Burnley Grammar School
Item #: 1607
Source: Lancashire Life Magazine, December 1959
Philip,up to what age did you have to wear shorts?
Jonno, Gareth, James, Turner et al
You have taken me right back to my own childhood, and the twice-yearly ritual of changing from Winter to Summer underwear and vice versa.
For several years, I too had the torment of itchy woollen half-sleeved vest and pants in Winter, cotton in Summer, although I have no memory of my pants showing below the legs of my achool uniform short trousers. Until she was in her fifties, Mum religiously wore a vest, winter and summer alike, although she always denied this in her later years, and she did her utmost to ensure that I followed her example. To add insult to injury, I was expected to wear my vest under my PJ top at night, except in hot weather, when the PJ top rather than the vest was the discarded item, Even from my first days at school, I envied the kids who never seemed to have to wear vests, itchy or otherwise. Thankfully, by the time I moved up to secondary school, I was wearing cotton singlets and Y-front briefs throughout the year, although in hot weather, Mum's approach to "casting a clout" was for me to leave off the briefs rather than the vest, and I don't think I was alone among my peer gtroup in this.
I was nearly eleven before I spent a sizeable part of a summer minus a vest during the day and, by extension, at night as well, and it was during this period that I was introduced to sleeping topless, although once cooler weather returned, so too did vests and PJ tops. As I have posted here before, it was another couple of years before I finally got rid of vests altogether, a process triggered by the introduction of topless PE in my third year of secondary school.
If you were at all like me you wore what your mother told you to and any argument about that was dealt with by my father with me bent over the back of a chair and my shorts and underpants at my ankles!
I did get away with wearing vests though which I hated, I just didn't put them on but did put them out for the wash so my mother was never any the wiser or if she was, she didn't let on.
I think string vests and underpants were a fashion at one time, at first I was the only lad wearing them but over time a few more started to. I'm not sure they were ever fashionable though. I do remember coloured briefs appearing not that I was ever allowed them at home and they might just about have been fashionable but they did have the disadvantage of being made of nylon as opposed to cotton which at least white briefs were.
As I commented in an earlier posting I remember the string briefs also I wore the string vests, which could often be seen through shirts. I do not why we wore them perhaps it was a fashion statement rather similar to people who nowadays wear their trousers at "half mast" to show off their designer pants!!!
I escaped trunks and going to grammar school in 1970 the uniform list specified white briefs. I was horrified when my mother produced string ones with only a solid cotton pouch and the rest was very see through mesh.
I was aghast at the idea of changing for PE but of course that fear was set aside at the first lesson when we were told 'when changing, you take off your underpants' by the master and so I was no worse off than anyone else and at least the string briefs were comfortable as was bare under PE shorts.
I also remember being in that predicament when our white trunks would show below our short trousers.It usually happened when I was standing at the front of the class and reciting something,which made it all the more difficult to pull my trunks up or pull my shorts down.
It always received a lot of giggles from my classmates until I was allowed to sit back at my desk.
I Also remember the trunks showing beneath the grey uniform shorts in junior school. The worst thing in the winter was that the trunks were woollen and they itched like mad. I was glad for some relief in the summer when I went back to cotton.
Hi All, Reading about boys underwear back in your schooldays, in my senior days 1959 to 1963 my underwear hardly altered, white cotton trunks or eyelet ones, and vests to match, my complaints to my mother were always answered by "if they are good enough for your dad, they are good enough for you!". I complained that they showed below my school shorts, all she did was sew the hem up ! I was glad when I got long trousers at 13, but still had to wear trunks even though I pointed out briefs were the norm now. Didn't get teased though because I wasn't the only one who wore that style back then, although at times when horsing around at playtime other boys would try to pull the hems down.
Turner I agree with what you have written about the modern underwear. My main angst is the lack of choice in pattern and colours for briefs. Mainly dark blue or black where as boxers come in a variety of patterns.
l know what you mean about those horrible trunks. At primary school l initially wore Aertex briefs but one day when we were changing for PE one of the girls said "l can see our bottom" meaning through the material. l was mortified and asked my mother to get me pants you couldn't see through. She went too far and bought me those loose-fitting M & S trunks for years. At grammar school nearly every boy wore briefs and after two or three years l got her to buy me briefs like everybody else.
The close-fitting trunks they wear now, or even worse so-called boxer shorts, look so uncomfortable l simply don't know why they choose them. An exception would be the men whose size is best disguised with large pants.
I remember the arguments with my nan (I was raised by here because my mum had died) and dad about I do not need to wear a vest, which were singlets. But I did not win that argument until I was 16 and went out to work. Before that it was "we buy your clothes" and I had no say in the choice. I always wanted to wear briefs but I was always had some horrible ill fitting trunks bought for me. Then at last when I got to secondary school I had briefs mainly I insisted that they were bought for me to stop the teasing because when we changed for pe all the other boys had briefs and they thought me old fashioned for wearing the trunks. How time have changed!
When I started work the string briefs were coming into fashion and my nan and dad thought they were unusual. "You don't want to wear them!" But as I say I was working and so could make my own choice of what I wore.
To answer the questions asked :-
To start with I guess aroud half the boys wore a vest under their shirts (this is late 60's, aged 11/12). In PE/games you soon realise that other boys don't, so "Mum, I don't need a vest now"
White briefs were normal then, but coloured ones just coming into fashion. Why a rule ? I think it's just about control/conforming/doing as you're told - same as being stripped to the waist for pe/xc, simple really a teacher says "no vests boys" and 30 boys are strip their tops off immediately.
Like Gareth, I fail to understand the obsession that certain schools have with their pupils' underwear. If a child, boy or girl, chases to wear coloured rather than white underpants/knickers/whatever, why is that of any concern to anyone other than the child and its parent(s)? It's certainly not anything that the school need be concerned with. Likewise, if a child chooses to wear an additional garment under their shirt/blouse, surely a t-shirt is as valid a choice as a singlet/vest. What's more, given the relative transparency of the contemporary school uniform shirt/blouse, either garment is going to show through and a t-shirt is probably less intrusive from this point of view.
I wonder why the school uniform specified that you must wear white briefs or trunks. Who would know and why does it matter to the school?
How many of you were still wearing vests at that point?
Both long and short trousers were allowed, but the vast majority of boys wore long trousers from day 1.
Typical uniform, navy trousers, blazer, black shoes/socks, white long sleeved shirt, school tie.
Vest (if worn) had to be "proper" vest, not t-shirt, white briefs/trunks.
Stuart,did you have uniform requirement at the grammar school that you attended where you wore short trousers or long trousers?
I was the first in my family to go to grammar school, working class lad etc (this was late 60's).
The uniform/kit list arrived - normal uniform requirements, white pe shorts, white house banded vest, plimsolls, white socks.
Our neighbour had a son at the school (a year older than me). Just get him a pair of shorts was their advice, that all they are allowed to wear for pe, same for cross country.
We had one indoor pe lesson a week, one cross country - all we wore was shorts, winter or summer.
I can’t see any problem with you deciding that the kit for the traditional fitness sessions would be shorts only. As you say no parents complained when you sent them a letter. Exercising shirtless is comfortable and natural, most male gymnasts train shirtless. I never had an issue with doing indoor PE stripped to the waist, it amazes me that so many commentators get so worked up about it. My dad only wore shorts for indoor PE when he was at Senior school and my parents were happy with the rule for my brother and I.
Dave, reading your memories reminded me of my middle school days in the 90s. We moved house when I was in year 6 and to my delight that meant switching schools. The pe kit in the handbook was listed as white polo, navy shorts, white socks and white non marking sole trainers. Well pe day came and I went to the changing rooms and put on my pe kit looking back now I didn't even notice any of the other lads and their lack of a particular item but as I changed and headed to the hall I was stopped by one of the girls (in year 6 pe was mixed) she looked down at my feet and said "your not allowed those" pointing to my bright white trainers, I shrugged and into the hall I went. As we all sat on the sidelines for registration and kit inspection the teacher came upto me and said "we do pe barefoot at this school, go back to the changing room and take off your shoes and socks" at that point I suddenly realised I was the only one wearing anything on my feet and with everyone staring at me I had no choice but to go and remove my footwear and come back barefoot. I can't even remember what activities we did that day but for the next three years I did pe barefoot.
I guess that was aimed at me Matthew, well I promise it was all true. The memories are still clear because that PE teacher left an emotional scar. I did try to write in a way which would be interesting to read, maybe it became too story-like. I would like to hear people's thoughts on the teachers motives and my later actions as a scout leader.
Writing down that last memory it made me think about how it must have had a lasting effect because about twenty years later I had the oppotunity to be in the other position.
The town I lived in then was very short of scout leaders and liking country persuits and not having a family I decided to give it a try. It should be fun. I found myself the scout leader of a brand new troop. Ten boys had all reached the age they could no longer be cubs and they had no troop close so it was start a new one or loose them. I would be incharge of the disapline and productive activities of ten hyperactive 11 year olds.
The disapline could not be avoided. If left to their own instincts the place would be wrecked within minutes. So I reverted to what I knew. They stood in line hands behind backs, chests out backs straight. And it worked, I had control. If some kid talked when he shouldn't he got press-ups to do. I kept it light-hearted but he still had to do them.
I developed a good busy program, the boys were all working toward getting one of the main progress badges by summer. We did crafts, scouting skills like knots, navigation and team building and of course lots of games. The badge also had a sports and fitness requirement. It was close to being the last thing needed. I could have just had some sports nights but instead wanted it to be more serious and demanding on them, it was my choice so if that's what I decided I could do it. The boys would be required to do four one hour traditional fitness sessions to pass that part of the badge.
So what to do. I could only return to my own experiences at their age. I would base the sessions on old fashioned PT, I could do that with just a little research. Scouts have a uniform, they should look the same when changed for PE as well. The boys went to different schools so regular school kits would not do but every boy would definately poses a pair of dark gym shorts, some used black the rest dark blue. About the rest of the kit well the deciding factors were:
No common top possessed by all.
No common footwear worn by all and anyway I knew they all did PE barefoot at school.
The hall was normally warm this time of year and I was going to have them all sweating perfusely.
Did the mothers need unnecessary extra sweaty washing.
I had a personnel strong belief that being made to exercise bare chested would instill a stronger work ethic and more disapline.
So I sent a letter out to the mums saying what was going to be done on scout night for a month and the boys were to bring along their dark PE shorts. No parent complained and the boys had no say in the matter so that's what happened.
After raising the flag stood to attention the boys stripped down to their gym shorts and return to the line, backs straight, bare chest out, hands behind backs, bare feet all lined up. They looked good, I had no regrets about making them strip, the kit was the right choice by me. And no determined complaint, all had excepted what I mandated as their scout leader.
I had prepared a full hours activity with heavy metal music to distract them from the hard work. They would get to use each muscle group in tern, there was a mix of high intensity and then stretching so the heart could recover. I was a complete ignorant ameuter of course and the session would have been way too strenuous by school PE standards but they all did it well. I was please to see all their young sweaty bodies, to me it meant the session had been a success and we could definately repeat next week.
The nightly meets lasted two hours so the rest of the time they got to cool down, play some less tiring games and have fun. I think about half chose to put their shirts back on, the rest spent the whole time stripped off.
All four sessions passed successfully which meant when it came to summer camp I had no problem with the idear of getting them stripped down to just shorts to do exercise bare foot on the grass even though the weather was not kind to us that year.
It makes me think again about the PE teachers overly powerful and slightly pervy disapline. He certainly knew how to completely control 16 young boys, and one key ingredient of that was the way he purposefully stripped us of our singlets and made us vulnerable.
There is a lot of fiction on this site, isn't there?
Rob, similar. Those guys who had to be bare-chested 'punished' each others like this, some guys with shirts around. Tied, Punched in the stomach, nipples twisted, etc just to show off
I can still remember my very first PE lesson at my middleschool in Leeds aged 9. This would have been 1974. PE kit was blue singlet, white cotton shorts of the small kind, white socks and white plimsolls optional. I was very very keen not to be singled out for being improperly dressed so made sure my mother understood what was needed.
Come lesson time and I changed for PE with the other boys. The teacher was there with us while we changed and made sure we understood that no underwear was to be worn under our shorts. I was suprised to see that about a quarter of the boys had ignored the official gym kit and decided to just wear the white shorts. My new best friend Simon was one of them, and was right next to me so I asked him about it and he said his mother just had not bothered to buy him anything else and anyway he liked being barefoot and bare chested, he was a fit kid, slim and one of the smaller boys in the class and clearly had no hang ups being nearly naked. I did not think of it at the time but almost certainly this is all he would ever have worn in his junior school, I am pretty sure it was all I wore but I am not certain now. I was shy so had made sure I was fully atired except the white socks my mother had bought had a small black tab at the top. I should also mention that nearly all the boys had chosen the optional bare feet.
Before entering the gym we lined up in a long corridor, boys would go one way girls the other so we stood 3 foot apart, funny how the boys changing room was place furthest from the gym, it's almost like it was planned so boys and girls would be left in such close proximity. The teacher commanded us to stand straight with chin high and hands crossed behind our backs, this was his way in every future class. He liked his disapline. Simon must have attracted the eye of several girls, his body so displayed, but he would'nt have cared. After a minute or two we entered and again were ordered into line hands behind us. This new stricked disapline in the gym must have been a shock to me to have remained so vivid a memory all this time. His first job was inspection. Simon's simple attire solicited no complaint but me next in line was not so lucky. The socks were not pure white, they failed inspection and I was ordered to remove them and work barefoot. Well at least I would not be alone in this, nearly all the boys in class were now barefoot, still I had not wanted to be barefoot.
Inspection complete and disapline firmly instilled gym began. To warm us up a game. The boys who were topless would be on, the rest of us would run around while they stood still and tried to hit us with a football. When you were hit you would have to remove your singlet and join those throwing the ball. I lasted a while, I wasnt the first hit but of course it was Simon who made sure he got me. The top came off and I abandoned it at the side of the gym with the other boys. The game ended with one boy left still owning his top but now every other kid in the class was down to his small white shorts. Teacher now ordered us back into line. The rest of the lesson would be fitness activities. There was no mention of recovering our singlets, he clearly intended us all to do the rest of the session topless. I was gutted, after all my instance on the right kit I would be half naked for the whole time just like all the other boys. Maybe the winner got to keep his but I doubt it, I don't remember.
So for the rest of the class I ran, climbed and sweated in just my shorts. I guess I quickly got use to it, well you do don't you, when you have no choice. But then at the end of the lesson a final game. The same as the one we started with but now as we were hit we got to finally put our singlets back on if we had them. So I finished the lesson back in the corridor almost as I started it.
Showers were always required, teacher was there to see everyone got naked.
Looking back the lesson plan could not have been accidental, the gym teacher clearly had his own opinion of what suitable gym atired was for a nine year old. He managed to get us all stripped down to just shorts within minutes of the start of lesson and nearly every lesson was the same. For most of my gym time I would have looked just like Simon. I wonder if he had an unhealthy eye for a young boy.
I never got a gym detention but I knew they existed as Simon got one once. He had to stay after school hours for an hour and was alone in the gym with that teacher without doubt stripped down to just his shorts, makes you wonder just what might have happened but Simon said nothing. School protection measures sure have changed since the 70's.
MichaelT, with a rope and the punishment was quite tough, punch and other things. What experience did you have?
Rob, I don't like to punish or get punished at all. I just think that it seemed not that bad and I think as kid I might have joined the others.
How were you tied up and why? Who did this to you and what did they do? How old were you guys? Also I made similar experiances like you Rob.
MichaelT, I don’t understand why do you like to punish in this way. Instead, Do you like to be punished like me, I mean tied up so that the others could do whatever they want on your chest and you couldn’t do anything else than watch and take it?
MichaelT,it was quite painful to be punished like that,although they were younger there were many more of them,so trying to fight back would have been futile.
Why would you like to have done the same thing?
It was was bad enough wearing short trousers let alone having the back of my thighs smacked with a ruler.
It seems not that bad to get punished like this. Still the boys were younger, why didn't he fight back?
I just say I would have done the same and joined that group of boys doing this to him.