Clitheroe Royal Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1602         Views: 159,928         Comments: 742

Clitheroe Royal Grammar School

Led by Stuart Bennett (Captain), right, the cross-country team returns from a practice run around the nearby country-side.
Source: Lancashire Life Magazine, November 1959

742 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by James on 16th October 2019  

Danny,we always swam naked albeit in front of female teachers and supervisors and it was never differentiated by our age.
Yes,it was'uncomfortable'at first,but I soon got used to it and to see so many boys without wearing swimming trunks in the same environment made it more acceptable.
We were usually spanked by their hand if we misbehaved,but often we could see the miscreant had been caned.

Comments by Danny on 15th October 2019  

James, are you saying that the older boys in their teens also swam naked in front of the female teachers?

I have nothing against boys swimming naked at school as long as they are comfortable with it and in a safe environment.
Like you say, probably one would get used to it.
Did it make you uncomfortable being naked in front of female teachers, especially since they could also spank you naked during the lessons?
Did they use their hand to smack you or with something else?

Comments by John on 15th October 2019  

Bernard & Ross,
I totally agree that doing cross country shirtless was a great experience summer and winter but Im not sure that Id have enjoyed being made to run barefoot in winter.

Comments by Bernard on 15th October 2019  

Ross - it is good to hear that boys were still encouraged to be boys just 20 years ago - in your school at least.
I used to enjoy cross country in nothing more than a pair of shorts - it was certainly exhilarating in the winter. I was never good at team games like football so running was better for me and it was good to get out of the school grounds for a while.

Comments by James on 14th October 2019  

Danny,I agree it was humiliating and disconcerting to have naked swimming lessons,but we gradually became accustomed to it and it was never considered outlandish or bizarre.
Yes,we were smacked bare if we misbehaved and there were one or two red bottoms.Usually we were supervised male and female teachers and our age was never a contributory factor.

Comments by Ross on 14th October 2019  

Bernard, when I was in school 20 years ago a pair of shorts was still regarded as sufficient enough for us boys and all PE in or out was shirtless and barefoot even for cross country in the depths of winter. I was even on the cross country team and we all ran in competition with bare feet.

Showers were compulsory too but only after outdoor games where we were caked in mud and yes we showered nude without issues.

Comments by Bernard on 13th October 2019  

David G & Danny - I agree with you wholeheartedly - there is nothing wrong with boys being bare-chested for p.e. I find it quite encouraging that there are still schools which have such a good basic p.e. kit even if it is only for indoor p.e. When I was at school 50 years ago we wore only a pair of shorts for all p.e. - indoor and outdoor - it was quite sufficient.

Comments by Bernard on 13th October 2019  

Danny - re "Mr Jones" post - I think he summed it up in his last sentence - after the first couple of lessons they weren't bothered about being seen nude. I expect this was a long time ago when boys were not expected to be modest.
This was not too different from the situation about showers after p.e.when boys might be a little apprehensive about being naked in front of the whole class but quickly got used to it - albeit without girls present. It is good for youngsters to be pushed outside their comfort zones - all part of the growing up process.

Comments by David G on 12th October 2019  

I'm with you Danny, there is nothing wrong with boys being bare chested. This Mr Dando seems strange since he's posted on other sites within the schools websites with clothing stipulations for boys.

Comments by Danny on 12th October 2019  

Mr.Dando, why should boys wear tops when they have no breasts like girls?
This is also the way boys and girls swim in public pools and beaches. Or are you also campaigning for boys to wear tops for swimming too?
Or for boys to wear leotards for school PE so that they will be wearing the same as the girls?

Comments by Mr Dando on 12th October 2019  

The time has come to end topless pe for boys in schools and bring them into line with girls. I cannot believe there is still primary schools that mandate this for indoor activities.

Clothing for PE: Indoor; Girls- Plain black leotard (no markings), Boys- Plain black PE shorts (no markings).
Outdoor; Black shorts and white t-shirt, Trainers/black plimsolls not shoes worn during the school day, Tracksuit advisable in cold weather

Comments by Danny on 12th October 2019  


Didn't the school realize that it was humiliating for boys to be forced to swim nude in front of swimsuited girls, especially at the older age of 12 and 13?
Were you supervised by male or female teachers and did they smack the boys bare if they misbehaved during these swim lessons?

Also were there other school staff or visitors who could watch the boys swim naked, especially since it was an outdoor pool?

I am amazed how they humiliated boys in some schools on a regular basis for swimming such as you describe.

Comments by Mr Jones on 12th September 2019  

First thing every Tuesday morning from April to October my class had a 60 minute swimming lesson in the normally rather cold outdoor pool, which (for ALL Boys between 8 and 13 years old,) had a pointless, but strictly enforced rule that stated: 'Junior and Lower-School boys are NOT PERMITTED to wear swimming trunks at any time!' so that all of us Boys had to swim completely naked, while the Girls all wore swimming costumes! At first, being Outdoors with nothing-on felt very strange, particularly while standing around the pool with two dozen other stark-naked little boys, waiting for the lesson to start. Of course there was a lot of teasing and giggling from the girls, but after the first couple of lessons I don't think most of us bothered about being seen nude, and in warm and sunny weather it was really terrific

Comments by Chris G on 2nd September 2019  

i didn't encounter school swimming until I changed secondary school at age 15. We didn't have formal swimming lessons, but each year group had a couple of sessions allocated during the week, and since it was a secondary school, pretty well all of us were able to swim. Fixed to the wall above each end of the pool were notices reading "Swimming Costumes will be worn at all times". By and large,they were, although I do remember a couple of late night sessions (it was a boarding school) where a number of us decided to experiment with skinny-dipping - we were fortunate not to be found out, as we, rather rashly, turned the lights on and our presence in the pool was visible throughout the school building complex.

Comments by Danny on 1st September 2019  

Robert Dorval,
Were your nude swimming lessons in primary school boys only or mixed?
Did you or the other boys feel embarrassed being naked in front of the female teachers?

Comments by Robert Dorval on 30th August 2019  

In our primary school we had nude swimming lessons up to 11-12 years old twice a week. Our instructors were two female teachers, both in their twenties. In HS we also had nude swimming classes, but the teachers were usually male, although we did have female substitute or assistant teachers sometimes. Anyone else had nude swimming classes at school?

Comments by Rob on 4th July 2019  

Bernard, we're talking about a long time ago now. Apart from the terrain over which we ran, it seems unusual that so many boys ran cross country barefoot elsewhere and you mentioned that children's feet were tougher than adult's and therefore less likely to be seriously injured. It may have been that at some time before I was at the school that someone was injured and the headmaster decided that all boys should wear plimsolls in future. We shall never know. One thing is certain however; no boy ever risked getting injured running as we did in just shorts and plimsolls. Unfortunately, today's youngsters never get the opportunity to enjoy this experience.

Comments by John on 30th June 2019  

Thank you for sharing your experience of running barefoot, Im sorry that I made an assumption that there was a high risk of foot injury when clearly from your own experience there wasnt. I was happy running shirtless but might have enjoyed cross country runs even more if Id been made to run barefoot.

Comments by Bernard on 29th June 2019  

John and Rob, Running barefoot outside was not as hazardous as you might think. Children's feet are normally a lot tougher than those of adults as they have not been encased in shoes for as many years. I'm sure I couldn't run outside barefoot now - 50 years on.
I don't remember any injured feet - if there had been I'm sure the school would have made us wear plimsolls. There were quite a few occasions when I thought I had cut a foot but, on inspection, there was no damage to be found. Running cross country barefoot was a practical, safe and generally enjoyable experience.

Comments by Rob on 28th June 2019  

We had to wear just shorts and plimsolls in the gym although I would have been happy to have gone barefoot. Apart from that I certainly didn't need more than a pair of short shorts to let my body sweat freely. We used to do athletics on the school grass playing fields in our bare feet in the summer during PE lessons but had to wear plimsolls when we went cross country running because the course went through woodland and then out onto open slopes with chalk and sharp flint stones where our feet could easily get injured. I enjoyed the freedom of running shirtless in just shorts and plimsolls along with the other lads in my class and never heard anyone complain. We just got on with it.

Comments by John on 27th June 2019  

Replying to Bernard & Ross,
I did gym in just shorts and pumps and cross country in shorts and trainers and got used to it and enjoyed being shirtless. I dont agree with running barefoot outdoors as your feet could get injured quite easily.

Comments by Bernard on 25th June 2019  

Ross - you are absolutely right - a pair of shorts is all a boy should need for any p.e. either indoors or outdoors. I got to quite enjoy running cross country shirtless and barefoot though perhaps boys were tougher 50 odd years ago.

Comments by Ross on 24th June 2019  

Why do boys need tracksuits?

Back in my day we had one kit for everything and that consisted of shorts only. No shirt and bare feet for all sports in or out. We even ran cross country shirtless and barefoot. We never complained just got on with it. Your toes soon warmed up once you got moving. S

Comments by Sterling on 8th June 2019  

Phil, Why would boys need track bottoms in Sunny Surrey?

Comments by Phil on 6th June 2019  

Yes it completely disgraceful that even today some schools do not allow boys to wear modest tracksuit bottoms when privacy considerations are given to girls.

Sky blue polo shirt (collared) Navy blue polo shirt (collared)
School sweatshirt Navy blue reversible sports shirt (long-sleeved)
Sky blue knee-length sports socks Navy blue football socks
Navy blue tracksuit bottoms (Boys do not wear tracksuit bottoms)

Comments by Roy on 25th May 2019  

Like Chris G I can only remember a few incidents of canings when I was at school in the 1960s and they were for more serious matters than wearing the wrong PE kit - bullying for instance

Comments by Chris G on 6th May 2019  

I'm a bit puzzled by the constant references to corporl ounishment in the context of PE kit. I went through two primary and two secondary schools during the period that we are discussing 9fifties-sixties-seventies), and although all of these theoretically had recourse to caning, its use was restricteed to much more severe offences than wearint the wronng colour/style etc. of PE kit, and I can only remember about three or few instances of its use during my enntire school career.

Comments by Philip on 3rd April 2019  

The teacher who caned James for not wearing regulation shorts should have been taken to task. The shorts had been bought by his mother and it was hardly a matter of James defying school regulations.

Comments by James on 31st March 2019  

Bernard-the wearing of shiny satin shorts became more common-place in the seventies and became more popular amongst some boys and I became less self-conscious when wearing them.When wearing them at home it was not so embarrassing,as I was not seen by so many people,but I gradually got used to wearing them as they became less conspicuous.
I agree that the white satin shorts were more revealing,especially when they became wet.

Comments by Bernard on 29th March 2019  

James - I remember those shiny satin shorts. One outdoor lesson a boy changed into a pair of new shiny black satin shorts and caused quite a stir. Every-one else was in their usual cotton shorts but, although the teacher showed an interest, I don't think the boy got into trouble. I can't remember if he wore them again but he was in a different group from me so I might not have noticed. No-one else ever wore satin shorts though I'm sure I wasn't the only one that would have liked a pair. White ones might not have been a good idea as they looked very thin and might have been a little revealing in rain.

Comments by Rob on 5th March 2019  

I guessed as much, Stuart

Comments by Stuart on 4th March 2019  


Very different kit to us.

We ran in either thin vests or stripped to the waist, no socks, plimsolls or bare feet.

Around me boys now wear shorts and polo shirts, socks and trainers - school sweatshirts in the winter.

It's years since I see a group of boys doing xc, all shirtless.

Comments by Rob on 4th March 2019  

Stuart, referring back to your post of 22nd Feb.19 do you still see boys playing sport or running where you live? If so, I bet their standard kit doesn't bear any resemblance to when you and I were at school.

Comments by Chris G on 1st March 2019  

Andrea, basically because they were more comfortable than Y-front briefs in hot weather, especially under shorts. I could never rally understand why Dad decided to give them up once he got back home from the tropics, but my brother and I certainly got good use out of them.

Comments by James on 1st March 2019  

ChrisG,the secondary school that I attended also did not specify the style and fabric for our PE kit and when I was kitted out for my kit my mother selected shorts in shiny satin for my PE.
They were packed into my PE kit and I realised I would have to wear them for my PE and games.
All the other boys wore cotton shorts and I reluctantly slipped into my new satin shorts much to the amusement of my contemporaries and when I was seen by my teacher I was caned for not wearing uniform shorts.

Comments by Andrea on 27th February 2019 

Chris G,
Did you start to wear your dad's jockstraps to feel grown up, or because they felt more comfortable than normal underwear in hot weather?

Comments by TimH on 25th February 2019  

Chris G - I pretty much agree with your earlier comments - it was a different type of society when we were growing up. You just need to think back to houses with proper heating, ice on the insisde of windows, putting clothes on to go to bed - nearer the truth than we might think, together with putting coats on beds to keep warm... Growing up also with cotton & wool which seemed so long to get dry.

People have said that the PE Masters were brutes - no, even an old softie like me can disagree with that. In the late 50s into the 60s the great majority would have 'done their time' and would have seen the effect of military discipline on the less fit recruits - they would want to spare lads that trauma.

I commented once that one of our young geography teachers used to look after one of the football teams. I've no idea what he was like on football but his geography teaching gave me a love of the outdoors and the worlds wild places that has never left me.

Comments by Chris G on 25th February 2019  

Andrea, my Dad never had actual string vests or pants, but he and Mum were both regular vest wearers except in really hot weather. When Dad had to go to work in Singapore for a while, the only underwear that he opted to take were jock-straps, which my brother and I appropriated when he reverted to vests and pants after he returned. We wore them under shorts in Summer for a number of years, until the elastic gave out.

Comments by Peter K on 23rd February 2019  

Belt across the hands and being made to do pe in underpants. doesn't bear thinking about nowadays. As it is written the string briefs were revealing apart from the front and back panel.

Comments by Andrea on 22nd February 2019 

My dad used to wear string vest and underpants in the 1970s I used to see them on the washing line and sometimes, in the summer,he would strip to his vest when gardening. I can't ever recollect seeing him in just his underpants though.

At primary school, most of us, girls and boys, wore vests under our school clothes. I continued to do so until the start of my second year at secondary school, when I finally had to agree with my mum that a different form of underwear was required to deal with my developing figure!

Comments by Ian on 22nd February 2019  

I forgot my PE kit one day so I was told to do it in underpants only. Unfortunately they were string underpants - nearly transparent at the sides with only the centre covered. Well so I thought. Several boys said they got a full view when I had my hands out to take the belt from my PE teacher at the end of the period. Embarrassing, but to put it in proportion we were all naked for the showers a minute later.

Comments by Peter K on 22nd February 2019  

AS I approached my final year at all boys secondary school, I remember several boys no longer wore vests(singlets) even in the winter. My family did not let me copy them for fear of getting colds. Then when I left school 1966 the string vest was the fashion and because I was earning my own money I did buy and wear them. I also used to wear the string briefs that matched the vest, then in due course when these went out of fashion, I discarded vests altogether. I also remember when at Scout camp most of us in the tent felt we were flouting the rules and tough by not wearing pyjamas inside our sleeping bags despite pyjamas being on the kit list.

Comments by Stuart on 22nd February 2019  

When was at school,we had standard kit for PE, cross country, games, and it was a case of that or nothing.

If we had tried to wear the vests, shirts, socks, plimsolls in the photo, we would have been made to strip the item off, and do without - be that running shirtless or barefoot.

All the schools in my home town had standard sports kit, as have any boys I've ever seen since running or playing sport.

Comments by on 20th February 2019  

Chris G and Tim H. I was in the era of the string vest late sixties to early seventies.There was peer pressure to attain such.After the February mid-term many lads stopped using them as it got gradually warmer.My mother hated them any way as they were snagging in the spin drier!

Comments by Chris G on 19th February 2019  


What I perhaps should have mentioned was the unintended consequence of the quantum leap from vests to toplessness for PE, namely the disappearance of underwear vests from the average boy's wardrobe during the third quarter of the 20th century. Back in those post-war days most people wore underwear vests: men generally more than women; children generally more than adults; boys generally more than girls, all for reasons that I never managed to fathom. Almost everything, including clothing, was scarce and often rationed and one generally got whatever was available at the time. Although my secondary school kit list specified white PE vest and shorts, there were few detailed specifications regarding style, fabric etc. So, for economic reasons, i.e. why buy a special vest for PE when you already have perfectly serviceable altrnatives in your underwear drawer, I and my schoolmates generally appeared for PE in the same vest that we had been wearing when we left home that morning (and that we had probably also worn the night before, either under or instead of our pyjama jacket).

Introduction of our new PE regime added a new, and probably unanticipated dynamic to my life, as I suspect it did to the lives of countless other boys across the country, and athough bare-chested for the actual lesson, we were expected to wear vests between the changing room and the gym. In reality, this expectation was largely ignored, especially on the return journey, and with our vests already off, very soon most of us managed to "forget" to put them back on before putting our shirts back on. With PE almost every day, we therefore contrived to be minus our vests for much of the school week, to the concern of our mothers, who universally subscribed to the view that kids needed vests all the year round. Within a couple of weeks, few of my class were wearing vests to school on PE days, and by half-term, most of us had stopped wearing them at all. Mum protested for a while, prophesying that I would be dead from pneumonia by Christmas, but the worst never happened, and I lived to turn my own vests into cleaning cloths.

Comments by James on 18th February 2019  

Paul,Charles & Michael

I'm sure we suffered the indignity of wearing short trousers while we approached adolescence that caused us to look like the archetypal school boy.
I agree that the tight garters that we wore to keep our knee stockings firmly in place left clearly visible indentations in our legs which when kept permanently in place gave some discomfort.
The garters that I wore had a flash of material sown on to them so that when the stockings were folded over at the top it could be seen that I was wearing them rather than discarded them.
I couldn't wait to get home and remove them and just wear shorts around the house.

Comments by Paul on 17th February 2019  

Re: garters (Michael, Charles, James)

This is what we're talking about I think, even though this is from Australia:

Comments by TimH on 15th February 2019  

I completely agree with Chris.

Many schools may have had a shirtless rule for indoors & outdoors wear and some may have had a barefoot ruling but I would suggest not all. I attended a boys grammar school in the E of England 1960-67 - the kit for gym was white shorts and either T-shirt, singlet or (optionally) topless, with plimsolls. Football & cross-country waa black shorts with a football shirt & boots (or plimsolls for XC) - we didn't swim. (The XC course for 2nd & 3rd year was approx 3 1/2 miles).

Shorts were cotton (nylon didn't come in until the 1970s) and were quite baggy (as in the picture) in my first years but later, as the fashion altered, they became a lot shorter - look at the Gordon Banks 1966 pictures.

The picture could well be 'staged' as the boys are running into a schoolyard (look at the gates) but are clean & don't look 'puffed'.

(Incidentally, whilst I've no problems with boys doing gym shirtless, which to me is perferctly natural, I don't think I'd want a son of mine doing outside games in the cold weather of winter 2017/8 or during the really hot weather of mid-summer 2018)

Comments by Chris G on 14th February 2019  

Not necessarily!

I was at two boys-only secondary schools in the period 1952-60. At the first (1952-57) PE in the gym was initially done wearing vests, but after a couple of years, this chnged to topless. For all outdoor activities, escept on very hot summer days when we did PE topless on the playing field, we wore tops of some sort or other. At the second school (1957-60), tops were mandatory for all PE and related activities, including cross-country, much to the disappointment of myself and a number of another boys who had come from schools where topless PE was the norm. So, apart from the fact that we were in a rural environment, this picture is an extremely accurate representation of our cross-country runnng kit, even down to the variability in clothing style.

Comments by ROY F on 14th February 2019  

This certainly looks staged as in the 1950's they would normally all be stripped to the waist and wearing identical shorts