Burnley Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1607         Views: 712,193         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 Chris G on 20th May 2019  

It's a long time ago I now but I don't remember either of my parents commenting adversely the day I came home from school and announced that we would be doing PE topless from now on. Dad's initial reaction that we wouldn't have to buy me any more PE vests, was soon put down by Mum pointing out that I had been wearing my ordinary underwear vests for PE for a number of years. Her greatest concern came a couple of weeks later, when she realised that an unintended consequence of not wearing my underwear vest for PE was that, after the class, I generally "forgot" to put it back on again, and within in another couple of weeks I had stopped wearing a vest altogether.

Comments by Toby P on 19th May 2019  

Both my parents fully approved of me stripping to the waist for PE/Games which was the no from 9 years old through to 18. It's something todays young men would benefit from. Stripping in view of the girls was a good thing, making you work harder

Comments by Kenton on 19th May 2019  

Hi Paul, I know exactly what you mean about being on the skins team at school. I hated it at first and felt really uncomfortable, almost as if I'd been made to strip completely naked. This was when I was 13, in the early 90s. Interested to know if you were a similar age and/or era?

Comments by Shin on 18th May 2019  

Hello Paul, we would usually practice for 4 hours everyday after school for 4 weeks before the actual performance.

Strangely we were allowed to wear a shirt for the first week. Only on the second week onwards we have to do it shirtless. We were all shocked during the first year when we found out that not only we had to practice shirtless but perform shirtless on the day. Eventually after seeing some of my classmates took their shirts off I had to do it too. Some of the shy kids were taken into a corner to be reprimanded but came back to practice without their clothes.

Every single boy in my school hated being shirtless, obviously the girls enjoyed it, they were visibly excited when we had to our shirts off for the first time.

Comments by Paul on 17th May 2019  

Hi Shin, that's interesting seeing the pictures you linked to earlier, thanks for sharing. Presumably everyone is shirtless when you practice as well, and not just for the actual performance?
We didn't do calisthenics at my school . I only took my shirt off when I had to be on the skins team. I didn't like that very much, I was uncomfortable being stripped to the waist the first times.

Comments by John on 11th May 2019  

Hi Stuart,
Iíve been to Germany and nude swimming was considered perfectly normal in many places. I have no problem with swimming naked, the Germans and Scandinavians have a healthier attitude towards non sexual nudity than the majority of British people.

Comments by Stuart on 11th May 2019  

I have holidayed a lot throughout my life in france and they have always had this strict proper trunks for swimwear rule and it does make sense both for hygiene reasons as stated and for swimming, you can't swim properly in those ridiculously sized bermuda shorts.
I think it is the same in Italy too.
Guys seem to eb scare dof wearing speedos.
Interestingly enough a couple of years ago was in denmark andn sweeden, ended up swimming from the kalbadhus which is a men and women sepaarte bathing areas in the sea on the end of long piers and usually nudist, and the scandanavian boys had no fear of swimming nude, such a different culture to the british. It wa sseen as normal not scary - the germans are very relaxed too.

Comments by Bailey on 8th May 2019  

Hi John and Alfie A I think all the points you have said about the French insisting on speedos in pools are good reasons. They sound pretty logic and sensible to me. Proper horses for courses I thinks For swimming it makes you streamlined for the activity just the same as above the knee shorts and shirtless for PE and things like that. It makes the activities safer and more hygienic. Being a young lad I don't always like the many petty rules we have in UK because alot are ludicrous like protecting peoples touchy feelings but if ruled are for hygiene and safety I am all for it.The UK is lax with hygiene I think even in restaurants I have seen it myself.

Comments by Alfie A on 7th May 2019  

The latest comments on "speedos" having to be worn in France seems to confirm my previous message.

Comments by John on 7th May 2019  

Hi Bailey,
The French consider that board shorts are unhygienic because guys will often have worn them all day, they donít want germs being transferred to their swimming pools. Itís more hygienic to get guys to change into speedos.

The other reason is that guys who wear board shorts are considered not to be keen swimmers, itís not really possible to swim well wearing board shorts. The French donít want guys fooling around in the pool dive bombing and doing belly flops, they feel that guys will swim and obey pool rules whilst wearing speedos.

Comments by Bailey on 6th May 2019  

Hi John That is interesting to know. In UK a lot of boys dare not wear them because people of all ages say things that puts them off and people dare not to stand out.
You mentioning France insisting that they wear speedos is fascinating. It makes me recall an holiday about 8 years in Bournemouth I think it was where they told the males they had to wear small trunks ONLY and not long shorts It just sticks in my mind the reaction of the men, women and kids it was as though they were asking them to be naked!
Can't just remember exactly what happened as I was 8 but I remember my dad me and my brother used the pool so I assume we either had some small trunks or some were bought for it. It stuck in my mind the peoples reaction to this request by the pools bosses. I have never come across this request in this country since that time. most males wear the long shorts in pools.

Comments by John on 6th May 2019  

Hi Bailey,

I just wanted to mention that the French donít have a problem with males wearing speedos, in fact many swimming pools in France insist on guys wearing speedos or similar trunks and ban guys from wearing board shorts. The French also have a generally healthy and positive attitude towards nudity as well.

Comments by Bailey on 4th May 2019  

Hi Mikeee We are not forced to be bare chested like on the picture back then, but the kit is dark or grey shorts similar length to the shorts on the picture and a dark vest. Nobody bats an eyelid if we do not wear the vest and I would say more than half choose shirtless like me. But then a lot do not of course but the vest is useless only that it covers the tummy and a bit of the chest.
Perhaps if they are fatter it may serve a purpose i do not know.
In sports lessons shoes and black ankle socks are worn but in ordinary PE lessons footwear or bare feet is optional. At times I have been involved in mixed PE lessons but if I had to make a choice of bare chest or bare feet in front of a girl it would be bare chest every time. There is a big deal about boys bare feet for some reason Is that because boys have bigger feet, perhaps but some girls have bigger feet than me to be honest!!!!! another thing is as I have said before on here is a disgust by people of all ages about boys wearing speedos. Other generations said they wore them and my dad wore them and nobody said anything to him when he was young so it is harder for us at times. My dad said they are more prudish now than when he was a lad though I think society thinks they are more outgoing now. I do not know about that but you can only deal with what you come across I guess.

Comments by Shin on 4th May 2019  

Hi everyone, this is an interesting topic. I am a student from Japan. In my school we did not have to be barechested during physical education lessons like the picture. However we do have to be barechested when we perform calisthenics during our annual sports festival. Here are some pics of me performing during my 2nd and 3rd year.

2nd year (3rd guy from the right in 1st row)


3rd year (directly in front of a guy with cap)


Comments by Mikeee on 4th May 2019  

Hi Bailey,

I have not found your generation lacking in toughness at all.

I'm 26 and at my local boxing gym on Suffolk parents of boys from age of 10 upwards are encouraged to let their sons to strip to the waist when fighting competitively and the majority do give their approval for this to happen.

It does take guts for some of the younger lads to stand stripped to the waist in front of an audience waiting to fight.

The big difference these days are boys were expected to be stripped off for PE/Games(at my school this included fitness sessions out on the yard, X country runs and athletics. In the gym it was basketball, more fitness and anything to make sure you were sweating!)

If you attended a more enlightened school, vests would be worn and half the class would be picked to strip to the waist as a skins team.

Which would you and your classmates have preferred?

Personally I owe my PE teachers a lot. Not wearing a vest outside helped me physically to harden up overcome my terrible shyness and made me comfortable being stripped to the waist and sweating in front of females.

Comments by Bailey on 3rd May 2019  

Thank you for the advice Chris! Shorts should be shorts for sports or PE etc. If not you may as well just wear trackie bottoms. I think PE should be brief trunks what do you need loads of clothes on in water for!!!!!

Comments by Alfie A on 3rd May 2019  

To add to the comments re swimming trunks,I do not if it still the case but I did read sometime ago that in France swimming pools (especially at holiday venues)ban the wearing of swimming shorts in the pool. All men must wear trunks/briefs. The reason given was that the shorts my have been worn outside the pool area perhaps on a beach and they would have sand on them which would block the filters in the pool. Whether that is till the case I do not know.
Furthermore, I agree with the males who like to wear what are now known as speedos in the pool. AS one person has commented, ladies can wear very tight fitting costumes and that is acceptable yet it seems unacceptable for a man to wear anything other than shorts.
My final point on swimming, I know of 2 swimming instructors who coach children in a public pool. They have to wear t shirts over any swimming attire they may be wearing. I understand that they must not "Show too much flesh"

Comments by Chris G on 3rd May 2019  

Bailey, thanks for your interesting comments. The only advice that I can give is to stay strong and be your own man. As for swimwear, as I said a few posts ago, when I was your age, standard boys' swimwear was brief trunks. I've never subscribed to the "long shorts" swimwear thing. I'm four times your age now, and still wear speedo's!

Comments by Bailey on 2nd May 2019  

Hi Tim. I don't think soft is the right word for my generation of boys because many of them are not soft i.e fighting or standing pain or tough conditions like camping out all weathers, taking risks on bikes etc. Many of my mates can do that sort of thing but they are shy of their bodies because celebrities on TV do tend to make a big deal of any male nudity and they make fun on adverts esp about speedos. I have been talking with my dad about stuff like this. Hardly any of the lads I know would wear small trunks but my dad said nobody said much it was proper dress for boys swimming when he was young nobody batted an eyelid. so maybe we are softer MENTALLY than in the past but then my dad and the like did not have to be they just wore what they had to or what was right for the activity/sport that suited the sex you were. My dad agreed that many boys would have to be thick skinned otherwise we are going to have to swim in jeans or a helmet or do PE in overalls !!!!!!! Being a boy of 16 I want to do PE or swim with minimum amount of clothes possible but adverts influence my generation and we have to be mentally tough to stand up and be counted thanks for reading

Comments by TimH on 2nd May 2019  

Firstly - Thanks to Bailey for his comments: really interesting especially the bit about the girls views on bare feet.

Looking at few recent comments, I have used the pool at my gym when there has been an area roped off for junior swimming lessons and it does make me 'smile' to see young lads in 'rash suits' - I suppose there must be a reason, but I can't really see one.

I'm not too sure about boys being 'soft' - yes - some of them are, but there always have been, but thinking of some youngsters I know, a neighbours son plays footfall to a high level and is in the Army Cadets, and another is also in the Cadets and plays hockey to a high standard. The daughter of another neighbour cycles and is a very good gymnast.

(The thing is just to help the less 'sporty' types 'mature' and see what happens)

Comments by Bailey on 2nd May 2019  

I think they were more brutal with rules towards boys back in the day that is regretful but at least they accepted a boys body more than they do today that is what it seems.
I am a boy of 16 my dad is in his fifties I have talked to him about this subject. He was a brilliant swimmer at my age but he says he swam naked in front of girls or he wore tight small trunks what we call SPEEDOS. I have seen an old photo of my dad with some girls swimming and he was naked!!
I have seen him in tight trunks too he said they did not call them speedos then but same thing. I would love to swim naked or wear speedos but people are disgusted by speedos.But I have read on here people have worn them like my dad did. Boys I know wear baggy swim short I don't like them but you hear on the telly celebrities start mocking anyone in speedos but women and girls wear skimpy swimwear that is tight in certain areas.

Comments by Bailey on 2nd May 2019  

It does seem as though many posters felt that the PE masters were stricter with boys than girls but it seems like most guys got used to it and liked it by what I have read. We are not forced to be bare chested so you could say we are lucky I am not so sure. I do it by choice because it gives me an identity that I am BOY/YOUNG MAN otherwise it is only girls that have an identity of being female us boys have to deny physically existing so I think this is where my generation of boys are dismissed.

Comments by Bailey on 1st May 2019  

I am a 16 year old boy. I hope some of you do not mind me joining in. This is really interesting to read some of the posts. I go to school in Derbyshire UK.
We do not have a compulsory rule on shirtless PE or sports but I would guess 60% of boys just wear shorts and bare chested I notice the white shorts on the picture us boys wear either black, navy or grey shorts those are the colours allowed for shorts but they are similar length to those on the picture. You can wear a dark vest thing if you wish to. We have Light shoes and black ankle socks allowed although some in basic PE are barefooted sometimes the basic PE Lesson due to logistics, staffing etc
are performed in a mixed group so I have had to do PE among girls at times. When the boys have done PE among girls as I say over half of boys opt for bare chest the big issue is the teachers and girls are more disgusted at boys bare feet.
I think somebody recently mentioned that recently on here who went to school in the nineties. Now I go bare chested in this situation but wear the shoes and ankle socks. Girls bare feat is accepted more than boys bare feet. Some boys have the vest and shorts on but bare feet. They are more noticed than me without a shirt and shorts, however girls say my socks stink so I can't win but they do not seem to be annoyed by the bare chest but then us boys wear shorts and go shirtless when the weather is hot in summer I guess the girls are used to it. Another poster mentioned these shorts that are really long like half mast pants I hate them but I guess some like them to me they are pointless.

Comments by Alfie A on 22nd April 2019  

I agree with the comments about boys being soft these days and Sterling I think you have got it right. In the winter when young lads are playing foot ball they wear long shorts and some seem to have a form of tights underneath coming below their shorts and almost joining their socks. Apparently this is to prevent being stung on the leg if the ball hits them. AS for summer and covering all of the body, I know that parents have to be responsible in the sun, but there are reports that nowadays the kids do not get enough Vitamin d because their skin is forever covered.

Comments by Sterling on 20th April 2019  

Chris G. Perhaps it has something to do with the feminisation of boys!

Comments by Chris G on 20th April 2019  

As a kid going on holiday to the Sussex coast, all I, and all other boys, ever wore in the sea was a pair of brief trunks, even at the beginning and end of the season. Go back there now, and lots of kids are to be seen in wet-suits and rash-vests, even on the hottest days. Wimps, or what!

Comments by John on 17th April 2019  

I was more comfortable doing PE shirtless, males donít usually wear a shirt to go swimming so I think that thereís no point in wearing a shirt when youíre doing an activity that makes you hot and sweaty.

Comments by Ross on 16th April 2019  

John, I think ultimately given a choice I'd have worn shirt but it was alright I didn't really mind. I think most boys were more concerned about having bare feet.

Comments by John on 15th April 2019  

Did you mind doing PE in just shorts or would you have preferred to wear a shirt as well?.

Comments by Ross on 14th April 2019  

Looks like a lesson of mine from the 90s! Except we were all barefoot too.

Comments by Paul on 27th March 2019  

I can also remember a PE teacher who drove out to the furthest point of a cross country though it was in his blue Vauxhall Viva and I can still see the number plate on it. He also used to tick a list though how he saw anyone through the thick cloud of cigarette smoke in the car used to amaze me.

He also used to smoke as he ran on the few occasions he ran with us. I do remember on more than one occasion running right behind him and wondering why he would wear a rugby shirt and quite visibly through his white shorts, underpants when we were allowed neither not of course that I or anyone else dared ask.

We were in shorts and plimsolls only regardless of the weather.

On return there was a dose of the plimsoll for anyone who was not ticked off the list and if it was a second offence the plimsoll was replaced with the cane.

We had a second PE teacher too who taught me for about half my time at school. He was far more fit and healthy, he did everything he had us do, I never saw him with a cigarette, he was always stripped to the waist and running behind him he didn't wear underpants. I much preferred him to the other one.

Comments by Philip on 26th March 2019  

To Michael and Rob.

If that teacher thought that the lads were a bunch of softies, he could have set them an example by going out stripped to the waist himself.

Comments by Bernard on 25th March 2019  

Michael - you do seem to have got off quite lightly with the kit you were allowed to wear for cross country. We always ran stripped to the waist and barefoot as others commenting here did. Bare feet were practical as the route took us through muddy parts and I'm sure I wasn't the only one that was glad to not have to clean plimsolls afterwards.
There were a few times each winter when we didn't really warm up but most of the time we would certainly not have wanted to wear more than our shorts.
One p.e. teacher had a little moped and he would sometimes come and check on us though I don't think he ever ticked us off on a list. I wasn't aware of any-one ever trying to cut out part of the route - it wouldn't have been easy. The route took us through woodlands and along the edges of fields all of which surrounded a golf course - there would probably have been complaints to the school if any-one had dared to run across the golf course.

Comments by Rob on 25th March 2019  

Michael, If your PE teacher thought you were all a bunch of softies who needed toughening up he should have sent you out stripped to the waist every time like most of us here.

Comments by Michael on 24th March 2019  

Our PE teacher routinely sent whole classes of us boys out on cross country runs.

The weather made no difference. In fact, the worse the weather, the better he liked it, as he often remarked that we were a bunch of softies who needed toughening up.

In winter, wearing only gym shorts/vests and plimsolls, it was sheer torture, but we had to do it.

Meanwhile he would stay in school, presumably making a mug of coffee before sitting down to read the newspaper.

Occasionally he would venture out in his big Ford Zodiac, and park up at the turning point of the run, to tick off our names as we ran past. We could never predict when he would do this, so the only safe option was to run the entire exhausting distance, every time.

After driving back to school, his oversize gym shoe would be made ready, to welcome back anyone whose name hadn't been ticked off.

Happy days? I didn't think so!

Comments by Frank C on 23rd February 2019  

Thanks for the link Sterling.Always quite fancied Jane Asher!

Comments by Sterling on 22nd February 2019  

Our PE teachers certainly didn't join us in stripping down.

In winter they were wearing layers of clothing, topped off with an overcoat!

It reminds me of the PE clip in the Movie 'Deep End' a 1970 British drama starring Jane Asher and John Moulder Brown.
Although Moulder Brown and his classmates are allowed vests and socks with pumps to protect their feet from the snow covered ground. The teacher is wrapped up warm in a similar overcoat to that of my PE teacher. And possibly leather gloves if my memory serves me right.

Comments by Matthew on 22nd February 2019  

If a teacher's policy was that his classes did PE stripped to the waist, then he should have applied the same policy to himself. It's good to read that some did.

Comments by NickK on 22nd February 2019  

Andy. Our history/PE teacher would wear black shorts (we wore white) and white plimsolls (we were barefoot). I don't ever remember him coming on XC. He coached rugby at the senior level in the school but was in kit/tracksuit for that. He wasn't slow to resort to the strap (we had strap rather than cane) and you could very quickly end up bending over feet apart for a really hard three or four whacks. Even junior boys who usually got the slipper for minor infractions of gym rules. But he was very popular with boys.

Comments by Rob on 21st February 2019  

NickK,Frank C,John
When I started at grammar school in 1955 two of our PE teachers looked elderly,although probably only in their fifties and the other one was younger, but much stricter. When I was in the sixth form a very young looking teacher arrived to teach geography. Like your teacher, NickK, he occasionally substituted in the gym when our PE master was called away.We had already seen him doing athletics on the playing field wearing a brief pair of running shorts and vest, but when he took our PE class he stripped to PE shorts, the same as us, and joined in as though he was one of the boys.In fact, although he was probably about five years older than us, some of the lads were bigger built than him. He came on a cross country run with us a couple of times and always joined us in the showers afterwards to freshen up before going off to take a geography class.

Comments by Andy on 21st February 2019  


Did your history/PE teacher strip to only his shorts - so no shirt, bare feet, no boxers/briefs. I assume you wore white PE shorts, so did his match ?

What about when you ran xc, did he take it, did he strip, did he run ?

Comments by NickK on 20th February 2019  

Matthew. We had a young history teacher who very occasionally substituted in the gym when a PE master was away. He would always strip to shorts (just like we were). He was a very popular teacher but was a ferocious strapper. On the hands in the classroom and on the backside in the gym. You certainly didnt want to cross him!

Comments by Angus on 20th February 2019  

Andy, just to clarify - initially we didn't have to strip to the waist for cross country. By the time that happened (in the summer term) we'd had two terms of doing indoor PE in shorts only. So it was probably less of a shock than at the outset, when it first dawned on us we'd have to do the lesson with bare chests and bare feet. I remember standing there feeling quite exposed and vulnerable at first and I know many of the other boys did too.

Comments by Frank C on 20th February 2019  

Our P.E. Master was the first adult I saw with a tattoo when he removed his top joining in with gymnastic exercises.He was also ex military and always had his hair cropped short like a soldier.I think he was a good role model for the boys and was like Action Man come to life!

Comments by John on 19th February 2019  finswimmerjohn52@gmail.com 

Replying to Matthew, 17th February.

Yes, Our PE Teacher quite often stripped to the waist to take lessons, to demonstrate the muscle groups in the upper body, and would often join in any team games - if he was stripped to the waist he would join the "skins" team , and if he had his tracksuit top on, then he'd play for the "vests".

He was ex-army (PTI) and a former Police officer , so he was used to it , and a strict disciplinarian.

Comments by Andy on 19th February 2019  


How did boys react when they had got used to wearing a nice warm sweatshirt for cross country, then to be made to strip to the waist ?

Comments by Angus on 18th February 2019  

Andy and NickK, that's pretty much the way it was at my school (all boys) in the early 90s. First two years we wore the full PE kit as set out in the school handbook - vest or t-shirt, shorts, socks and trainers. In fact for cross country there was even the option of adding a sweatshirt! Well, it all changed the following year, when we did PE in sets rather than form groups. My set got a different teacher who was new to the school, so none of us lads knew what to expect. We soon discovered he was old-school and big on discipline. Our first PE lesson of the year was in the gym and straight away he made us strip to the waist and go barefoot. Initially vests (not T-shirts and certainly not sweatshirts!) were still permitted for cross country, as were socks and trainers. However, in the summer term, we had to take our vests off as well. This was the way it stayed right through until I did GCSEs and eventually I got used to it.

Comments by Ross on 18th February 2019  

Andy, I had two different teachers with different attitude towards footwear. In year 9 we had A more lenient teacher that didn't care what you had on your feet as lo g as they were white and clean. From year 10 onwards we had a stricter teacher that insisted on us being barefoot for all PE in or out.

Comments by Jono on 18th February 2019  

Our kit was supposed to be a vest, shorts, plimmies too. However we quickly discovered otherwise and were quickly told to strip off. If those lads in the photo had our teacher they'd start to sweat up early on in the session. Being at a mixed school it was a very common sight for girls to see lads stripped off and visibly sweating.

Comments by Andy on 18th February 2019  


Did you have the same situation with cross country - different teachers, different kit.

Did your classmates "worry" about stripping to only shorts having been used to full kit ?