Clitheroe Royal Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1602         Views: 153,727         Comments: 724

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

724 user comment(s) below:-

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 don’t 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

Comments by Simon on 12th February 2019  

John, this must be staged,each lad would be stripped off. Wonder what the purpose of this was?

Comments by Ben on 22nd December 2018  

You said that you always had an audience while showering through the open door overlooking the corridor.
Were there any girls or female teachers who could see you boys shower?

Comments by ROY F on 21st December 2018  

I also did cross-country stripped to the waist with just plimsolls but some boys did go barefoot as well

Comments by Rob on 17th December 2018  

I as at secondary school in 1959 and we ran cross country bare chested wearing just PE shorts with nothing underneath and plimsolls without socks.

Comments by Roy on 17th December 2018  

Another thing that strikes me is how the boys aren't wearing the same sort of tops and also the same colour shorts.

Comments by John on 15th December 2018  

I agree with Alan, Francis Croston and Roy F that it’s very strange for these lads not to be running bare chested in 1959. When I was at senior school in the 1970s we did cross country bare chested in winter and so did other secondary schools in the area.

Comments by ROY F on 5th December 2018  

When I was at secondary school in the early to mid 1960's we did PE and cross-country bare-chested

Comments by Andrea on 26th November 2018 

Did your PE teacher speak to the younger boys he felt were 'well developed' to suggest they bought a jockstrap. Our PE teacher had a similar conversation with a few of my classmates about asking their mums to buy them a bra!

Comments by Ian on 23rd November 2018 

Like Francis and Alan, I am surprised by the motley selection of kit these lads are wearing.

Our gym/PE kit consisted of shorts and gymshoes, trunks for swimming, full kit for rugby and cricket. Jockstraps were for older and “well developed” younger boys. Athletics (summer) and long distance (not really cross country, as it was mainly done on roads) were done in PE kit, all weathers. Gym was sometimes outside “to get fresh air on our bodies”, especially in winter.

Showers were compulsory - after gym, games; before and after swimming, always naked. The PE showers were opposite the door which was always wedged open to the corridor, so there was always and audience. They were not the only ones - our teacher was the head of department and often had visitors – inspectors, council and education officials, even dads concerned about their sons.

All activities (hard circuit training exercises and activities, such as vaulting, ropes etc.) were done in a military fashion – lots of standing at attention and doing things “at the double”. There was no slouching around, as in the Burnley photograph.

This was all enforced with tight discipline, informally with the plimsoll or a small, but fiendish belt over the backside. Formally, we received a combination of various punishments - lines (300/500 or more), essays (usually about maintaining discipline), cold showers (at the pool side), detentions but always corporal punishment – a physical punishment for a physical activity, as our teacher us to say. In Scotland in the 50s and 60s, this took the form of the belt used prolifically. Whatever people say nowadays, it certainly improved standards. Even I became quite fit and actually liked long distance.

Comments by Francis Chroston on 22nd November 2018  

Hi.I agree,no regulation kit here,looks a bit too modern for 1959.Even in the late sixties we were bare chested for CC but used Rugby boots for footwear.

Comments by Alan on 21st November 2018  

These lads appear to be in a real mixture of cross country kit. Back in my school day we ran outside in all weather shirtless and barefoot wearing only white shorts.

Comments by Michael on 4th November 2018  

Paul, the garter rings on my legs had thankfully disappeared long before I reached my late 20s; probably within a few months after I no longer needed to use them.

I learned from a recent TV programme that our famous monarch Henry VIII, (he of the six wives), suffered most of his life from a chronically painful and often debilitating ulcer in his left leg.

This was not caused by some youthful jousting injury as many believed, but by his leggings/socks/hose being supported by garters that were so tight they constricted blood vessels.

It seems that I and many other boys of my generation, were lucky to avoid these complications.

Comments by Paul on 3rd November 2018  

Michael, it sounds like you had the tightest garters of all the kids! Surely you got some comments? I remember that my garters dug in heavily over the shin just below the knee, leaving red marks which were still there in the morning. I was quite skinny at the time, and got called 'knobbly knees' or 'kneecaps' because my kneecaps were very high and prominent. I wore shorts until just before my 13th birthday.

Comments by Michael on 27th October 2018  

In response to Paul's enquiry (below), I had a permanent sun tan from playing out so much. I wore long socks with sensible black shoes to school, but changed to ankle socks and Clarks' sandals(!) for the rest of the time.

The buckles on my sandals constantly jingled as I moved around, but like my garter rings, this was something I lived with and ignored.

My mother reasoned that as I spent so much time on the floor with my train set and my many other toys, any long trousers would soon be worn through at the knees.

So, although I stopped wearing my regulation grey shorts to school by my 14th birthday, I still wore them and other shorts at home and for playing out, until they were either threadbare or outgrown.

The sun tan on my legs was still clearly visible in my late 20s, but thankfully the garter rings had disappeared by then.

Comments by Charles on 25th October 2018  

In Cubs and scouts our garters had to be visible. I can just about remember that they had green attachments on them. At school we turned our socks down over them to hide them. We absolutely always had to keep our socks up so the garters were always tight.
At home I always had to change straight out of my socks when I got in and the marks from the garters were deep. It was such a relief to get them off.
at school in PE it was always obvious which boys wore shorts because we had the tell tale garter marks as we ran around the gym

Comments by James on 25th October 2018  

Paul,it was customary to wear garters when wearing knee stockings and mine that I used to wear had a flash of material that protruded beneath my stockings when they were turned over.This enabled anyone to see that I was wearing them and that I had not removed them as I found them uncomfortable.
Like you,I was tanned from the knees upwards and wearing brief shorts it allowed my parents and teachers to administer summary punishment when they considered it necessary.
May I ask you what age you wore short trousers up to?

Comments by Paul on 24th October 2018  

Michael, yes, I remember the garters. Interested to hear that you had more or less permanent garter rings. I did too, but my reaction was to hide them by wearing the garters all the time! Of course, I was tanned only from the knees upwards. I think I still have a photo showing my garter marks.

Comments by Michael on 4th October 2018  

My grey school shorts were worn with long socks that had two coloured bands around the top. To hold the socks just below my knees, I had to place elastic garters inside their folded over tops.

These tight garters created rings around my legs, so when I pulled on my long socks each morning, the garters slotted into the exact same place. This kept my socks up very effectively.

The downside was that the garter rings were still plainly visible whenever I wasn't wearing long socks, such as at the swimming baths or beach, or just wearing my ordinary clothes with ankle socks.

But, I got so accustomed to the garter rings around my legs that I just ignored them, as did all the other boys I knew.