Burnley Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1607         Views: 712,211         Comments: 2,598

Burnley Grammar School

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

2598 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by Fiona on 22nd June 2019  

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

Comments by Chunky on 22nd June 2019  

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

Comments by Bradley S. on 22nd June 2019  

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

Comments by Bradley S. on 22nd June 2019  

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

Comments by Bradley S. on 22nd June 2019  

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

Comments by Rob on 21st June 2019  

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

Comments by Jonathan on 21st June 2019  

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

Comments by Robert on 20th June 2019  

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

Comments by Jordan on 19th June 2019  

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

Comments by Bradley S. on 19th June 2019  

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

Comments by TomS on 19th June 2019  

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

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

Comments by Bernard on 18th June 2019  


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

Comments by Ben on 16th June 2019  


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

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

Comments by John on 15th June 2019  

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

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

Comments by Ben on 14th June 2019  

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comments by John on 13th June 2019  

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

Comments by Jacob on 10th June 2019  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comments by Alfie A on 10th June 2019  

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

Comments by John on 10th June 2019  

Bradley S,
Whenever the PE teacher wanted us to play team games I would always be picked to play on the skins team. We were all lined up and he decided even no’s shirts and odd no’s skins so I wasn’t deliberately picked out. I didn’t like it at first especially if there were any girls watching us as we stripped to the waist, I was quite skinny and lacked confidence in my appearance. As I got stockier in my teens I was happy for girls to see me shirtless.

After a while I got to enjoy being on the skins team, we worked together and the camaraderie amongst the lads was good. I think all lads could have been stripped to the waist and coloured bibs provided to distinguish teams.

Like you I started being made to do PE stripped to the waist from age 9 and at first I felt quite self conscious; I don’t see why lads shouldn’t have been made to do PE shirtless from entering school. The lads that didn’t like the new shirtless policy only disliked it at first because it was new to them, there’s no reason why lads should have to wear shirts for PE anyway. Girls don’t mind doing PE alongside shirtless lads.

Comments by Bradley S. on 9th June 2019  

TomS I completely agree with your comments. Though our PE/Games lessons were always done in "skins vs vests" for everything regardless of the weather or time of year.

Along with a couple of other boys we were picked by the teachers to strip off for nearly all the lessons, no idea why but I wasn't fazed by exercising topless but would like to have known why I was always bare chested. Did anyone find that some lads were picked to strip off more than others?

One thing is for certain the earlier boys start stripping to the waist the better. I was first made to strip to the waist when I started at middle school as a 9yr old and continued throughout the high school until leaving at 18.

I too remember my TA selection weekend. I'd received a letter about what to bring for PT. There was to be no t-shirts just vests.

Half the group breathed an inaudible sigh of relief at not having to go topless outside on a cold, wet and miserable day. Our group were given the honour of stripping off for a grueling PT session. Being topless outside in such weather proved too much for some who later quit. We did a second session in the gym with both groups stripped to the waist.. sweatfest.

We did the same football tournament match with skins beating vests 4-3

Our regiment preferred we exercise as skins. When they first came into the regiment they were asked if they objected to males going topless.. Oddly enough they didn't mind and it was never a problem. Only when there were 10 females on the books were we told to wear vests or t-shirt.

My feelings are that anything that maybe classed as "masculine" is frowned at in the UK.

There really is nothing wrong with boys being stripped to the waist to workout and be pushed to have sweat showing on your upper body.

It may take you somewhat out of your comfort zone but it brings positive results and greatly reduces the risk of "image" problems.

When will people come to their senses and allow boys to become young men again. Doing PE as skins should be a a right of passage.

I believe that stripping boys to the waist at school would also instil a dose of discipline and some respect for each other.

I'd like to hear others views, especially from the female posters as to how they view boys/men stripping off to the waist.

Comments by Stuart on 8th June 2019  

Philip re your comments on forced showers. I left school like you over 30 years ago but i honestly cant see why expecting people to shower after playing sport is a bad thing. We used to play rugby and football and often were filthy afterwards, how can it be sensible, hygienic etc not to wash before getting dressed. At my gym where we have open showers guys of all ages from boys to old men shower after doing sport. I think it is a good to insist on cleanliness.

Comments by Chris G on 7th June 2019  

John - it was my third year at secondary school when our PE teacher gathered us together before the forst PE session of the new term to break the news that, henceforth, PE was going to be topless. His argument was that it was widely agreed to be healthier and more comfortable to wear as little as possible when exercising vigourously, and that loosly-fitting PE tops had been known to get caught on apparatus and cause accidents. For these reasons, therefore, tops of any kind would no longer be worn for indoors PE, but would be optional for outdoors activities.

This news was greeted with pleasant anticipation (by most of us), with apprehension (by the remaining few) and with annoyance by those parents who had splashed out on new PE tops over the summer holiday, only to find them immediately redundant. I think we were all a bit wary of the unfamiliar freedom of toplessness for the first few classes, despite us all wearing noticeably more than we wuld have worn at the beach or the swimming pool, but within a couple of weeks, comfort and practicality prevailed, and toplessness in the gym rapidly became taken for granted.

Up until then, our PE kit had been pretty conventional, black shorts and white t-shirt style top, although in practice any top sufficed, as long as it was white. Since kids gnerally wore underwear vests year-round in those days, most of us just took off our school ties, shirts and trousers, put on our shorts, and there we were, all kitted out. An unintended, but inevitable, consequence of the new regime was that instead of me and my mates going to school wearing vests under our shirts, taking them off for PE and putting them back on afterwards, it soon became fashionable to leave our vests off when getting dressed after the class. From here, it was just a short step to not bother to wear a vest on on PE days, and a further, shorter, step to giving up vests altogether.

Comments by Philip on 5th June 2019  

I can´t believe that 30 years since I left school there are still institutions that force boys to shower but no such mandate exists for girls. If there is to be real equality we must ban the dreaded school shower for all genders! Here is one shameful example.


P.E. Kit

All items of kit should be clearly named using permanent marker, iron-on or sew-in name tapes. Biro is not suitable as a marker.

Maroon logoed polo shirt
Maroon logoed Rugby shirt
Black logoed shorts
Maroon and white football Socks
White ankle socks
Shin pads
Trainers any colour; Non-Marking Soles ONLY and NO High-Top or canvas pumps
Football boots; any make, NO metal studs
Towel for showering
A strong kit bag - this should be a separate bag to the one used for school books and equipment
Gum shield (for rugby and hockey)

Maroon logoed polo shirt
Maroon logoed fleece
Black logoed shorts or skort
Maroon and white football socks
White ankle socks
Shin pads
Astro trainers or football boots; any make. Astro trainers can be worn on the playground and the outdoor pitches
Plain, black sports leggings; available online from SWI or a sports shop. NO fashion leggings
Gum shield (for rugby and hockey)

Comments by John on 4th June 2019  

Chris G,
When barechested PE for lads was introduced at your school did your Headteacher or PE teacher give you an explanation for the change?.
I’m surprised that there weren’t complaints from some lads, I felt quite self conscious initially as did some of my pals but soon got to prefer exercising shirtless and wouldn’t have liked it if there had been a return to being made to wear a shirt for PE.

Comments by Chris G on 4th June 2019  

Rob, like you, I had no issues with being bare-chested when topless PE was introduced at my school, and I don't remember anyone else being bothered with the change. On the contrary, we all welcomed the freedom of a few hours minus the vests that boys generally wore back in those days, and within a couple of weeks I, and most of my mates, had stopped wearing vests altogether.

Comments by Rob on 3rd June 2019  

Paul, as I said, when we arrived for our first PE lesson (aged 11) we were all told to take everything off and wear just gym shorts and plimsolls and nothing else. I didn't have a problem with this because it was normal for boys to be shirtless in their leisure time. We continued to be shirtless in PE all the time, even in the 6th form, and you are right in thinking that it would have been much better if you had all had to have been as well.

Chris G, my wife makes comments about my shorts. I think the truth is that they envy us men being able to wear just shorts and wish they could enjoy the sunshine more like us. Don't be put off! Enjoy the fine weather.

Comments by Chris G on 2nd June 2019  

Rob, like you, I've spent the last couple of days gardening in just shorts, indecently short according to my wife, and appropriate shoes. I guess about 50% of my male neighbours have been similarly attired whilst gardening.

Comments by TomS on 2nd June 2019  

Wow - this brings back memories! And, judging from the number of comments, it’s struck a chord with many. For the record, yes - I went to a secondary school in the Midlands during the mid-1980s where shirts/skins was the norm for team games. For other activities such as gymnastics, cross-country or athletics, we always wore a vest - I can’t recall ever having my top off for these activities. But, football, basketball, hockey and even rugby at times, we’d regularly divide into either “shirts” or “skins” both indoors and outdoors, and come rain or shine.

Looking back, I regarded it at the time as a rite-of-passage that all teenage boys went through. In my case, it was certainly painful at first - at 11 years old, I was very shy and self-conscious about taking my shirt off in public. But, you soon grew out of it and, from the age of 13 onwards, was actually disappointed not to be on the “skins” team. Going through university in the 1990s, I would regularly play some recreational basketball and football where we’d divide into shirts/skins. And later on still, I joined the Territorial Army where my regiment had no qualms about dividing its squaddies into shirts/skins. (This was just before they allowed women to join front-line regiments).

What fascinates me though is the psychology behind being shirtless. On the one hand, it’s a very primeval and powerful instinct to be barechested - it shows strength and potential, yet vulnerability. And in a team situation, it can be very potent. I have a vivid memory of my selection weekend to join the TA, where all the recruits took part in a full-on, 11–a-side football tournament (full rules, properly refereed matches) that took place over an afternoon on muddy pitches in late-March. I was on one of the “skins” teams and, although by the end of the tournament, we were plastered in mud and narrowly lost the tournament, there was a terrific sense of shared endeavour and achievement.

Nowadays, my sense is that rightly or wrongly child safeguarding measures are in place that forbid “old-skool” shirts/skins. In many ways, that’s a pity. Provided it takes place in a safe nurturing environment, I found that being a “skin” (and so being pushed to the limits of your comfort-zone, at least initially), together with that sense of shared endeavour and comradeship, made for great character-building and self-confidence. It helped me develop as an individual.

Comments by Rob on 1st June 2019  

John, I still enjoy enjoy wearing shorts in the summertime whenever I can and when it is warm and sunny, like today, I have been stripped to the waist working in the garden.

Comments by Paul on 1st June 2019  

Altho like I said I didn’t enjoy at the time being made to strip off to be on the skins team, i do actually think it would have been much better if we’d all had to be shirtless in PE all the time, and if we’d had to do it from age 11. One thing I always hated as a skin was having to line up facing the shirts team at the start, especially if most of my friends had ended up keeping their tops on while mine had come off. Of course i doubt anyone noticed or cared that I was barechested. But at 13 I was pretty body conscious and didnt like the feeling of nothing on my top half. I did get more used to it when I was older (we did PE even in 6th form) but still only went shirtless when I was made to.

Comments by John on 28th May 2019  

I can relate with everything that you’ve said. I also feel lucky to have been able to enjoy doing PE barechested free from the restrictions of a hot and sweaty shirt and also got to like being able to have a proper shower afterwards. It made lads confident about their bodies and was a healthy and normal way for lads to grow into adults.

Comments by Rob on 28th May 2019  

Some interesting comments from schooldays experiences during the during the second half of the 20th century and more recent times. I can relate to Graham's idyllic youth when I was also encouraged to be outside in the garden in the sunshine without a shirt and also walking in the countryside when it was normal for men and boys to wear just shorts and sandals. When I started at a boys grammar school it was no surprise at the start of our first PE lesson to be all told to strip off and wear just gym shorts and plimsolls and nothing else. I had no problem with this and enjoyed every lesson, feeling free both in the gym and when we were sent out on a cross country run.
I feel sorry for those guys in recent times who never experienced the pleasure of going shirtless in their primary school days and felt naked when they had to be stripped to the waist and in just shorts. I was apprehensive at the end of my first PE lesson when we all had to go back to the changing room and I had to take my shorts off and put them on the bench with my clothes and go into the open communal showers. I realised that I was actually naked and the others could see me. But then so were they and after the next lesson I had no problem and soon looked forward to showers especially when we were worked hard and made to sweat. It was all part of the pleasure of being a boy and growing into a young man.

Comments by Kenton on 26th May 2019  

Thanks for your reply Paul. Sounds uncannily like my school, which was also all boys! We also wore white shorts in PE...
I was quite tall and a bit gangly, so I felt I stood out more when I was on the skins team. Inevitably some boys were more at ease than others and I was certainly in the latter camp. It took me quite a while to get used to running around bare-chested.

Comments by Rob on 26th May 2019  

Absolutely John. Presumably you're also a sensible guy.Nothing wrong with sleeping naked!!!!

Comments by Fiona on 26th May 2019  

Stuart - what was your PE kit when you were at Caterham, vest or topless?

Comments by John on 25th May 2019  

I take it that you’re a sensible guy who prefers to sleep naked.

Comments by Rob on 25th May 2019  

I can't remember when I last owned a pair of pyjamas and my wife gets concerned that I am not feeling well if I wear my boxers in bed.

Comments by John on 25th May 2019  

Pyjamas are restrictive, bunch up and make you too hot in bed. I don’t know any guy who doesn’t sleep shirtless, my mates either sleep naked or wear boxers to bed. Most people have centrally heated homes, pyjamas are from an era when people’s homes were cold.

Comments by CJ on 24th May 2019  

Nothing wrong with PJs !!!!

Comments by Josh on 24th May 2019  

Hi guys, when i went to school, we had a strange policy on being shirtless. Our pe teacher let us run and took the time. We were with shirt on. After a week, we run another time on the same track, and if our time wasn’t faster than the time before, we had a warning. After two warning (which means after two times we weren’t able to improve our time, we had to do lesson without a shirt, which means we gave our shirt to the teacher and each time we had pe we took off our shirt (which we wore in class) and cannot wear anything. We would have received our shirt only if we were able to improve time for 5 time in a row, which was very difficult because winter is cold and we have to run under rain, wind, hail, snow without anything on our top. I remember when there were 20 F and I had to run under a hailstorm with nothing on my chest... but that was the rule

Comments by Fiona on 24th May 2019  

Stuart, either a very clear reference to sleeping without nightwear, as you say, or an acceptance that pupils of senior school age might have given up conventional nightwear in favour of underwear. I favour your interpretation, and it's the first indication that I have seen of a boarding school acknowledging that, in the 21st century, not everyone wears PJS!

Comments by Paul on 23rd May 2019  

hi Kenton,
yes it was early 90’s, an allboys school. I would have been 13 when we had to divide into skins and shirts for the first time. I remember being very shy and self conscious about taking my shirt off in the gym and standing there topless, the lesson felt endless. It probably didn’t help that I wasnt very good at team games so tended to be more aware of my bare chest, as I never really got into the game. I definitely felt naked - once my T shirt came off and got put on the bench, all i was left wearing was a tiny pair of white shorts!

Comments by Stuart on 23rd May 2019  

Hi Fiona thanks for the research. I'm not sure when the nude swimming was ended probably in the late 1970s and well before the school went mixed in 1995. Times have indeed changed. I wasnt a boarder so have no knowledge of sleepwear back then but as you say a very clear reference there now to sleeping without it.

Comments by Fiona on 22nd May 2019  

Stuart, your comments re nude swimming at Caterham Prep School in the 1970s prompted me to look at the current Caterham School uniform requirementsfor two reasons.

Firstly, contrary to your experience nearly half a century ago, swimwear is now definitely specified for boys and girls of all ages.

Secondly, the uniform list for boarders contains the following line item:

Nightwear- (if used) at least 2 sets. One dressing gown/towelling robe

Does this mean that use of nightwear by boarders is not obligatory? I'm a bit surprised to see it spelled out so explicitly, although given contemporary attitides and habits, it's probably better than requiring parents to provide nightwear that their offspring have no intention or inclination to wear.

Comments by Stuart on 21st May 2019  

Pete, reference your comment re nude swimming. I understand that nowadays it may seem far fetched but it definitely happened both here in the UK and in America where there is a wealth of evidence online especially relating to the YMCAs.
I can honestly say that between 1971 and 1975 my older brother and I swam naked at Caterham Prep School in Surrey aged 9 - 13 and I know it continued there for at least another couple of years after then.
Showers after games were compulsory both there and at my senior school Portsmouth GS up until what is now year 11.
It was normal and most of us were just used to it and it didnt seem odd, you got filthy playing rugby so you showered afterwards.

Comments by Sterling on 21st May 2019  

I thought it was barking mad that boys' Mum's would insist on the wearing of vests under a shirt, Pullover, Blazer and or Coat. Then on the same cold winter mornings, when we had cross country, vests were banned and bare chests were compulsory!

Comments by John on 21st May 2019  

Toby P,
I wish that my dad had made me sleep shirtless at 9 years old like you, I had the embarrassment of being made to take pyjamas to school camp aged 12 and finding that most of the lads slept shirtless. I don’t approve of your dad making you stand in the coal shed though, apart from that he sounds a great dad.

Comments by Toby P on 21st May 2019  

Hi Graham, my dad never approved of vests. He stopped me wearing a t shirt for bed when I turned 9. He also made me spend hours standing in the "spare" coal house wearing y fronts if I had a sub standard school report or I'd misbehaved. My sisters were made to take an ice cold bath overseen by our mum. I often helped out on the farm and was encouraged, especially during harvest, to strip down. Most of the helpers who varied from 16 upwards stripped off too. I do remember one lad in his early 20s, who on his first day helping, kept his vest on stripping off when it was totally soaked in sweat, then the penny dropped as to why 3 of us were already stripped off. Working in the sheds was like being in a blast furnace! The following morning he bared his chest like the rest of us, lesson learned.

Comments by Pete on 20th May 2019  

Seeing these comments is eye opening since when I was at school (left 5 years ago) we did PE in shorts and a tshirt, and did swimming in trunks/speedos, definitely not nude. As far as I know, most of these would constitute child abuse now, and I’m a bit doubtful that some of these things happened to be honest. Showers after pe weren’t compulsory and no one usually showered after pe since for most it would be the last lesson of the day or near the end, and we would shower at home. This was at an all boys school by the way.

Our school actually had excellent PE and swimming lessons. Usually the class would be divided into three groups from very able to least able, and the teacher would focus on one at a time, with everyone doing the same activity on different levels (e.g. the most able swimmers would swim more laps than the rest). There was a competition at the end of every lesson which we quite enjoyed. And there were a bunch of after school fitness/sport clubs you could go to for free, and a small gym. And this was at a state school so it was pretty good. I became pretty good at swimming by the end and took part in a bunch of galas, competitions during my time there.

Comments by Graham on 20th May 2019  

Toby, right from my Junior School days, my parents had no issues whatoever with me stripping off topless for PE, or anywhere else provided it was not inappropriate. It was how it was done back in those days, and my memory is that most kids, boys and girls alike, enjoyed the freedom of minimal clothing whenever possible, not just when exercising, a concept in keeping with my parents attitudes.

Mum and Dad never wore vests themselves, so I never suffered the indignity of being made to wear a vest: at bedtime they shared a pair of men's PJs in the traditional manner, so I was introduced to sleeping topless at an early age: and they appreciated the health benefits of exposure to sunshine, so I was encouraged to leave my shirt off at every opportunity when playing out in the garden. When we went for walks in the fields around our village in the summer, we would generally all wear sandals and shorts, Dad, my younger brother and I usually topless, and Mum and my sister in halter tops, and we would often encounter similarly-clad families.

And they were open to new ideas, too. When, as a rising twelve-year-old, I came home from boading school for my first half-term break with three pairs of brand-new, unwrapped and obviously unworn PJs in my case and the coy admission that nobody in my dormitory, me now included, wore anything to bed, they laughingly agreed that while PJs were on the boarders' clothing list, nothing was actually said about wearing them, and promptly announced their intention of following my example.

Autres temps, autres moeurs!