Clitheroe Royal Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1602         Views: 99,473         Comments: 561

Clitheroe Royal Grammar School

Led by Stuart Bennett (Captain), right, the cross-country team returns from a practice run around the nearby country-side.
Source: Lancashire Life Magazine, November 1959

561 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by Jack on 23rd November 2015  

Tim is right. I was at school in the 60s and we wore those loose white cotton shorts for PE, much like those shown in the picture.
Some here mention that they wore those thin nylon short shorts for PE, but as far as I remember those type of shorts were only seen in the 70s, or later.

As for swimwear there were all types from shorts like to briefs, mostly cotton, not like the later modern synthetic and nylon types like speedos.
About compulsary nude swimming in some schools I was not aware of this happening in any school before the advent of the Internet, on forums such as this.
It seems that this nude swimming requirement was even more common in American schools, both public and private, though only for boys.

Comments by Tim on 18th November 2015  

I've been meaning to make this post for ages. Back in July Sterling commented:But we didn't have Nike, Speedo or money back then!

Memory plays tricks but I can say with certainty that in the mid-1960s you could buy a pair of boys swimming trucks from Wakefield's Army Stores (Remember them?) for 1/11d (10p). A pair of men's trunks were 2/11d (15p). I have a recollection that you could buy a pair of nylon trunks from Woolworths for 2/6d round about this time, whilst a pair of cotton football shorts (as worn by Bobby Moore)from a proper sports outfitter was about 10/- (50p). As a comparison a Series 1 'Airfix' construction kit was 2/- (10p)- the most expensive was 12/6d (63p).

Memories ...


Comments by George on 12th October 2015  

Dave - yes it should remain normal and healthy from a common sense point of view but it seems that political correctness has little to do with common sense and forbids such a natural habit where it can.

For some years now it has been fashionable to feminise boys in the interests of "equality." I heard the sad story of a Scout Leader who, soon after he took over, stopped the boys in his care from taking off their shirts at camp. The "reason" he gave was because the girls couldn't do it! Presumably he should be instructing the girls not to have babies later in life as the boys can't.

Comments by Dave on 12th October 2015  

"Exercising shirtless seemed so normal and healthy for boys in those days."

Yes it did but still seems normal and healthy.Boys still enjoy exercising shirtless.Many of them take their shirts off at sport courts for ball games...etc. They don't seem seeing it as a big deal.So I can't see what's the function of T-shirts for PE nowadays.

Comments by George on 11th October 2015  

I see there are a number of interesting comments since I last visited this site.

Max - your attack on those who claim to have run cross country barefoot and shirtless seems rather harsh and unnecessary. Things were so different in the 60s - often better then though I'm sure many schools had their boys run with both shirts and shoes. I would not dream of calling you a wimp for doing so - we all did as we were told back then.

Martin - having read your post it makes more sense that we ran barefoot and I'm all the more grateful for it. Our course was usually muddy and plimsolls getting stuck in the mud could have been a problem if we had worn them. It might have led to boys trying to avoid the muddier patches by going round them whereas we were happy to go straight through them in our bare feet. The most significant advantage in running barefoot, however, seems to be that we did not have to clean filthy plimsolls after each run - being naturally lazy that would have been quite a chore. I am all the more grateful to my school now for their common sense approach. Exercising shirtless seemed so normal and healthy for boys in those days.

Comments by Roy on 29th August 2015  

Like Martin I was at a Grammar School in the 1960's.
Although it was mixed PE etc was done single-sex.
Kit was simple:- stripped to the waist both indoor and outside and again barefoot was the norm even for cross-country.

Comments by Martin on 28th August 2015  

I was at secondary school in the 60s but only attended one Grammar school so can't claim to be an expert on other schools. I do, however, have a little knowledge of what other school teams wore for cross country.
At my all boys school we wore just a pair of shorts for indoor p.e. and for athletics and various games on the playing fields. When it came to cross country we were told we had to wear our plimsolls though we weren't told to wear shirts so we didn't. There was quite a long stretch of the run which was normally very muddy and it was not uncommon for plimsolls to come off feet in the mud. We pleaded to be allowed to run barefoot to avoid the problem of getting plimsolls out of the mud and having to clean them when we got home. Unfortunately, we were never allowed to run barefoot.
I wasn't good enough at cross country to be in the team but a group of us non-competitors turned out on Saturday afternoons to be markers along the route for inter-school fixtures. If the visiting team wore shirts our team didn't but if the visiting team didn't wear shirts then our team had to. So there was always one team in plimsolls and shorts and one in plimsolls, shorts and shirts. Until one day when a visiting team changed into their kit - just shorts - no shoes or shirts. Our team had to wear their plimsolls and shirts and were soundly beaten by their less well clad opponents, in part at least because the barefoot boys could get through the muddy section much more easily. Even after this we were still not allowed to run barefoot, either in class nor the team - no reason was ever given.

Comments by Sterling on 14th July 2015  

Like thousands of other British schools our official indoor PT or gym kit consisted of white shorts!
Footwear and vests were optional for XC!

The plimsoles we wore offered our soles very little protection
Forgetting them would not excuse a boy and, if unable to borrow plimsoles, he would HAVE TO go barefoot!
One must remember we often went barefoot at home then and some simply had not the money to buy them!
A recent genealogy search turned up photos from 1940s and 50s when barefoot was often the order of the day.
It's easy for a young person or someone with little knowledge of recent history to think you guys are barking mad
But we didn't have Nike, Speedo or money back then!

Comments by Ted on 13th July 2015  

While I'm sure this forum has its' share of fantasists, I think it's a little unfair to call them paedophiles. They are fantasising about themselves and wishing, that in their schooldays, they had had the opportunity to show off and prove how macho they were.

Comments by Max on 10th July 2015  

Reading through all these comments, I don't personally believe a fraction of them! I was a child in two different UK Grammar schools in the 60's and 70's and all this stuff about running through the streets in winter bare chested and barefoot, I think it is just sad paedofile fantasy!

Comments by Giles on 10th July 2015  

Like Kevin we were always stripped to the waist and barefoot for all PE (indoors and outside) and again I don't recall any injuries resulting from running barefoot.

Comments by Kevin on 6th July 2015  

I was at secondary school during the 60s and bare feet and chest were required for all p.e. including cross country - not just detention. I don't remember any-one being particularly bothered by our rather sparse kit and I certainly don't remember any injuries from running barefoot through the streets and nearby countryside.

Comments by Pete on 26th June 2015  

P E detentions were quite common - always done stripped to the waist and barefoot and normally also done after school hours usually from 4 p m until either 5 or 5.30 p.m.

Comments by Roy on 23rd May 2015  

Like George our PE teachers had us stripped to the waist and barefoot for all sessions both inside and outdoors.
It was difficult running over gravel and in the streets outside but we got used to it and I don't recall any injuries as a result.

Comments by Calvin on 21st May 2015  

No we never were informed who's parents complained, probably some of the overweight lads who detested being skins. It was encouraging my mate to lose weight!
After school sports could still be done shirtless but during PE and X country we were not allowed to remove a sweat soaked shirt. We used sunscreen during football matches and it was used for PE once during a mega Sept heatwave.
George, I suppose feet quickly toughen.
Can't see it ever happening again here due to our 'claim culture' but I'm told its commonplace in Oz and NZ!

My old school took health and safety to extremes!

Comments by George on 17th May 2015  

Calvin - why did parents object to Shirts vs Skins - that must have humiliated their sons!

As for injuries whilst running barefoot - I was certainly not aware of any and I think the school would have stopped it if there had been any.

The first lesson we had P.E. outside the teacher had us running round the grass running track barefoot and shirtless and made sure we did not land on out heels. He said this would help us avoid injuries to our joints. At the end of the lesson he had us run up and down a rough gravel track nearby to see how we could cope with the surface. I don't think any-one had any great problem and, from then on we were always barefoot and shirtless inside and outside including for cross country. You could feel if you stepped on something sharp but it never punctured the skin.

Comments by Calvin on 16th May 2015  

We really didnt believe our PE teacher when he told us how he punished guys by making them run barefoot!

He still used shirts vs skins until their were objections by parents then on rare sweltering day it was prohibited to take off a shirt which was sticking to you!

Were there many injuries to the feet??

Comments by Bill on 14th May 2015  

PE detentions meant running laps around our large school yard in just PE shorts, which was football pitch size but no turf, till we were exhausted. Then, all sweating, we were marched to the showers for a good wash, with shorts off.
Incidentally did anyone have female teachers supervising in the boys changing room or showers? Not at my school, but just curious.
There is also mention on other forums on this site that some schools had compulsory nude swimming for boys.

Comments by James 1 on 14th May 2015  

Oh yes, I remember the PE and games punishment of having to run around the perimeter of the field throughout the lesson if you forgot any kit.
In my case I am not sure what was the bigger punishment, the running or the particular game at the time.

Comments by Matt on 12th May 2015  

My school was like Stuart's in that we had PE detentions where we had to strip to the waist. If you got detention you had to report back to the gym after school and change into usual PE kit (white vest, shorts, socks and plimsolls). Then after inspecting your kit the teacher would order you to remove your vest. That seemed a bit pointless but I suppose the idea was just to remind you this was a punishment. Then it was a question of whether you'd be told to go to the gym (which wasn't too bad) or outdoors for a run (which was no picnic when it was cold or raining, or both). Still, from some of the other accounts here I should probably be grateful we only had to run bare chested and not in bare feet too!

Comments by Roy on 11th May 2015  

Our normal PE and cross-country kit was white shorts and bare chest and bare feet.
We also had PE detentions. For these we had to wear black or navy blue shorts and were again stripped to the waist and barefoot.
These always took place after school from around 4.p.m. until 5 or 5.30 p.m and involved continual running around the athletic track.There were usually other boys watching us and sometimes jeering at us.

Comments by Barrie on 7th May 2015  

Our kit for all PE (indoors and outside)was just white shorts i.e. stripped to the waist and barefoot. This was OK when it was fairly warm but going barefoot and bare chest in snow and ice was a different matter!!

Comments by Stuart on 6th May 2015  

For normal indoor PE we wore white cotton shorts, plus some boys wore plimsolls, and for xc we wore shorts, vest and plimsolls, all year around.

We also had PE detention sessions and all this changed. All boys had to strip to just a pair of shorts, no top, bare feet. This wasn't too bad inside but the same kit rules applied for the cross country run which we also had to undertake as part of the punishment, so in all weathers we were made to run 5 miles stripped to the waist and with nothing on our feet.

I first got a detention within a couple of weeks of starting at the school, aged 11. One evening immediately after school we had to report to the gym, and get changed. To say the least it was a bit of a shock when I realised that I was going to be forced to run outdoors in the freezing cold with bare feet, and even worse, stripped completed to the waist !

Comments by George on 3rd May 2015  

Yes, we could run quite fast in snow if it was not too deep as it was not slippery and it didn't matter if you fell over anyway. Ice was another matter - we were always aware how easy it was to slip over running on ice and how painful it would be later if you did land on a hard, unforgiving icy surface. Running in a few inches of snow was no problem but running on icy surfaces was not much fun at all!

Comments by Peter on 1st May 2015  

Doing cross-country stripped to the waist and barefoot in snowy and icy conditions would certainly stop you dawdling along and make you get a move on.

Comments by George on 30th April 2015  

I think it helped getting used to doing p.e. barefoot and stripped to the waist at primary school like Pete but we didn't go out of the school gates like that until we did cross country at Grammar School.

I remember running in snow barefoot was quite fun - what I wasn't so keen on was running along the pavements or across roads where the slush had frozen into ice. Running barefoot and topless in such conditions was certainly exhilarating and did us no harm.

Comments by Peter on 26th April 2015  

Like George I enjoyed doing PE stripped to the waist and barefoot most of the time.
It did take some getting used to doing it in the depths of winter with ice and snow around.
It was also strange at first doing cross-country in the roads near our school while stripped to the waist and barefoot.

Comments by George on 25th April 2015  

It looks as though most boys weren't, in fact, all that bothered about doing cross country barefoot and stripped to the waist - as I said before my class enjoyed it most of the time.

I'm intrigued by your talk of doing p.e. nude, Barbara,- presumably this was not in Britain as I can't really imagine that happening here, even fifty years ago. The only exercise done nude here tended to be swimming and that was nearly always just boys.

Comments by Alan on 24th April 2015  

When I was at junior school I knew that the boys at secondary school always did PE stripped to the waist and I looked forward to it.
However when at secondary school and actually having to be stripped to the waist was a different matter.
I did eventually get used to it and did quite enjoy it.

Comments by Barbara on 23rd April 2015  

Hi Andrea

The 2nd year was very different to the 1st at Secondary school I was now expected to wear tee shirt and knickers both indoors and out which I hated, but after a about two months I would have to wear a tee shirt any way as I had now started to develop.
We had communal showers which I didnt mind , but we were not given enough time and I always seemed late for the next lesson.
By the following spring I had a bra which I found really
uncomfortable and always took off soon as I got home.
In the summer holidays between the 2nd and 3rd year I hardly ever
saw the boys I'd played with the year before, I now had a new friend a girl who lived nearby.I was13 now and finally growing up.


In the summer holiday between the 2nd and 3rd year I hardly ever saw the boys I'd played with the year before and had a new friend a girl who nearby.I was 13 now and finally growing up.

Comments by Tim on 23rd April 2015  

Interesting to get the ladies views, especially on 'tom-boys'. Do 'tom-boys' still exist?


Comments by Andrea on 22nd April 2015 

Hi Barbara,
For us the big difference in PE was between Primary School and Secondary School. At Primary both girls and boys used to wear a T shirt and shorts or a skirt, but we used to all have to change in the same room (except for a few girls who had developed early).

At Secondary School (all girls) indoor PE was in Gym Knickers and a Polo Shirt, but we all had to shower afterwards (there hadn't been any showers at Primary.

The summer between first and second year at Secondary isn't one I remember fondly. For one thing, because girls and boys now went to separate schools, I didn't feel as much of the 'gang' as I had previously. This wasn't helped by the physical changes that were becoming evident. Going topless was out of the question and even with a T shirt on my 'bumps were becoming an issue. If I wore a bra the outline was noticeable, wearing a vest was quite warm and wearing just a T shirt some movement was evident. Some of the time I wore one of my old (flat) bikini tops which at least tended to flatten things down.

Did you find it hard to adjust too?


Comments by Dave on 22nd April 2015  

Like Pete it never bothered me about being bare-chested.
I can well remember doing PE outdoors in snow while being stripped to the waist.

Comments by Barbara on 21st April 2015  

I went on a caravan holiday the summer between the 1st and 2nd year and spent nearly the whole week topless.
You were treated alot different at the Secondary school in the 2nd year,I had to wear tee shirt and knickers even inside,for P E, when it was all girls, right from the start of the year, in the first year the same teacher let me do P E nude inside.

Comments by Barbara on 20th April 2015  


When we came home from school I often played out with two boys,we used to ride our bikes round the street and across the field if the weather was good I was usually topless even when the boys kept their tops on.
I usually played out barefoot I hardly ever wore shoes, so my feet were very tough.
I did a cross country run which involved running round the streets in the first year at the secondary school topless and barefoot , when I got back to school the teacher was told me off for not wearing enough, she hadnt seen me go , all I had on was a pair of white knickers.


Comments by Andrea on 20th April 2015 


Thanks for the clarification.

When I was Primary School age I was always a bit of a tomboy. I had short hair and in evenings and weekends used to wear jeans or shorts rather than skirts or dresses. Although mum didn't really approve, when I was out of her sight, if the boys went topless so did I (from a distance I looked like a boy anyway).

I started to develop during the winter of my first year at Secondary School. Mum actually bought my first bra for my 12th birthday (in May), but I hated it so much that I refused to wear it at first!
I had a bit of a growth spurt during the summer holidays, so when I went back to school at the start of the second year I was wearing a bra.

Did you ever go topless outside school (until you developed) or was it only for school PE?

We could go barefoot for indoor PE (which I did), but had to wear canvas hockey boots or black 'pumps' outdoors.


We used to

Comments by Barbara on 19th April 2015  


Yes all the girls were expected to wear tee shirt and knickers for the 2nd year. I loved being topless and really was quite jealous of the boys who were always topless. After a couple of months I started to develop so would have to cover up anyway.
I remained barefoot for P E both indoors and out right until I left school.

Comments by Andrea on 19th April 2015 

Unlike Barbara we never did PE topless at either Primary or Secondary school, but in the summer I would sometimes join the boys in taking 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.

The last summer I was able to do this was a few months after my 11th birthday. I was still flat-chested when I started at secondary school, but by the following summer I had to make sure I was wearing a swimsuit top if I wanted to take my T-shirt off. This was the end of my carefree Tomboy days and I started to wear a bra at the beginning of my second year at Secondary school.


Did all the girls have to wear a shirt for PE rom your second year onwards, whether they had started to 'develop' or not?

Comments by Pete on 19th April 2015  

It certainly never bothered me about being topless and barefoot.
In fact I started being stripped to the waist and barefoot almost from the time I started primary school until I left school at nearly nineteen.

Comments by Barbara on 18th April 2015  

I cant see why all you boys were so bothered about being topless and barefoot I'm a girl and up untill I was 12 ,the end of the 1st year at the secondary school did P E outside topless and barefoot( I was flat chested) and for girls only P E inside after bringing a note from my mum was allowed to do it nude.

Comments by Roy on 15th April 2015  

I was at school in the 1960s and always did PE stripped to the waist whatever the conditions and usually barefoot as well.
We coped with it.We had to.
But I can't imagine today's youths coping with being stripped to the waist at all times

Comments by Chris on 12th April 2015  

All credit to your generation George. I was at school in the late 80s and on one occasion I had to do cross country bare-chested - it was freezing! I can't imagine what it must have been like to run without a shirt every single time, let alone in bare feet! You're right, I don't think boys could cope with that today.

Comments by George on 9th April 2015  

Looking back through the comments here I can see that my experience was typical of boys who were at school in the 60s. We did cross country running mainly in the winter and always barefoot and stripped to the waist just as other p.e. activities. We didn't think we were particularly hard done by - it was just the way things were done then and we quite enjoyed it most of the time.

I don't suppose boys could cope with that these days but times were different then. When I started at Grammar School we had no central heating at home and I remember scraping ice off the inside of my bedroom window in winter!

Comments by Andrea on 8th March 2015 

The era I'm talking about (1970s) was well before sports bras were invented!

Obviously I've never tried on a jockstrap, although I washed my ex-husbands plenty of times and bought my son his first one (with a 'box') when he first started playing cricket.

Comments by James on 4th March 2015  

Seemed to dry as far as I remember. The lockers were metal with ventilation slots so I suppose that helped, but I know what you mean about putting wet things on.
I can't say I have tried a bra, let along a sports one, so I can't comment on that!

Comments by Andrea on 3rd March 2015 

Your comment that you found wearing a jockstrap very comfortable and that it stayed in place without adjustment certainly contrasts with my early memories of supportive underwear. The first time I tried wearing a bra it felt like it was cutting me in half and I seemed to be forever having to pull the straps up! I guess it was because it was so different from just wearing a vest as I had up to then.

For several months after mum bought me one I left it in my drawer, but eventually running around in PE without one became too uncomfortable (and noticeable)!

You mentioned that you used to was your jockstrap in the shower and keep it in your locker. Did it dry properly? One of my pet hates is if I have to put on a still damp swimming costume!

Comments by James on 26th February 2015  

I don't think it was so much that they had an open back.It was more that they were designed to do just one job and support what was at the front.
Really they were very comfortable because they did just that and there was no spare material to flap around and get into places where it shouldn't. They allowed total freedom of moving around and stayed in place without adjustment.
I do remember the first time wearing under shorts outdoors and being somehow more conscious of the wind whistling around than I had been with only shorts for some reason. Probably because you just expected underware of any sort to stop that.

Comments by Andrea on 18th February 2015 

With regard to the comments by James, I can recall our teacher having a conversation with some of girls about it perhaps being time they started to wear appropriate supportive underwear (or a different kind) for PE lessons!

Going to an all girls school and not having any brothers or a sporty father, the first time I came across a jockstrap was when my ex's appeared in the washing basket when we were first married. It did seem a strange looking thing! Does anyone know why they're designed the way they are, with the open back etc?

Comments by James on 5th February 2015  

( I am just copying my comments across from a different photo as it is relevant here as well !)
I attended an all boys grammar school in the midlands in the mid 60's. I well remember the scenes set in these comments.
We had to wear the almost transparent white nylon shorts and we were ordered not to wear underpants. Shirts and skins was the norm for any activity in the gym. Showers were compulsory and we had to go into the communal shower naked.
We were lucky enough to have a pool and it was quite common after a PE session in the gym to have a shower, put our shorts back on and then go into the pool. The shorts went almost totally transparent but we just seemed to assume that's the way it was and not take any notice.
The first time I can remember this being a problem for any of us was one friend who was obviously an early developer started to have problems with hanging out of his shorts. He was embarrassed and of course the rest of us made a huge joke of it, not thinking it would become a problem for us in time!
I remember one day at the beginning of the lesson, the PE teacher sat us down in the changing rooms and talked to us about growing up and that if we felt uncomfortable in just our shorts, we should get jockstraps like the older boys, and in any case we would need them if we were going to play rugby. He had them on sale at school if we wanted to buy them.
Few of us knew what a jockstrap was but as the changing rooms were a shortcut to one part of the school we started to notice older boys getting changed and worked out what they were. Those with older brothers also knew already.
From then on, they started to appear at changing time and, of course they were plainly visible through the almost transparent shorts, especially when we went on to swimming after pe. Often the waistband showed above and the leg straps showed below but, to us, that was a sign of being one of the older boys.
Coming from a family with no older brothers, I had never talked about such things with my parents and they were not at all sporty. I couldn't imagine asking them to get to buy me a jockstrap so I summoned the courage to go and buy one at school. I just remember feeling like one of the big boys and never worried about it showing through the shorts. Like a lot of the others we washed them in the showers and kept them in our lockers.
I was never over sporty so didn't get onto the major teams but we did have to do "cross country running" which took us through the woods but also along public roads. An interesting sight for some passers by, I expect, on a wet day when things had gone particularly transparent!

Comments by Bob on 21st January 2015  

In response to the question, I meant in the vicinity of the school buildings and grounds, so away from the general public.

The gym was raised with full length windows. When the sun shone from behind while we were running on the spot, for example, our shorts especially white nylon were somewhat revealing. I recall some of my fellows staring and pointing at my shorts while I was jogging.

Showers, which were open with no privacy, were compulsory after PE or Games. Teachers normally supervised from a point between the changing rooms and the showers in order to ensure the rules were obeyed. I sometimes used to try and keep my shorts on and dash in out of the showers without taking them off. I remember once being spotted, and having to run back naked after handing my shorts over to the teacher.