Hesketh Fletcher Gym Team

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1935         Item #: 1741         Views: 101,141         Comments: 457

Hesketh Fletcher Gym Team

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Hesketh Fletcher Gym Team of Atherton, Greater Manchester.
Source: G. Smith.

457 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by William on 10th July 2018  

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

Comments by Palmer on 9th July 2018  

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

Comments by Bob on 7th July 2018  

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

Comments by Ross on 29th June 2018  

Bob, the way I read your message it seems naked PE wasn’t unusual and you all complied and participated naked. Are my assumptions right? How often would a fellow student be naked?

I was at school in the nineties and I can’t imagine that happening in my day. Although we were often compelled to do PE in our underpants and bare feet.

Comments by Palmer on 27th June 2018  

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

Comments by John on 27th June 2018  

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

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

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

Comments by Dave on 26th June 2018  

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

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

Comments by Bob on 26th June 2018  

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

Comments by Rob on 25th June 2018  

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

Comments by Gavin A on 23rd June 2018  

All as Rob says with one exception (thank God)

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

Comments by Rob on 22nd June 2018  

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

Comments by John on 22nd June 2018  

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

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

Comments by Simon S on 14th May 2018  

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

Comments by Simon S on 14th May 2018  

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

Comments by NickK on 13th May 2018  


PE section starts at 21:34

Comments by Bernard on 24th April 2018  

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

Comments by Steve on 24th April 2018  


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

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

Comments by TimH on 24th April 2018  

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

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

Comments by TimH on 24th April 2018  

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

Comments by Dave on 23rd April 2018  

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


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

Comments by John on 21st April 2018  

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

Comments by GregF on 20th April 2018  

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

Comments by Gavin A on 20th April 2018  


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

Comments by Robert on 20th April 2018  

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

Comments by Sam on 20th April 2018  

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

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

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

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

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

Comments by Joe on 19th April 2018  

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

Comments by John on 19th April 2018  

Please accept my apologies for the last published comments, something went wrong and I thought that I’d posted it from myself ‘John’. I intended to address my comments to you, I clearly did not check carefully enough before I clicked on ‘submit’.

Comments by Sam on 18th April 2018  

I agree with you that it was unfair if all boys were not treated the same. I still believe that your PE teacher was right and that lads do not need to wear tops for PE. My brother and I were used to wearing only shorts for PE at Primary School so by the time we went to Secondary School we were quite happy going bare chested for PE. There were some lads who’d been to different Primary Schools that had allowed them to wear tops for PE and they complained about being made to strip to the waist. After the first few PE lessons they were no longer bothered about not wearing tops.

Girls are not the same as boys, for swimming lessons at co-ed schools girls are expected to wear a full swimming costume and boys will normally be shirtless unless they are swimming outdoors and require sun protection that a specialist fabric swim top may provide.

So I don’t think that ‘gender discrimination’ should prevent a shorts only policy for boys indoor PE. If a national policy of shorts only for boys indoor PE kit was adopted it would be fair to all boys and would help them to gain confidence and worry less about their body image.

Comments by Sam on 17th April 2018  

John, as a 12 year-old boy I certainly didn't think he was right! Like many of my classmates I was uneasy at having to do PE with no top. And it seemed unfair that boys with different PE teachers weren't made to do the same. For instance, my brother - who was in a different year - used to tease me if he'd seen my class out running in just our shorts and trainers!
And with hindsight? Yes, I think my teacher's policy did me good because ultimately it played a part in making me into a physically fitter and more confident young man. But I'm sure schools wouldn't be able to introduce that kind of rule now on the grounds of gender discrimination.

Comments by John on 17th April 2018  

Sam, do you think that your teacher was right making all lads strip to the waist for PE. Do you think that it should have been school policy?. I think it was so beneficial for myself and other lads that it should have been a national policy.

Comments by Sam on 16th April 2018  

Hi Claire, I had a similar experience to your brother at school (about 25 years ago). Although shirtless PE kit for boys wasn't school policy, the teacher who took my class for PE made us all do it stripped to our shorts, no exceptions. It was quite a shock at first and there were one or two protests but it made no difference. In his view there was no need for boys to wear shirts for exercise and that was that. In some ways it meant we worked harder in PE as you wanted to have a better body, or more muscles than your mates.

Comments by Claire on 13th April 2018  

Hi John, it's sad the way things have become. Something so normal is frowned upon. Doing sports stripped off was so common. I feel it also helped boys identify with themselves too without mixing their heads up.

Comments by Tony on 3rd April 2018  

Re the episode of Vera, I did not see it. However, I do not suppose that in this day and age TV cannot show boys bare-chested. It they did I suppose for politically correct reasons their faces would be pixillated

Comments by John on 3rd April 2018  

Claire, you are absolutely right. When I was at school in 1970s/80s it was common practice for boys to be stripped to the waist for PE. Some teachers that I know said that in the late 1980s due to campaigns from some parent groups; schools started to allow boys to wear vests or t shirts for PE.

Comments by Claire on 2nd April 2018  

Hi Frank, my brother had a hard time with a PE teacher who insisted on all boys exercise stripped to the waist throughout his time at school for everything physical and in all weathers even laps of the field in the pouring rain. Just recently an episode of "Vera" showed a group of boys doing a PE run on the beach in vests, being topless would been more realistic.

Comments by Frank Chroston on 1st April 2018  

Thanks Clare for picking up on the comment I made about WW2.I have a sullen regret that we didn't have a sterner regime at my secondary school and have a stripped to the waist policy for P.E. Cross Country also.

Comments by Claire on 31st March 2018  

Frank, good point about WW2. I'm sure those young men would have been stripped to the waist for their military PT. It's my view lads joining any of the Services should strip for PT. It makes it easier for them to toughen up.

Comments by Frank Chroston on 24th March 2018  

I like the contributions on this site because the views are more varied.It is a sobering thought that most of these fine gymnasts would be conscripted five years later!WW2 etc. I was interested particularly in the field of school medicals.Mine came up in 1974 when I was forteen.It was after the Easter holidays.Like the customs at the airport I was chosen at random from the queue to strip down to bare in a room by the library and be examined by a physician,I had the hernia test and the rubber gloves finger inserted into my anal passage causing me to yell with the discomfort,like an earlier respondent mentioned I was aroused by the the experience.I years later read that it was a natural response to artificial stimulation! I had been terrified that I was homosexual with the 'being felt' experience!

Comments by JonAt1 on 10th March 2018  

During our indoor PE lessons we were made to sweat. Being made to strip to the waist made it easy to see who was putting the effort in. If you weren't sweating at the end then remedial session outdoors and laps of the field awaited.

Comments by Frank Chroston on 30th December 2017  fchroston@gmail.com 

Roy I endorse what stated earlier,adolescents release a lot of adrenalin and it is excreted through the skin.Not showering after PE or Games means the oil can block pores causing spots to form particularly on the back of a student.Most of us looked forward to a shower after Gym exercise.We got so used to this compulsory regime before we returned to the classroom situation.

Comments by Roy on 10th December 2017  

As many have said it is completely unhygienic to go straight from a PE lesson to a class without showering first.

Comments by Kirsty on 19th November 2017  

hi Ross

Yes it was a surprise! We all had full indoor PE kit with us, t-shirts, gym pants and plimsolls. So to find out only at that first lesson that we'd be doing it in our knickers and no tops was a shock! Outdoors we had PE kit, though if we forgot it we'd have to run laps of the field in our pants!

Comments by JON on 17th November 2017  

I seem to have endured more school medicals than many.as I had one on starting school another on moving to junior school and another on leaving that school.
In secondary school I had one when receiving the BCG jab another after finishing my O Level year and the last one after finishing my A levels.
I can only really remember the last ones as we lined up in groups of three outside the MI room stripped to the waist and on entering the room we stripped naked and went forward for the examination which involved the usual including the genitals. This gave me an erection which lasted while I was trying to get dressed!
As I had to pass the lads waiting their turn I noticed that by then they had erections as well!!

Comments by Ross on 7th November 2017  

Hello Kirsty,

Interesting comments there. It must have been a real surprise for you. What were you expecting to wear for PE? In the other two lessons a week were these outside? Do you have to do these in knickers only?

Comments by Andrea on 31st October 2017  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

Hi Kirsty,

I seem to recollect a couple other women saying something similar about 18 months ago. I imagine it must have been quite a shock and quite embarrassing, especially for those girls who had started to develop?
I was still flat chested at the start of what would now be year 7, but started to wear a bra at the start of year 8.

Did your PE teacher say why this was the rule?
Our indoor PE kit was navy blue gym knickers and a white polo shirt. Far from making anyone go topless, our PE teacher told several girls that they should start to wear a bra under their polo shirt.

Comments by Kirsty on 30th October 2017  

There are mostly men commenting on this, but I see a few women too. I went to a girls school from age 11 onwards and PE there was pretty strict. In UII and LIV (which I think are now called years seven and eight, age 11-13) we did PE every day, and that meant gymnastics indoors, which we did three times a week. When we were in the gym, we didn't wear PE kit, which was a shock when we first started. Our gym mistress was very clear that first lesson, when she came into the changing room and told us piece by piece to undress. Eventually we were all left standing in just our pants, at which point she ordered us to line up in alphabetical order. I was wondering what would happen next then she told us to file into the gym! Only when we were there did she make explicit that we would do all our lessons dressed this way.

Comments by ROY on 25th September 2017  

In the 1960's we always had to shower after PE and thought nothing of being naked in the communal showers

Comments by Rob on 8th September 2017  

Sterling, agree absolutely, and why should showers be optional after indoor PE? I can't believe the amount of kit required on that list! We wore just a pair of shorts with nothing on underneath, no shirt, and plimsolls without socks.Many had to do it in bare feet. We wore this kit in the gym and outside,including cross country runs. In the gym we were worked hard and made to sweat profusely so that we needed and looked forward to washing ourselves thoroughly in the open showers together afterwards.

Comments by Sterling on 5th September 2017  

Jonas, Why Is It 'terrible' to expect Students to maintain an acceptable level of Personal Hygiene?

Is it acceptable to subject Teachers to the Smell of 30+ Post Workout Sweaty Teenagers in a confined space?

I think Not!