Burnley Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1607         Views: 606,735         Comments: 2,172

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

2172 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by Rob on 5th February 2018  

When I was at school in the late fifties all the boys wore vests under their school shirts and we were told before the start of the first PE lesson to go to the changing room and take everything off including our socks and underpants and to come back into the gym wearing just shorts and plimsolls.On the way,we were talking and some of the boys said about whether we were allowed to wear Tshirts which had been on the uniform list and we said 'no, just shorts and plimsolls'. So,we certainly weren't allowed to keep our vests on and as to T.shirts; we never ever wore them. We were always stripped to the waist, and able to sweat freely and then shower together afterwards and so become more confident about ourselves. All boys today should be able to continue to share that experience.
When I started a job in 1962, I realised that none of my young male colleagues wore vests under their shirts, so I ditched mine and have never worn one since.

Comments by Jake on 5th February 2018  

It is strange that there weren't standard rules about these things, even within the same school. I had one PE teacher who let us wear t-shirts (and even an extra sweatshirt outdoors!). Then the next year we had a different teacher, his view was that we needed toughening up and made us all do it stripped to the waist. In the sixth form things were more relaxed and we were given the choice, but most boys opted to wear just shorts and no top.

Comments by Toby on 3rd February 2018  

Was it to make you look tough? Some teachers did like to do that. You're right about the variations between schools, shirts vs skins, vests vs skins, skins vs skins. Quite funny really

Comments by Jono on 3rd February 2018  

It's strange each school did different things. I was on the x country team and when competing we always ran in skins. Some teachers would make their team strip while others wouldn't..

Comments by Roy on 1st February 2018  

I agree with Gavin and when I was at school as most boys didn't wear vests although the uniform rules for PE stipulated singlets obviously not having vests they boys went stripped to the waist.
Nothing was said and it soon became normal for all boys to be STTW for both indoor and outdoor PE.

Comments by Gavin on 31st January 2018  

Jason, hardly any of the kids that I went to school with wore vests and those boys would not have wanted to wear a vest or T shirt for PE. It was a good idea at your school for classes to wear different coloured shorts thereby enabling team games where all lads can stay stripped to the waist. Shirts vs skins can be bad for less confident kids, if all boys are shirtless it is fairer and all boys will get used to it and gain confidence in their bodies.

Comments by Jason on 27th January 2018  

Think it was easier having everyone stripped down. We wore either black or white shorts depending on which class we were in. Those who did wear a vest under their school shirts simply peeled off and hung them on their peg.

Comments by John Lavender on 25th January 2018  finswimmerjohn52@gmail.com 

Replying to Gavin;

I think the Teacher was trying to follow PE Uniform policy but he was ex-Army and also a Serving Police Sargeant so I think secretly he would have had us all stripped to the waist if he had - had any input into the Policy. The
Teacher was often Stripped To The Waist as well.
Quite a few of us preferred being STTW and would go to any lengths, from just asking if we could strip off, to deliberately being last into the Gym so we could take our tops off and Run the Gauntlet.

Doing that, we had to run between two lines of lads (up to about 15 in each line) who would slap us on the back as we passed them. We weren't supposed to stop and fight any of the lads in the Lines but sometimes we did,We used that to get even if we owed them one for something.
Occasionally that would descend into a scuffle between more lads and the Teacher would have to separate us.

Comments by Gavin on 22nd January 2018  

John, having enjoyed the freedom and comfort of being stripped to the waist for secondary school PE, I cannot understand why your teacher thought that it was a punishment making the last 2 lads to emerge from the changing room take their tops off. Most lads would have hated being made to wear a T shirt or vest for indoor PE, having a hot sweaty shirt sticking to your back is really uncomfortable and unnecessary.

Comments by John Lavender on 21st January 2018  finswimmerjohn52@gmail.com 

Reply to Andy K1;

Our kit was nominally White Tee Shirt, white shorts and Plimmies (Plimsolls)
At the start of every lesson the last 2 lads to get Changed into Kit and into the Gym were made to take their Tops off and 'Run the Gauntlet' of the rest of the class - usually around 30 Lads.
After this they stayed Topless for the rest of the lesson, and some lads were allowed to take their tops off if they wanted to -and if the Gym Master would let them.
If we played team games eg Killerball (a kind of indoor Rugby but with fewer rules and played with a Medcine Ball of a random weight chosen by the Teacher), then we played 'Skins vs. Vests').

We didn't wrestle every week, but as I said, we were always told in advance if it was, and told to wear our Swim-briefs.

Comments by Andy K1 on 21st January 2018  

Hi John, thanks for your comment about wrestling. It made me wonder if you wore shirts in the gym, with everyone going to skins and why did you need notice to fight. PE was always done stripped to the waist and by the end of session we were visibly sweating.

Comments by Matt on 21st January 2018  

I wish that boxing had been part of the Physical Education curriculum at my secondary school. I needed toughening up and lads need to learn self defence.

Comments by AndyK1 on 20th January 2018  

Michael, you're probably right about the pairings I felt the same way. We all were stripped to the waist to box and I'm guessing you were the same. No one really wanted to look bad in the ring but it was a way to release frustration ect.

Comments by Michael on 20th January 2018  

We didn't have wrestling at my school, but we did have boxing. This was in the days before "Elf 'n Safety", so although we wore boxing gloves we had no protection for our heads or bodies.

Although it was an outlet for the more testosterone-fuelled boys' aggression, as an oft-derided "wimpy kid" I found the amount of violence to be scary.

The bigger boys could deliver powerful punches, and I sometimes wondered if the pairings were arranged so that anyone 'out of favour' would get a beating from their opponent.

Comments by James on 19th January 2018  

Apologies for my unfinished message.
What was most appealing was the soft,shiny material that would shimmer in the sunlight.
Although I thought they were a bit sissyish,I preferred wearing them to grey school shorts.

Comments by James on 19th January 2018  

Peter B,I really think what is considered'cool'is what is fashionable at the time.
Shorts were much shorter in the seventies when I was at school and we had to accept that even though they would be typically worn without underwear.
When satin shorts became fashionable in the late seventies,I wore them for first time with trepidation,although I was reassured by my mother that I that I looked very smart and trim in my new shorts.
I'm sure what apea
It was the

Comments by Peter B on 19th January 2018  

John Lavender
Referring to other peoples comments and mine on fashion it seems that it is no longer "cool" for lads are to wear swim briefs.

Comments by John Lavender on 18th January 2018  finswimmerjohn52@gmail.com 

In our gym sessions at Grammar School (1963-68) we didn't wear supports but some of us used to put our Swimming Trunks on underneath our Shorts instead if we needed to.
We also used to do Wrestling sometimes as well and if this was the case, our PE Master used to tell us in advance, so that we could start the lesson with them under our Shorts, and then slip off our shorts and just wrestle in the swim-briefs.
There were two "Houses" at the School and it was always one Boy in Green Trunks against one in Navy-Blue. We didn't use a Ring, just an exercise Mat in the Middle of the Gym Floor. Any of the Lads who weren't already in "Skins" had to take their Tee-shirt off, of course.

Comments by Daved on 16th January 2018  davidmecheng@tesco.net 

Hi ,if anyone would like to chat more about supporters and athletics kit please feel free to Email me I would be happy to talk further.

Comments by Peter B on 16th January 2018  

I was not aware that jockstraps had gone out of fashion, but the I am not athletic. Due to the fact that most lads are allowed to wear under under their shorts these days and given the fact that they all seem to wear boxers not briefs, you would think that they would need some sort of support for PE or games

Comments by James on 16th January 2018  

Peter B
At the school that I attended during the seventies,we also had a strict'no underwear policy'which was rigorously enforced.We too would wear just our shorts with no vest or socks.No distinction was ever made by the boys'ages and like you we would wear the same brief shorts in the fifth form as the first formers would wear.
I found it far more traumatic wearing these shiny little numbers for cross country where we could be seen in public rather than other outdoor pursuits.

Comments by Jon on 15th January 2018  

I was st school between 1968 and 1974

I totally agree that is a shame they went out of vogue

Comments by Dave on 15th January 2018  davidmecheng@tesco.net 

Hi , the period I started wearing a supporter was mid 70`s, maybe before that time they were not very common

Comments by Peter B on 15th January 2018  

I went to an an all boys school in London (1961 to 1966) The top form was the 5th form when we left in July 66 at the age of 16. We had a strict no underwear policy and no tops indoors and no socks. Athletic supports were nerve mentioned and so we went through all years with no support. In the summer when we played cricket during the games period we never knew about boxes and so did not wear them.

Having read some of the previous contributions about swimming with out trunks at least we did wear these for our lesson but of course in those days we all wore the briefs type, not the long shorts that our now worn for swimming.

Comments by Andrea on 15th January 2018  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

The school my Ex went to (in the 1970's) was a boys grammar, not a public or boarding school. As mentioned previously it was their PE teacher who suggested they start to wear a supporter, rather than it being on the PE kit list.

When my son was about 11, he wanted to play junior cricket and a 'box' was on the compulsory kit list. That was the first time. I came across a jockstrap with a pouch - my Ex didn't play cricket.

Comments by Dave on 15th January 2018  

Hi , interesting comments from both of you , I think it must have been down to school policy or the head of sports as to what underwear boys should or should not wear.
My school was a mixture of day and boarding and it was a boarder who I first watched wearing a supporter.

Comments by TimH on 15th January 2018  

Strangely, like William, I can't remember anyone at my boys' grammar school in the 60s wearing jockstraps either. Could it be a demographic/cultural thing?

Comments by Arby on 15th January 2018  

I went to a State High School in the 60s. Most boys by the time that we reached the 6th form wore a jockstrap for PE and games. Yes they were Litesome jockstraps. I remember two of us going to the local sports shop to buy them for the first time. We felt very grown up at the time. Afterwards it just became quite normal to wear them. The sports teaching staff encouraged us to wear them, particularly as we eventually realised that they wore them too. In my view it is a great pity that jockstraps are no longer in vogue.

Comments by William on 15th January 2018  

Jon and Dave

I wonder exactly when you were at school. At a boys' grammar school in the '60s I never saw or heard of jock straps. We never wore anything under our shorts, not for gym, athletics, rugby or hockey. In retrospect, jock straps would have been welcome in the sixth form.

And on the thread in December, no-one tried to get round the "no pants" rule. I made the mistake of wearing pants at my first gym lesson - I was absent for the "no pants" order - and was screamed at by the master when we stripped for the showers. It made an indelible impression on me and probably on everyone else.

Comments by Jon on 15th January 2018  

Yes very similar experience. I went to a public school in Hertfordshire. I was a boarder and would say that we practically all had jockstraps (athletic supporters) by the time we'd reached sixth form, whereas the day boys weren't so enthusiastic. Don't know why that was really. Perhaps boarders were more inclined to follow the lead boy for fear of being seen out of line/ fashion. I only ever geall remember there being Litesome jockstraps with or without pouches (with for sport like cricket to carry a box). Most boys had both types.

Comments by Dave on 14th January 2018  

Hi Andrea and Jon , after I had seen the other boy wearing his jockstrap I wanted one so went on my own to a local sports shop and bought an athletic supporter as they were called along with a new running vest and shorts. I remember being very excited and rushed home to try them on , it did take some time and nerve to wear them at school for the first time. My games master did comment that it was good to see I was wearing proper athletic`s kit !!
Jon I went to a public school here in Somerset.

Comments by Andrea on 14th January 2018  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

Hi Dave,
If my memory is correct, I think my Ex said their PE teacher advised all the boys to purchase a 'Litesome Supporter' when they started their 3rd year at secondary school (so aged about 13). Before that they weren't allowed anything under their shorts.

He got his dad to go with him to buy one; did you do the same or did you buy it yourself?

Comments by Jon on 14th January 2018  


Like experience ... at the age of 14 we started to invest in a jockstrap once one boy had bought one. Which school were you at?

Comments by Jon on 14th January 2018  


Like experience ... at the age of 14 we started to invest in a jockstrap once one boy had bought one. Which school were you at?

Comments by Dave on 13th January 2018  

Hi,I have been reading the comments here and most of them ring true to my time at school. We were not allowed to wear underwear at all under our white pe shorts up to 14 when most of us started wearing tight pants or swimming trunks under the shorts for support. When I was 16 I saw a lad putting on a jockstrap before a cross country race and by that weekend I had my first litesome jockstrap, one or two of my friends also got one and the small athletic shorts which were the fashion in the late 70`s early 80`s.

Comments by Frank Chroston on 13th January 2018  fchroston@gmail.com 

The spirit of the 1959 Burnley Grammar photo is alive and well in the form of Olympian gymnast Nile Wilson.Check out his You Tube videos,Ultimate Gymnast Challenge.

Comments by Roy on 13th January 2018  

I agree that single sex primary schools were rare although in secondary schools they were common both in the private and state school sectors.

Comments by Andrea on 12th January 2018  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

Hi Ben,

Personally I didn't find it embarrassing as I was still totally flat-chested when I left primary school. Also, like many of the girls, I became adept at putting on my PE shorts before removing my skirt!
I think some of the early developers did start to feel self-conscious about their bodies, not helped some of the boys making comments. Did that happen in your school too?

Certainly in earlier years a few pupils of both sexes did PE in their vest and pants if they forgot their PE kit, but I don't recall it happening in the final year.

Comments by Ben on 11th January 2018  

Andrea, did you or any of the other girls feel embarrassed stripping and changing for PE in front of the boys in class?

Also was there some sort of punishment if you forgot your PE kit, like making you do PE in just underpants which seems to have been common in some schools?

Comments by Andrea on 11th January 2018  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

Hi Ben,

A follow up question - had any of the budding girls actually started to wear bras? If so it seems particularly harsh that they had to remove them.
As I said in my previous post, a few of my classmates did start to wear bras during our final year at primary school, but there were others who had small buds but were still wearing vests. Of course this was in the days before cami-tops etc were available as a 'half-way house' between a vest and a bra.

Comments by Andrea on 10th January 2018  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

Hi Ben,

I left primary school in 1971. We were allowed to wear T shirts and shorts or pe skirts, but boys and girls had to change in the same classroom (supervised by our teacher).
As you say, some of the girls started to develop budding breasts during the final year at Primary and a few started to wear bras rather than vests. They were normally allowed to change separately in the toilets.

Comments by Ben on 10th January 2018  

Hi Claire, at least you were all girls and presumably with all female teachers during PE.
In our case it was mixed and with both male and female teachers, depending on who your class teacher was.

I also think that it was rare to have boys only or girls only primary schools, though I coulld be wrong.
Although single sex secondary schools were not that uncommon.

Comments by Claire on 7th January 2018  

Hi Ben, I attended an all girls school leaving in 1997. We were made to go "bare top" in gym until 11yo when bra's were required by many. I am pretty "flat chested" our gym teacher kept myself and a couple of other girls as skins. I was 15 before requiring a bra.

Comments by Ben on 7th January 2018  

We did PE in just underpants, both boys and girls, throughout primary school till age 11. Some girls had budding breasts in the last years and some boys were also beginning to develop.
I guess most of us started to feel embarrassed being half naked or almost naked in front of the opposite sex at that age.
We all undressed down to our underpants in class under the supervision of our teacher and were taken for PE exercises.
This was in the early 60s.
I wonder if this is still permitted in any schools.

Comments by Matt on 4th January 2018  

I attended a co-educational secondary school and was initially embarrassed being barechested in front of girls whilst doing mixed sex PE lessons. It would seem from quite a few posts that lads in early teens have not wanted to have to strip to the waist in the presence of girls. I wish that I had been to a single sex school where I would not have been bothered being stripped to the waist amongst other boys. There is much to be said for single sex education until the age of 16, boys can concentrate on their education without the distraction of girls.

Comments by Paul on 4th January 2018  

Peter B,

Of course these days the cane is banned so it just couldn't happen but back in the 1960s a headmaster, particularly of a private school had pretty free reign where anything was concerned.

Corporal punishment was overseen by the governors but in reality that meant it was left to the headmaster's discretion unless a parent complained and as you say, a parent then would almost certainly side with the school - mine always did and had I not already had the strap at home, I would have been given it just for getting a caning at school. The governors were all retired ex-military types anyway who no doubt thought the more severe a caning the better - never done them any harm and so on.

The headmaster maintained a list of boys who he saw as rebellious and after the skinhead cut I was on it alongside a few more. It guaranteed you a bare bottom caning if you were sent to him and up to twelve strokes - which I never got though I did get eight a couple of times - surprisingly much worse than six.

I doubt any parent today would use a strap like my father had either - it was about eighteen inches long and two wide and half an inch thick, it really packed a punch and a dozen of it on my bare bottom was the norm. I suspect any father today even giving a couple with it would be arrested.

Is the situation today better? I'm not sure, I look at lads heading for school and the state of them and sometimes think that the threat of a rarely used cane might smarten them up no end.

Comments by Sterling on 4th January 2018  

As many have stated the Bare Chest policy was quite popular amongst many female onlookers. I attended an all boys school. The ladies who worked in the canteen certainly enjoyed extended cigarette breaks while watching the shirtless shenanigans on the pitch!

Comments by Jason on 3rd January 2018  

There are other ways to distinguish teams but none as effective or practical than stripping off. Boys realise that there's no hiding place when you're stripped to the waist. Everyone can see you sweat!

Comments by Roger on 3rd January 2018  

Certainly I noticed especially during the Summer Terms at my mixed Grammar School when we did athletics outdoors many of the girls would gravitate to the boys who were stripped to the waist - nearly all of us - like bees around a honeypot.

Comments by Simon on 3rd January 2018  

Matt, thanks for clarifying that. I think the same split would apply if boys were given the choice, even if only for outdoor PE. But I agree it's fairer for every boy to be treated the same and more logical if indoor PE kit is restricted to shorts (and perhaps footwear) only.