were embarrassed and we were all confident of ourselves in such a situation. Presumably the inspector was also pleased with what he saw and able to report that we were wearing the correct kit for PE lessons and in the showers afterwards.

Comments by Palmer on 17th July 2018  

Bob Your accounts checking seem drastic. Certainly this would not happen today. I remember the translucent shorts. The worst thing was if we had been playing football and it was raining the white shorts became see through. You say any offender had to stand through a lecture before knowing their punishment. What was the normal punishment?

Comments by Andy on 17th July 2018  

Re the no underpants rule - a lot of contributions mention lessons, was the rule just applied for lessons or was it also applied for school teams, gym displays and sports days etc.

Comments by Charles on 17th July 2018  

Palmer. Yes they were briefs in those days. It always felt embarrassing to have to do the PE detention in just underpants.
And the double whammy was getting disciplined at home afterwards. Mum always said i had disrespected the family name and "what will people think?"
The walk home was never pleasant as I knew that As soon as i got home that shorts would be down and I would be getting tanned.

Comments by Ian on 16th July 2018  ian2468@yahoo.com 

I see from the recent posts that detentions and punishments were an important part of most boys PE experiences in the 50s and 60s. But these contributed to the regime that made us fit and I think contributed to increasing longevity.
I know it was not pleasant for us at the time. I never liked being punished at school, especially the blet, but I think we owe a debt of gratitude to our PE teachers for giving up their time to do it.

Comments by Palmer on 16th July 2018  

Charles re the pe in underpants, I suppose in those days the style of underwear was briefs, which would add to the punishment. whereas today(if such a punishment was allowed) the lads underwear would look like shorts and not so embarrassing.

As you say then there was the additional punishment when you got home, because you had had a detention

Comments by Bob on 16th July 2018  

In reply to Palmer's question about enforcing the no pants rule - Individuals were sometimes stopped by the teacher, who would pull out the elastic waistband of their PE shorts and look down the front. Alternatively the whole class would line up before the lesson and be made to pull their shorts down. It was sometimes possible to get away with wearing underpants if you could hide them as you pulled the shorts down. (Of course in bright light, pants would show through translucent PE shorts anyway). Offenders would have to strip naked on the spot in front of everyone, and wait for the teacher to lecture the class on correct PE kit before being told their punishment and allowed to put their shorts back on.

Comments by Charles on 15th July 2018  

We had punishment PE detentions at Secondary school. Boys did it just their underpants. It was an hours intensive circuit training in the gym.
What made it worse was the thought that Mum would be waiting for me when i got home late, with the strap or hairbrush!!!

Comments by Palmer on 11th July 2018  

William, in the same way I think we all became used to wearing nothing under our shorts, which were also shorter than the ones in the photo. As you say the only exception was when doing handstands. We had a partner supporting us and as we raised our legs and there was exposure to our partner, however the same thing happened when it was our turn to support our partner. But then we saw everything when we were in the showers.

Comments by John on 11th July 2018  

My PE time at senior school was just as youíve described. I enjoyed PE and donít think that the rules at the time did me any harm at all.

Comments by William on 10th July 2018  

Palmer, Our gym master was present when we stripped for the showers and could easily see if any boy was wearing pants. We would not have dared to break the rule even if we had wanted to. After the first lesson I never gave it a thought, except perhaps when doing handstands. Our shorts were much shorter than those in the photo.

Comments by Palmer on 9th July 2018  

In the same way for pe and games we wore shorts with nothing underneath. The teacher never inspected us for pants. I remember that once a boy got caught wearing pants because the teacher saw them through his shorts. He was made to go and remove them and then had to remove a plimsoll which was then wacked across his backside.
How was the inspection carried out? These days it would be irrelevant because I do not think a school could impose a no underwear rule.

Comments by Bob on 7th July 2018  

Hi. It was very unusual to do PE naked. That made it all the more humiliating. Normally we were required to wear short cotton or nylon shorts, with nothing on underneath, subject to regular inspection by the teacher of course.

Comments by Ross on 29th June 2018  

Bob, the way I read your message it seems naked PE wasnít unusual and you all complied and participated naked. Are my assumptions right? How often would a fellow student be naked?

I was at school in the nineties and I canít imagine that happening in my day. Although we were often compelled to do PE in our underpants and bare feet.

Comments by Palmer on 27th June 2018  

Re your PE naked experience. Did you tell you r parents and if so what was their reaction? I imagine nowadays the school would be shut immediately and the staff suspended

Comments by John on 27th June 2018  

Hi Dave,
Stripped to the waist for lads PE was a common policy at many schools in the 1980s and well into the 1990s. It was considered dangerous for boys to wear tops because they could get caught in wall bars and other gymnastic equipment.

Also it was considered more hygienic for lads to strip to the waist for PE because many schools had no shower facilities. In the 1970s/80s it was common for many lads to wear a vest underneath their school shirt, and often this would be the same vest that they would wear for PE and then keep on for the rest of the day after working up a sweat doing PE.

I much preferred not having a sweaty vest stuck to my back and appreciated the freedom of movement being shirtless. Iím glad that I had to do PE topless, it was a completely sensible policy and should have continued. Wearing a top for indoor PE is totally unnecessary as well as being unsafe and unhygienic.

Comments by Dave on 26th June 2018  

This photo makes me realize what I missed out on when I went to school in the 1970s/80s.
Our PE kit indoors was the same as this photo.

Hi John! Were your PE kit was shirtless in the 80's too?So it seems topless PE continued into the 80's. Was it common then?

Comments by Bob on 26th June 2018  

looking back at posts made on one of the other headings in July 2017, I saw the discussion about doing PE naked. Has anyone else been made to strip naked for PE? In my all boys Grammar School it happened once to me, along with a gym full of other nude boys. PE was not expected that day. The reason was that not all pupils had been told to bring shorts on this day, repair work going on in classrooms.

Comments by Rob on 25th June 2018  

Gavin A, We weren't told about jockstraps by any of our PE instructors although when a new young PE teacher started at our school when we were in the sixth form, we learned that he wore one under his shorts.It made no difference to us but hopefully when we left perhaps he influenced the powers that ruled that when boys reached puberty they needed some support especially when they had to go cross country running. My dad also knew that I wore nothing under my PE shorts but never mentioned about a jockstrap. However, when he was young and in photos of him in soccer kit he wore those long shorts so there would have been no danger of losing anything.

Comments by Gavin A on 23rd June 2018  

All as Rob says with one exception (thank God)

Senior lads 13 + were entitled to wear an athletic support (jockstrap) for a cross country run if they felt the need, and quite rightly so!

Comments by Rob on 22nd June 2018  

John, this photo was taken in 1935 and was also the same basic kit as we wore in the late 1950's although without socks and our shorts were shorter.We kept the same shorts that we wore when we started aged 11 until we left and the gap between the waistband and our navels got progressively wider. We had to strip off completely for all PE lessons and wear nothing more than a pair of shorts and plimsolls, not only in the gym but also when we were sent out on a cross country run. We didn't need a vest or shirt to stick to our skin and being bare chested made men of us and felt great. Round off each PE lesson with everyone naked in the showers, what more could you have asked for? All boys today would benefit from doing PE like this to improve their confidence and self esteem.

Comments by John on 22nd June 2018  

This photo makes me realize what I missed out on when I went to school in the 1970s/80s. My school never had a gym team, I would have loved to have been taught to do gymnastics like these guys.

Our PE kit indoors was the same as this photo, I think PE for lads should still be done stripped to the waist for safety and to prevent lads from developing body image problems. Exercising barechested makes lads more confident and allows lads to express their masculinity.

Comments by Simon S on 14th May 2018  

Typo error. Should read I don't know why I was singled out by the teacher to strip down all the time.

Comments by Simon S on 14th May 2018  

Steve. I really preferred doing xcountry stripped down to the waist. Our other sessions were done either as skins (gym work, xcountry, athletics) or vests vs skins for basketball. I don't know why but I was singled out to strip by the teacher who made us strip off from age 9 to 18.

Comments by NickK on 13th May 2018  


PE section starts at 21:34

Comments by Bernard on 24th April 2018  

Steve - That was the standard kit in the 60s, I think - shorts only, no footwear, underwear or shirt. It certainly was at my school - we wore that in the gym and outside including for cross country.
I don't think any-one ever got the cane for not trying hard enough at cross country though we were not popular if we were late back. Every so often you would see boys in just shorts walking through the corridors to their classrooms for registration at the end of the day while every-one else was in full school uniform. It wasn't meant so much as a punishment - rather that they came back late and did not have enough time to shower and get dressed in time for registration. They had to go back to the changing rooms after registration to shower and get changed. Some looked quite sheepish walking through the corridors in just their shorts and, perhaps, a certain amount of mud.

Comments by Steve on 24th April 2018  


I notice the video is set in the mid 60's. Like many here, it was when I went to school, and certainly the PE/sports kit allowed is exactly the same as we wore - bare feet stripped to the waist, cotton shorts only. Like us, there were no exceptions to this kit.

Maybe they didn't do cross country, but we always had to run shirtless as well - 90 skinny, frozen lads running in local woods/roads, with just the absolute minimum of kit on, and always the (strong) possibility of the cane on return for "not trying"

Comments by TimH on 24th April 2018  

There is a follow-up 1969 film 'Weg van de haven' which also features the training centre ... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZBoJssRd-s

Its another interesting 'watch' - for the ships & cars!

Comments by TimH on 24th April 2018  

I think this not actually a 'school' but the 'Technical Training Centre'/'Apprentices School' (or similar)for the port of Rotterdam back in 1963. Interesting nevertheless, if only for the shipping in an era long gonw.

Comments by Dave on 23rd April 2018  

I have recently watched a video of a dutch boy's school.There are many PE scenes.There isn't any where boys wear shirts for any sport. They are shirtless for every physical activity.Even team games they remain shirtless by using bibs. It proves that shirtless PE was widespread not only in Uk but in another European countries and it was very easy to keep boys remain shirtles even for team games and any sport.


I think this is their compulsory PE kit because none of them has any shirt on for sports.

Comments by John on 21st April 2018  

My cousin swam without trunks at his independent school for boys, I would not have minded swimming naked amongst other lads but would have been embarassed if girls had been present.

Comments by GregF on 20th April 2018  

Stuart, I remember the same kind of detention. Though we were always stripped down for PE indoors or out it. We did laps of a rather large and unforgiving field in all weathers. I was given 12 laps once for not sweating enough during a gym session when I was 15 Hilarious!

Comments by Gavin A on 20th April 2018  


Once having gotten over the initial shock it was second nature swimming without trunks.

Comments by Robert on 20th April 2018  

If having to do PE stripped to the waist came as a shock (as it did to me), I wonder how much more so would it have been to find that trunks were not worn for swimming.

Comments by Sam on 20th April 2018  

No problem at all John, I guessed that was what had happened!
Thanks for your comments. It's very interesting to read the different perspective from those of you who grew up when shirtless PE for boys was clearly the norm rather than a rarity!

Comments by Stuart on 19th April 2018  stu151@homail.com 

On the way home from primary school, we saw boys at the local grammar school out running in shorts and plimsolls. Even in winter they still ran stripped to the waist.

Later on I went to the school, and soon got a detention. Reporting after school, we were told to get stripped off to only our shorts/plimsolls, and had to run the school cross country course, then back in the gym in shorts only for a workout.

I soon realised that was how boys were punished ! I was yet to discover that after 3 detentions, boys got the cane.

Comments by Joe on 19th April 2018  

There's definitely some logic to the idea of a standard policy on boys' PE kit so that everyone knows what to expect and gets used to it. I'm sure that would have made a difference to me growing up as I found it difficult to cope when I first experienced barechested PE.
The problem, I think, was that I just hadn't experienced it until I was 14. PE kit was T-shirt and shorts in primary school and middle school (which were mixed), then vest and shorts for my first two years in senior school (boys only). After that we were split into sets for PE instead of forms, with larger groups of boys and therefore more teams required for sports in the gym. So I was shocked to be told my team were 'skins' and had to take our vests off. I felt very awkward and exposed - like many boys of that age I was self conscious about my physique (or lack of!).
No doubt it wouldn't have seemed such a big deal if I'd been used to barechested PE - and also if it had been the same kit for every boy. To my horror, the teacher announced that teams would stay the same for the first few lessons! So next time I was a skin again and felt exposed and embarrassed all over again, seeing most of the other boys in full kit while I wore just shorts.
I appreciate that to some of you this must sound like a fuss over nothing, and of course it became much more bearable as time went on. But I think it's better for boys to deal with this stuff before they reach those tricky teenage years.