Burnley Grammar School

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1959         Item #: 1607         Views: 715,937         Comments: 2,618

Burnley Grammar School

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There's pleny of room in the modern-styled gymnasium for muscle developing, where the boys are supervised by Mr. R. Parry, the physical education instruction.
Source: Lancashire Life Magazine, December 1959

2618 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by John on 15th April 2012  

Shirtless PE in Germany apprently. Photo seems to be quite recent.


Comments by Sid on 15th April 2012  

In reply to Nigel's comments, we had no inhibitions about our bodies. I cannot recall any comments about being shirtles or remarking on other boy's physiques. In fact performong handstands supported by another lad with feet up in the air left nothing to the imagination.

I still thimk as I put in a comment some time ago for some reason lads seem to have more inhibitions about their bodies & it seems these days that comunial showers & changing rooms create a problem for lads. Any current pupil care to comment?

Comments by Roy on 14th April 2012  

Yorkie,it was co-ed but PE etc was organised separately for boys and girls.

Comments by Nigel on 14th April 2012  

For those who experienced shirtless P.e before. Do you guys make fun of other boy's body or nipples? We had a friend whose nipples are always hard and we call him harry-hard nipples. He always tried to cover them, but the P.E teacher 'insisted' he perform star jumps, to our amusement.

Comments by yorkie on 13th April 2012  

Roy when you say all boys was this a co ed school or all boys?. I did not know that schools insisted on running barefoot. We wore plimsolls but no socks.

Comments by Roy on 11th April 2012  

When I was at school in the fifties and sixties all boys had to be stripped to the waist for PE. In addition we had to do cross country runs both stripped to the waist and barefoot.

Comments by KB on 10th April 2012  

I was at primary school in the early to mid 1970's and remember both boys and girls did PE bare top.

Comments by yorkie on 22nd March 2012  

in response to your question Dave, pe indoors white short shorts plimsolls no underwear, no top & outdoors athletics etc the same the only concession was football when we wore any old t shirt or if could afford it a "proper" football shirt & again very short shorts usally the same ones we used for pe except for a few better off boys started wearing colours of their favourite football team. Swimming was once a week at the local public swimming pool used exclusively for school lessons when we wore what are now known as "Speedo" type trunks none of the modern type baggy
shorts that kids wear these days.

Comments by Dave on 22nd March 2012  

Yorkie, so what was your PE kit indoors and outdoors?

Comments by Yorkie on 20th March 2012  

I was educated in the 60's up to 1966 at an all boys school. No female input or domination.We took part in PE & football & sports, with the minimum of clothing even during the coldest winter. Having read previous comments we had no problems about using communal changing rooms & shower was not even thought about as being strange. In fact it was all part of the camaraderie of growing up & continued until we left school at 16. Things have certainly changed over the years but why are guys these days so inhibited about their bodies & have to have seperate cubicles for changing & showers?

Comments by Tuskerman on 16th March 2012  

I was born in Canada in 1954 into a world that was dominated by women (the supposed men in my world were apparently oblivious to that fact).

So, why were girls not forced to perform PE almost naked? Why were boys subjected to swimming naked within the eye-shot of girls?

Gender equality is a myth contrived by females in order to subordinate us even further!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Comments by Jake on 14th March 2012  

Reading Stuart’s post made me recall a lad in my class who hardly ever seemed to wear a vest for PE. Sometimes he just didn’t bring one at all, other times he would start the lesson in his vest and take it off later on, mostly in the gym although I do remember him running outside shirtless as well. We did shirts against skins games quite often and this boy was almost always a skin as he had his top off anyway. The full kit was white vest and red shorts, white socks and plimsolls and most boys wore all the items allowed.

Comments by Pete S on 11th March 2012  

In reply to Marks earlier comment about punishment...If we didn't perform to the teacher's expectations we were taken out of a lesson to be given either laps of the field (anything between 10-15 laps being the norm), or a fitness session outdoors on the yard regardless of the weather. Obviously punishments were done with stripped to the waist and could be quite brutal during a freezing winter.

Comments by John Lavender on 4th March 2012  finswimmerjohn52@yahoo.com  http://www.northern-lights-finswimming.co.uk

@ Victoria : I think there are probably a few of the Boys who were in the photo who have subsequently seen the photo and may even have commented. Over 70,000 hits [and counting] makes the page popular by any-one's standards.
I would speculate that the local paper was anxious to publicise 'their' Grammar school and that the Gym was probably thought to epitomise the Modernity aspect.
The photographer/reporter from the local Paper probably took two or three Photos and just selected the best; I think he would probably be interested only in the Teacher, as far as names or personal details were concerned.

Comments by Stuart on 4th March 2012  

Judging by other posts, at my senior school, we had a pretty relaxed approach to PE and cross county kit. In the gym we wore shorts, plimsolls, socks and a vest. For cross county we were allowed to wear PE or rugby shorts, plimsolls/socks, and a rugby shirt/vest/t-ehirt mix.

What's interesting is that while a lot of boys wore all of the kit allowed, a small number always wore less, so half a dozen boys always did PE striped to the waist, and a couple chose just shorts/bare feet. For cross country some of these boys ran shirtless, and one lad always ran in nothing but shorts, so even if it was raining and freezing cold he never wore a top or any footware.

I wonder if other people had similar classmates who chose to not wear items of kit, even if they would have been allowed to, and if anyone else ran cross county shirtless and with bare feet ?

Comments by victoria horsfall on 3rd March 2012  sootyhorsfall@hotmail.co.uk 

does anyone know names of boys in the photo

Comments by Gareth on 28th February 2012  

I went to a catholic high school in Newcastle in the 80's. the PE Kit was white shorts, white socks and a long sleeved house shirt depending on what house you were in. However the house shirt was only worn for outdoor games like football and rugby. Indoor PE and basketball was strictly bare chest. As an 11 year old kit i remember being mortified at having to take my top off in the gym, though this shyness soon wore off. I think it was healthy and made you very body conscious and by the time you got to what was then 5th year or 6th form you kind of felt proud about showing your body off to the mates and in 6th form i rmember a few of the lads had developed hairy chests and they got so much respect, they were kind of seen as 100% all man! so funny thinking back. Regardless if pe was indoors or outdoors it was strictly no underpants under the white shorts, so different from my kids today.anyone else at st Cuthberts in the 70s or 80s?

Comments by Mark on 17th February 2012  

Apparently a shirtless outfit is still de rigueur in some countries in eastern Europe. I recently saw this documentary on Russian intitutions for juvenile delinquents. The boys are not allowed shirts for sleeping, exercising, work in the brickyard kilns and a number of other activities. I wondered if it is all right to treat these youths so harshly although they are criminals.
Here is an excerpt:

Comments by Sid on 17th February 2012  

I agree completely with your comments. These days the lads have it too easy. I do think that nowadays they are mollycoddled.
As I have logged previously, historically I am sure all things considered we were better for having to paricipate in pe & games wearing virually nothing except short flimsy shorts & no top or pants. With all this excercise I can only remember one obsese lad. Furthermore, I am sure we did not s "suffer" from the colds & sicknes that now seem so prevelant. The cold never hurt us nor did the sun in the summer.
We did have swiiming lessons but we wore trunks. It may have been an interesting experience to swim naked

Comments by Jim on 17th February 2012  

Crikey, kids these days don't know they are born.

They can wear what they like for school sports of which they have an endless choice if they bother to do any exercise at all.

No freezing cold gyms on Winter mornings and cross country runs wearing practically nothing in the frost and snow.

No corporal punishment to worry about.

We were subjected to a pretty tough regime in the 1950's/ early60's but I am sure it was much more stimulating than school life today which seems totally boring in comparison.

Looking back it was really great fun trying to outwit the very strict teachers knowing what the consequences could be if you failed.

Also as a result of all the sport and physical exercise obesity in children was unheard of. We were really pretty healthy despite the austerity of the times.

Materially kids are so much better off these days but are they physically and spiritually. I am not so sure.

I can't remember much of the Latin I was taught but the phrase ' Mens sana in corpore sano ' springs to mind.

Comments by Steven on 16th February 2012  

We had a similar system for PE at my school to what Pete described, with different coloured shorts as part of the kit. It was white shorts if your surname was in the first half of the class register, black shorts for boys in the second half. Then for football or basketball in the gym both groups were divided again as shirts or skins, so there were four teams in total. For full size football games we all wore black shorts and half the boys played in skins.

Comments by Pete S on 10th February 2012  


This was in the mid 80's and we lived at time near the England/Scotland border. We remained barechested for football, each team distinguished through different coloured shorts (black or white depending which class you were in) The only form of rugby played was touch rugby on the yard or when inside and it was teams of 5 against 5.

The other school operated a barechested or skins policy indoors but usually played vests vs skins for football but went barechested for cross countries like us.

Comments by MALCOLM on 5th February 2012  

Regarding Pete S's post. What decade are you talking about here and what part of the country?

Do you know whether boys in other schools nearby had to be ouside barechested in all weathers or was your school the exception?

Did you wear shirts for football/rugby.

I went to an all-boys school in London in the sixties where shirts were optional inside all year and outside in the summer for PE but shirts were always worn outside for football or winter PE.

Comments by Pete S on 4th February 2012  

The school uniform listed our kit as a vest, shorts, ankle socks and plimsoles. However after changing for our first PE lesson we were to find our teacher thought differently. After being taken outside and lined up on the yard he walked up the line letting us know what was expected in terms of effort and when he reached the end of the line randomly picked a boy and made him face the class and take his vest off. Regardless of the activity,the time of year or the weather,indoors or outside, we remained barechested until we left. As you moved up the school there was no shortage of girls watching and eyeing you up, indeed that's how my wife first saw me.

In response to Robert's excellent comments regarding his grandchildren, given the current financial climate I am surprised that boys aren't being encouraged to exercise barechested or in vests. Parents would save a small fortune!

Comments by James on 27th January 2012  

We wore shiny,satin shorts for outside games without underwear and anyone would easily have been noticed as they were so brief and would have been caned.They were worn mainly for aeshetic reasons.They offered no protection from the cold and I remember some boys crying because of the cold when wearing these skimpy little numbers.

Comments by sid on 26th January 2012  

I think Robert's comments about his grandchildren wearing long johns bears out my previous ideas thatboys & youngmen of today are softer & cannot cope with cold weather or strict regimes

Comments by Robert on 26th January 2012  

What an evocative picture. I was at school in the early 60's, and had forgotten the PE regime. It was bare-chested, or a white singlet at best (no cosy T shirts) despite the lack of heating, and no underpants, for whatever reason. Looking at today's footballers, I must have been a trend-setter, because for some time I got away with wearing trunks (like tight boxer shorts of today), which usually showed a few inches below my skimpy PE shorts. This failed when we were allowed to wear coloured shorts, but I still had my white trunks on, which were then very obvious. The cane soon put a stop to that fashion, but I did still get away with white Y fronts under darker PE shorts. Strange that today my grandsons (15 and 17) often wear long johns under their shorts when training for football with no adverse comments. Must be sheer bliss!

Comments by Mike on 23rd January 2012  michaelabbey@rocketmail.com 

I can report the same experience ( more or less )as Malcolm. At school in the late 60's we were told "no underpants" but boys who played in school teams were encouraged to wear swimming trunks underneath. Definitely a more comfortable experience. Also a great feeling of security on the rugby field!
More senior boys often took to a jockstrap although they were not commonplace.
Definitely the gym equipment was just like the picture.

Comments by Sid on 21st January 2012  

Well Malcom in response to your comments I do not think we really thought about no pants being uncomfortable we just got on with it.Howevr, our shorts were short
& tight so nothing flopped about.

As for jockstraps they were never mentioned & I don't think we knew what they were.

Comments by Malcolm on 20th January 2012  

Interesting photo and comparisons with more recent experiences. The gym shown was similar to ours but I don't remember playing in skins.
I am supprised that many older boys were expected to play games wearing nothing under their shorts, surely this must have been uncomfortable to say the least. At school in the 1970s we had a strict no underpants rule for games (gym, rugby, running etc) but older boys wore a jockstrap, again school rules.

Comments by Philip on 18th January 2012  

This is just how I remember gym and school and it was great fun. Working on bits of apparatus with the gym teacher helping and demonstrating there were loads of challenges. He was strict which was only right as we could have had some bad accidents if there was no control. I don't remember a single accident in the gym and we didn't have risk assessments. Like others, I remember pirates and killer ball.

We certainly didn't wear shirts or socks for gym, brief white shorts and no underpants and either barefoot or plimsols. Showers had water pumped straight fromt he arctic and they were communal and compulsory. If we didn't behave there was the slipper, a size 12 black plimsol, the strap or the cane depending on how bad we had been, they all hurt!

Comments by Andy on 15th January 2012  

Sometimes we did indoor P.E in just short no shirt but not that often but indoors always had to be done in bare feet.

Comments by sid on 15th January 2012  

To continue with this topic, as I have said I think previously PE without tops was accepted in our day.
Why does there seem to be such inhibition now & boys have to cover up.
During the summer countless lads are seen posing in the swimming pools or on the beach & even walking down the street topless.It does not make sense to me considering that there seems to be no inhibition in showing off designer underwear(in many cases more than the named waistband) by almost wearing low slung trousers.

Comments by Cornelius on 14th January 2012  chuibers@gmail.com 

i don't think it was compulasary at that time, it was more a habit for me.

Comments by Cornelius on 14th January 2012  chuibers@gmail.com 

I was transferred to that school for gym, and we had shirtless gymnastics (as a habit, no questions asked).Must say that it was good for me also to be like that, I improved a lot in the performances

Comments by Dave on 13th January 2012  

Hello Cornelius!

Was it compulsory or voluntary being shirtless for gym? What was your compulsory PE kit inside and outside?

Comments by Cornelius on 13th January 2012  chuibers@gmail.com 

Interesting topic here. Just to mention that i did my gyms shirtless as well on atheneum classes in the netherlands during 1970 -1973. (Stedelijke scholengemeenschap), it was great gymn though, and i learned a lot. Perfect!!

Comments by sid on 5th January 2012  

Well Derek reading your account it must have been mortifying for you. I suppose that as most schools are now co ed swimming without trunks would be considered a complete no no & would reult in absolute shock horror even if the lessons were boys only

Our school used the local Municipal Swimming Pool although not open to the public during our lessons we wore swimming costumes in the design of what would now be called speedos.

Was it better in the "good old days" when we could go into the local countryside & just be all boys together swimming without worryinh about wearing anything?

Comments by Sid on 3rd January 2012  

Well James it must have been worse for you when you had to share the lesson with girls. At least our school was all boys & all male teachers so to a certain degree it was all males together

Comments by Derek on 3rd January 2012  

At Berkhamsted School for Boys in the 1950's we had excellent gym lessons in the normal curricula of the day. On any particularly hot day in the summer, with no notice, the master would take us to the school pool as a treat. We had no swimming gear with us so we swum naked, age about 14-16. As kids we just assumed this was normal practice.

One day we were having a naked swim, when the Head Master, assuming the pool would be out of use in the middle of lessons, walked in with prospective parents, a couple, who had brought their son and their two teenage daughters in school uniforms complete with hats. To say that we made for the safety of the water quickly was an understatement.

Comments by James on 2nd January 2012  

Dave,Inside we wore the shorts which I described,no vest and barefoot.Outside vest and satin shorts.Bit chilly in winter dressed in skimpy kit.

Comments by Dave on 2nd January 2012  

James, what was your whole PE kit inside and outside?

Comments by James on 2nd January 2012  

In reply to Sid's comments,we too wore shorts without underwear in the seventies up to my leaving age of sixteen.We wore brief satin shorts,which were fashionable in that era for games,cross country running,and yes we did share the gymnasium with the girls when it was too cold for them to go outside for their games.These shorts were very shiny and filmy and anyone foolish enough to wear underwear would easily have been detected.I felt quite ridiculous wearing miniscule shorts at adolescense.

Comments by Sid on 1st January 2012  

I have recently discovered this site & find the history interesting because it is my era i.e. boys schools in the mid 60s. I have just caught up with the previous comments & I am surprised by the comments made by Dick 26 Sept 2010. re the fact that up 18yrs of age boys only wore briefs for pe. I assume pe lessons were seperate genders. Perhaps Dick can advise & what year was this. I cannot see it being allowed in more recent years besides in more recent years haven't boys changed to boxers which could present a problem. At least we were allowed if nothing else to wear shorts although they were very tight.

PE & sports were very physical but had the effect that by the time we left school we seemed to be more manly than todays youth.

Comments by Eastender on 26th December 2011  

Re comments by will & the Welsh Marshes. It seems in the sixties normal for no underpants &teachers did check us to see if we were wearing any.Perhaps it was the era but no one seeemed to think anything about it. It just semed the norm. We were more nieve or just not so inhibited abiut our bodies.

Comments by Will on 25th December 2011  

Very similar to the late 60s on the Welsh Marches - pe with shorts, and no underpants, and the master lined us up in a row in the gym, and put his fingers down each shorts at the front, to make sure we weren't wearing underpants - I think he got quite a thrill out of it - cheeky ******

Comments by Robin on 24th December 2011  

I attended a large boys-only secondary school in the 1980s.
The PE year was divided into six half-termly blocks of football, basketball, cross-country running, volleyball, athletics and cricket.
The outdoor PE kit was a plain white football shirt, white shorts and white football socks and trainers. The indoor PE was done in shorts, bare chested, with teams either “skins” or “bibs”.
With regard to underwear, most boys wore white vests and y-fronts. Pants could be kept on but vests had to be taken off when you took off your white school shirt.
At the end of the lesson, everyone had to undress for a communal shower.

Comments by James on 16th December 2011  

We wore short trousers at secondary school and they were compulsary.I had my first girlfriend at thirteen wearing short pants and my second girlfriend at fifteen still in short pants,although her younger brothers half my age were in long trousers.I finaly wore my first long trousers at sixteen.

Comments by peter on 11th December 2011  

I was at a Northern Grammar School in `59 onwards. It was as has been described here; the H Teacher ran it like a public school.

I loved going bare chested but was very shy too. There was no bullying, body image issues like the girls had and still do. And now the lads have it too.

There were some sights as you can imagine. Who cared? To this day I go without a shirt whenever possible. Feel sorry for the girls! . .

Comments by Paul on 9th December 2011  

I certainly remember pe in the 1970s in just shorts, in the gym and on the playing field in the spring and autumn term. I particularly recall playing soccer with no top and barefoot when it felt really cold in October with cold grass covered in dew. I remember other boys playing cricket in summer barefoot and barechested wearing pads to protect against the hard ball - but that was for pe not games (which had different kit rules). I also remember communal showers and one time when I accused another boy of using my towel. He denied it but let me share the one he was using. It was only after everyone had left the showers that I saw my towel (with the same pattern) hanging on the radiator - someone else had covered it with his. Hoe embarrassing was that?