Hesketh Fletcher Gym Team

Childhood - Schools


Year: 1935         Item #: 1741         Views: 173,676         Comments: 865

Hesketh Fletcher Gym Team

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

865 user comment(s) below:-

Comments by Steve on 19th December 2014  

We had to strip to just shorts in the gym, so bare feet and stripped down to the waist. Same kit throughout the school, no one was ever allowed to wear a vest or t-shirt or anything on our feet.

For pe we wore white shorts, with navy rugby shorts for cross country (still shirtless). Anyone wearing the wrong colour shorts would have been in deep trouble !

To tell the difference between teams we wore plastic sashes/bands which came in various strong colours.

As far as I recall there were never any problems telling teams apart.

Comments by Mark on 16th December 2014  

We would wear different coloured shorts-white or black.
Being stripped to the waist there was sometimes confusion about tackling but not as frequent as you would think.

Comments by Pete on 14th December 2014  


I remember at the start of the first lesson and after changing into our new kit, we were told to stand in a line out on the yard and our PE teacher picked a lad to stand facing the class and told him to take his vest off and drop it on the yard. About a minute (if that)later we were all stood stripped down. Vests were only used to make up a second team only for inter class competitions like basketball/cross country/fitness.

This lasted from the age of 9 to 18, after A levels and had the same teacher throughout this time.

Comments by Toby on 14th December 2014  tbaird45@yahoo.co.uk 

Reading John's questions to Mark made me think back to a brief experiment at my school when different coloured shorts were used to denote teams in the gym. At first one team had a coloured sash worn over the shoulder but, as John pointed out, these tended to slip down too easily! So the PE department came up with a new system. Each boy owned a pair of white shorts for lessons in the gym and black shorts for outdoor games. So boys whose surnames were in the second half of the alphabet were instructed to bring their black shorts to gym lessons instead of white and both teams were stripped to the waist.
The system just didn't work because you kept having to stop and think about what colour shorts someone was wearing, there were a lot of misplaced passes and the games were chaotic. So the school scrapped the idea after a few weeks and instead brought in a set of bibs that fitted over both shoulders and were secured at your sides by elastic. One team wore the bibs while the other team reverted to the usual kit of white shorts and bare top. That worked much better because it was easy to spot straight away who was on your team and we kept that system throughout the rest of my time at school

Comments by John Lavender on 12th December 2014  finswimmerjohn52@gmail.com 

What happened when it came to playing Team Games in the Gym , like Killerball (A Sort of Gym Rugby) or Basketball, or Football?
Did the different teams wear different Colour Shorts?
Some Schools used coloured Bands that you wore over the Shoulder but these could slip off quite easily!
Did you find that having all Boys stripped to the Waist
made identifying an Opponent or "Enemy" difficult in a quick-reaction situation like a Scrum or a Tackle?

Comments by Mark on 13th November 2014  

Nick, This was in around 1963 at a Grammar School and the PE teacher encouraged us to go stripped to the waist.

Comments by Nick on 11th November 2014  

Mark. With regard to your post: Roughly what year was this? And what sort of school? And did the PE teacher make any comment or encourage this? Thanks.

Comments by Mark on 7th November 2014  

Like Sam there was a lad who started to do PE shirtless and again more and more boys joined him so that eventually we were all stripped to the waist.

Comments by Sam on 5th September 2014  

When I was at school we had a lad in our class whose father was into "healthy living."
He told me that as soon as he got home he had to remove his top and go stripped to the waist for the rest of the day. He had four brothers and they had to do the same.
He was the first in our class to do PE etc stripped to the waist and after that more and more of us stripped to the waist both in the gym and outside.

Comments by Steve on 5th September 2014  

At my mixed secondary school the boys' indoor PE uniform was white shorts only.
For outdoors and cross-country we wore black or navy blue shorts and were again bare-chested. Some lads also went barefoot as well.

Comments by Paul on 19th July 2014  

At my school in the 1960s it was the invariable practice to do PE stripped to the waist.
We would also be bare-chested for cross-country runs whatever the weather.

Comments by Laura on 9th June 2014  lcclinton4@yahoo.co.uk 


Yes, the topless PE and naked swimming continued to the end of primary school. I know some girls had become to develop by the age of 11, but there was no difference in what was worn. I know it was really uncommon, particulary our swimming lessons, but I'm not sure if other schools did the same.


Comments by Andrea on 8th June 2014  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 


Did the topless pe and nude swimming lessons happen all the way to the end of your time at primary school?

When I at primary in the late 1960's boys and girls all had to change for pe in the same classroom, but that was only to vest and knickers as we put on our pe kit. When a few of the girls started to wear bras rather than vests (I never got to that stage at primary school!), they were allowed to change in the toilets.


Comments by Laura on 5th June 2014  lcclinton4@yahoo.co.uk 

I went to Shears Green that Martin mentioned back in March. It was such a shock when my first PE lesson came round. I'd had a PE kit at my previous school and was worried that I didn't have it with me. I went up to my teacher and told her, only to be told in return to take my clothes off, including my vest! That was a serious shock, but was nothing compared to my first swimming lesson in our school pool. As Martin said, these were done nude!

Comments by Nicholas on 26th May 2014  

The only time we did shirts v skins was if we had football practice. In the gym our uniform included just shorts and no top, everyone went bare-chested without exception. For teams we had coloured bands that you had to wear on both arms, but they weren't all that clearly visible during a game. Shirts v skins was much more effective as it was easier to spot which boys were on your team.

Comments by Andrea on 19th May 2014  andreatwo@hotmail.co.uk 

My ex told me that at his all boys secondary school their indoor pe kit was just a pair of white shorts. They wore rugby shirts for outdoor pe though.

At my all girls school we wore T shirts and gym knickers indoors (and outdoors in summer) but a gym skirt and long sleeved shirt outdoors in winter.

The worst thing was if you forgot your kit, the pe teacher made you wear a shirt from the pe store cupboard that probably hadn't been washed for months!

Comments by Paul on 17th May 2014  

"Shirts-v-skins" didn't arise at my school as we were stripped to the waist for PE at all times.

Comments by Adam on 7th May 2014  

Mike, were you the only one who was always a skin or was it the same for other boys too? At my school the teams were meant to be picked at random each time but quite often the teacher would announce 'same teams next time' at the end of the lesson. So if you were a skin you'd often stay bare-chested for the next lesson or more and you could easily go for a few weeks of PE without wearing a top at all.
Sometimes there was no team sport in the lesson but half the boys still had to do it as skins. I never understood why that was but obviously I didn't question it at the time!

Comments by Dave on 30th April 2014  

We too used to play "vests-v-skins".
As I never even possessed a vest I was always a "skin".
Therefore I had no problems about being stripped to the waist.

Comments by Mike on 21st April 2014  

Adam, it was the same for me, though it was usually skins vs vests. One thing I always found strange was that the teacher always picked me to remove my vest be it indoors or out. I didn't mind and was always glad to be a skin especially playing basketball when you could see vests sticking to your opponents top.

Comments by Adam on 10th April 2014  

Like the boys at Matt's school, I also played football bare-chested in PE. The usual format was shirts versus skins, so half of us would always have to play in just shorts, socks and boots or plimsolls (depending whether we were indoors our outdoors). I remember it felt a bit strange to play with no shirt at first but I soon got used to it. One thing that was different when you played skins was celebrations were more restrained after scoring goals. Whereas if your team had shirts on there was a good deal of hugging and back-slapping, I think most boys playing skins felt less inclined to embrace each other's bare sweaty bodies!

Comments by Matt on 9th April 2014  

I agree with Mark and I even recall some boys at my school even playing football while stripped to the waist.

Comments by Mark on 6th April 2014  

When I was at school in the 1960's it was normal for boys to do indoor PE stripped to the waist.
Many lads also did outdoor PE and cross-country bare-chested as well some even in winter.
In Summer more and more of us would strip to the waist and
eventually we would all be stripped to the waist.
Some of us would be barefoot in the gym but not outdoors.

Comments by John on 4th April 2014  johnpaynter185@gmail.com 

The picture is just the type of PE kit we had at my school back in 1960, I was part of a gymnastics team from age 12 to 14 and we put on exhibitions at lots of gymkhanas and sports days, always bare chested and just gym shorts.

Nothing was thought of being topless doing cross country and having to run through some side streets to get to the open country and have to run along the canal towpath, on really hot days it was common for a few boys to accidentally fall in and swim a few yards and then run back to school in just sopping wet shorts and plimsolls, not sure it was healthy to do that but we were boys and didn't really care, I,m in my middle 60's now and still swim and jog a little, so I reckon it wasn't that bad and yes now and again I go topless running in the countryside near me.

Anyone else still run like that? email me let me know.

Comments by Martin on 6th March 2014  martin.hill32@hushmail.com 

I'm not really sure what all the fuss is about over boys doing PE topless (and all this stuff about doing X-country running topless and barefoot I am rather sceptical about!) I was at Shears Green Primary School in Kent (southern UK) from 1979. Our school was a normal local 'state' primary school with just over 250 boys and girls from 8 to 11½ years old. (The school now has nearer 400 kids!) PE and country dancing lessons were always mixed, we had to take ALL our clothes off for the lesson and put on our PE kit, which for the boys was nothing but a pair of thin cotton shorts while the girls wore just the same sort of shorts or PE knickers, we weren't allowed any underwear and we ALL did the lessons completely topless (even the girls!) and barefoot when we were indoors, although we wore gym shoes when we were out on the playground. Year six girls who had started to develop 'boobs' could request permission to wear a t-shirt if they wanted to.
However the school was MOST famous (infamous?) for it's mixed nude swimming lessons in the schools indoor pool, this went on from the mid 1960's to the late 1980's, I seem to remember there were also free Saturday morning swimming lessons for any boys and girls who wanted to take part where all of us were allowed to swim naked. Looking at it from 2014, this all seems SO unlikely, however it WAS real, look up Shears Green Primary on facebook or friends reunited, there are MANY memories from former pupils about nude swimming and topless PE!

Comments by Dave on 8th February 2014  

Like Rufus and Crow I used to run and do PE stripped to the waist whenever I could.
I never took my vest to PE and therefore had to be topless even if it meant I was the only lad going bare-chested.
I soon found that more and more boys would join me and eventually the whole class was stripped to the waist.

Comments by Rufus on 6th February 2014  

Like Crow, I enjoy running shirtless when I have the opportunity - although I must admit my preference is to feel some sun on my bare back rather than wind and rain! I just like the feeling of moving freely without a sweaty shirt clinging to my body and I first started to appreciate that when I was made to go shirtless at school. There were two 'houses' at the school, and sometimes for cross-country we would run in 'house teams' of vests and skins. The first time that happened my house were selected as the skins and we all had to take off our vests. I was a bit self conscious at first but to my surprise I soon found I felt much more comfortable running in just my shorts and trainers. Before long, I realised I actually preferred to be a skin - so much so that, a couple of times when we weren't in house teams, I left my vest at home on purpose. Of course that meant I was the only boy in the class running shirtless, but that suited me fine and I've carried on ever since.

Comments by Crow on 4th February 2014  

In Ipswich in the early 80's we weren't allowed to go shirtless, but I did it anyway if I could, even in winter on an icy cross country run. I'm not sure how I got to like doing it, but I did, and I still run shirtless for five or 5 miles often in any weather, and always shirtless. I like how it feels, even if there's hail and a 40 mph wind. Excitement makes it more interesting, more fun. A wet heavy shirt dragging against me with every movement would be a miserable business, and I wouldn't be any warmer either.

Comments by Mike on 30th January 2014  

Like Matt I experienced having to do PE outdoors and stripped to the waist as a punishment.
It wasn't pleasant and was even worse having to go barefoot as well.

Comments by Matt on 29th January 2014  

I attended a private, all boys' school in southern England in the 80s and it wasn't unusual for boys to be penalised by having to remove items of PE kit, especially in detention. Sometimes you might have to take off your socks and trainers and go barefoot as part of the punishment, more often you had to lose your PE vest. 0ccasionally it could be both and you were left in just your shorts.
The first time I got a PE punishment nobody warned me what was likely to happen and it came as a shock when I was told to get my vest off. Oh well, I thought, at least it won't be too cold in the gym... only to discover to my horror that the punishment was actually taking place on the playing fields! Running laps of the field while stripped to the waist was certainly no picnic but at least I knew what to expect next time. And unfortunately there was a next time!

Comments by Iain on 28th January 2014  

I agree with Patrick. We boys always had to be stripped to the waist and I don't think anyone minded that much.

Comments by Patrick on 26th January 2014  

When I was at school boys had to go without shirts for indoor sports, not normally in front of girls but occasionally. While this could inevitably lead to some awkwardness now and then, I certainly wouldn't call it discrimination; after all, boys' bodies are different to girls'.

Comments by Maltamon on 20th January 2014  

I think it is disgusting that in today's society boys are are still discriminated against with boys still subject to more stringent rules than girls. Some schools still have compulsory showers for boys and not for girls even today.


Outdoor Kit:

Green and black long sleeved shirt - Available from Drury Sports only.
Black shorts
Green long socks
Boots and outdoor trainers
Towel for showers (boys)

I dont think boys should be forced to shower or forced to do rugby when girls can play hockey.


Boys' PE Clothing

Towel (students are expected to shower
after football and rugby)


Please Note: Every boy should be provided with a Towel. The changing rooms have excellent shower facilities and boys are encouraged to have a shower after P.E. or Games when appropriate. - See more at: http://www.parmiters.herts.sch.uk/curriculum/subjects/pe/pe-kit/#sthash.g8p3jHL7.dpuf

This is not happy days it is discrimination and like forced conscription in Austria & Switzerland these rules would not be supported if it was happening to females.

Lets end discrimination and campaign for real gender equality.

Comments by belfastguy on 20th January 2014  

Removal of shirts was used as a punitive measure at my Secondary School, in Northern Ireland. In fact so much so that when slapping was abolished in the mid eighties my school began after school punishment PE sessions. Unlike normal PE boys had to be bare chest. Girls also had punishment PE. However they used the warm gym. Both were conducted at the same time, which the boys really resented. There was only one gym back then and our sadist PE teacher hardly ever cancelled any normal PE as it meant dividing the gym, which was time and effort. He never cancelled after school PE once. In fact on one occasion there was some snow and Headmaster came out and sent the boys home. He was furious. Happy days all the same.

Comments by Spencer on 19th January 2014  

While I don't recall anyone being punished in this way for the kind of offences Troy describes, it was certainly commonplace to make boys go bare-chested as a disciplinary measure in PE lessons. There was often no real purpose to it other than for the teacher to demonstrate his authority and to make the boy feel small and more vulnerable.
Once I stepped out of line by answering the teacher back and straight away I was told to stand up and take off my vest. I had to stand there bare-chested to receive a telling off and was then ordered to go and carry out press ups at the side of the gym while the lesson continued. Eventually I was permitted to rejoin the class, but still bare-chested, and it felt embarrassing being the only boy without a vest.
However, I probably got off lightly because I can remember other boys in my class having to do several lessons in a row with their vests off, and some were even made to go bare-chested outdoors for football or rugby.

Comments by Troy on 18th January 2014  

Yeah, I remember that barechested PE wasn't normally the practice at my school but one of the more common punishments for boys misbehaving tended to involve losing our shirts. For example, if we were caught with our shirts untucked or ties undone, we'd have to strip to the waist on the spot and do a few laps around the school field in just our shorts.

First time this happened to me was because I didn't hand in some homework on time. The teacher told me to take off my top and run laps around the field. I thought that meant I could at least keep my undershirt on, but soon that came off too. Even when I came back, she didn't let me put my shirt back on, instead I had to do push-ups in front of the whole class while still shirtless. Totally embarassing.

Experiences like that have kinda made me question the benefits of boys going shirtless for PE class in this day and age.

Comments by Joel on 9th January 2014  

Jon's account of the rock climbing trip brought to mind a similar situation from when I was at school. Normally PE and Games were separate for boys and girls, when we had a lesson outdoors the girls were in the gym and vice versa. On one occasion there was a thunderstorm and the playing field was saturated, so the girls were sent to join us in the gym instead.
The girls didn't take part in the lesson, they were just required to sit and watch. And they were more than happy to do that when the teacher split us into teams of shirts and skins for a basketball game - there were plenty of calls from the sidelines about which boys they wanted to see on the skins team and the odd wolf whistle. I felt surprised and pleased to hear a couple of girls calling my name and then cheering when I was confirmed as a skin and had to take off my top!
It was an incredible confidence boost, to know the girls were enjoying watching me run around bare-chested. I felt really good and played one of my best ever games. Not surprisingly, the girls made their support for the skins team pretty clear and we won quite convincingly!

Comments by Jim (2) on 5th January 2014  

Our PE lessons were either done with all the boys stripped to the waist or with half the group left in vests. The girls all looked forward to seeing your vest coming off especially outdoors in autumn/winter when it was nice and cold.

During December and January the inter house competitions took place and were a big thing throughout the school. When it came to picking the teams for inter house competitions obviously there was a lot of good natured banter about who to pick and who would they'd like to see on the other teams.

For inter house competitions like basketball, it was skins and vests and if you wore a vest for the first half, you'd strip off for the second half - which was preferred as you were normally sweating at halftime.

Cross country runs were all done with everyone barechested and picked out with a big coloured armband.

Fitness competitions were a school thing and each house would select 6 boys from each class in year group to compete (each year had 4 classes). The fitness competition comprised of repetitions of press ups, pull ups, squats, sit ups and shuttle runs and lasted exactly 75mins non stop.

The girls loved the events as they got the time out of lessons and watch to see each team strip down with the added bonus of seeing us all visibly sweat at closer quarters than usual.

You'd be amazed at how much interest playing games and doing PE with your vest off generated amongst the females at school. Little was I to know my future wife was one of those girls watching.

Comments by Jon on 4th January 2014  

As I posted in another thread, I recall one of my first experiences of being shirtless in front of girls for PE was during a compulsory field trip. One of the activities was rock-climbing in fairly warm and humid weather and none of us had been told to bring along our PE kit. You can imagine my dismay and nervousness when the teacher in charge (a female in her mid-20s) told all the boys to simply take off our school shirts and do the climb in just our school shorts. Meanwhile the girls, unfairly I thought, got to sit on the side and watch. We were quite hesitant of course as the girls were suddenly watching us very closely! There was definitely some whispering and giggling going on as we started to strip down.

To be fair, the girls cheered us on loudly and we actually had a good time by the end of it. Covered in sweat and still barechested when it was over, I even mustered up the courage to strike up a conversation with a girl I fancied who even blushingly commented on my body.

Comments by Mark on 17th December 2013  

At my mixed schools there was never any mixed PE and boys were always stripped to the waist both indoors and outside and on cross-country runs.Many lads would also be barefoot.

Comments by Jimmy on 8th December 2013  

I went to a mixed school aged 10 where we had mixed indoor PE all winter. Both boys and girls had to wear white t-shirts but girls were allowed to wear tracksuit bottoms while boys had to wear white shorts. Also the girls were allowed trainers while the boys had to go barefoot. I once asked the teacher (female) why the girls were allowed to wear shoes and us boys had to be barefoot, she laughed and said that boy's shoes were not clean enough to be allowed in the gym! Seemed rather unfair to me. I remember some of the girls used to tease us about having to go barefoot and some even used to deliberately step on our toes when running around the gym!

Comments by Rob on 6th December 2013  

I agree that doing cross country stripped to the waist was common in the 1960s.
It certainly didn't bother me being bare-chested.

Comments by Phil on 5th December 2013  

I think cross country in nothing but a pair of shorts was not uncommon. It is certainly how we did it when I was at grammar school in the 60s. It makes good sense as we ran through some very muddy areas and got pretty dirty - it's surprising how far up your body the mud can get! We didn't usually take too much notice if it was cold - we just made sure we kept moving and no-one came to any harm.

Comments by Jamie on 21st November 2013  

Having read Neil's recollections, I'm glad I didn't have to do PE with that teacher! Running shirtless and barefoot every week sounds fairly unpleasant and makes me think I got away quite lightly during my own schooldays. The only time I can remember having to do PE in bare feet was when we had a couple of sessions of gymnastics, but obviously those were indoors. Going shirtless was required quite often because we frequently played in teams of shirts and skins but again, that was usually in the gym. There were occasions when we played football outdoors on a hot day and, instead of shirts against bibs, we all took our shirts off and did bibs against skins. But that was only because those thick football shirts were so uncomfortable to wear in the heat, no-one was ever forced to be a skin in cold weather as far as I know.

Comments by Neil on 20th November 2013  

I went to a grammar school in the late 60's.

We had a pretty strict policy on uniform, sports kit etc. We were allowed to wear just shorts for indoor PE, but for our weekly cross country run we wore navy shorts, vest/rugby shirts, socks and plimsolls.

In the summer most lads skipped the shirt, and ran stripped to the waist, and in addition a couple of boys ran barefoot.

This all continued for the first 2 years, but in the 3rd year we had a new PE teacher, who had joined the school from outside. As we soon discovered he had strict views on what kit was needed !

We had two PE lessons a week, one indoor, the second cross country. In the first week of term, the first lesson arrived, indoor PE - the lesson was uneventful, other than the fact that he was much stricter than we were used to on things like being slow, or talking.

There has been some discussion previously about wearing underpants under shorts. Not surprisingly, this was one of his rules. I can't recall anyone ever breaking it, firstly because we were always stripped to the waist, the waist band would have been obvious above your shorts, and also the potential punishment didn't make it worth taking the risk.

Later in the week, it was time for the cross country session, we all arrived, undressed and put on what we thought was the correct kit rugby shorts, tops and plimsolls. He called one lad to the front, told him to take off his shirt, then to take off his shoes and socks, so he stood there stripped to just his shorts. We kind of knew what was coming, but it was still a big shock. Rapidly we were all told that this was all we were to wear, ever, and to get everything else off, immediately One boy (bravely or stupidly), asked if we had to run like this even in the middle of winter, as it would be really cold with no shirt on it was a pointless question and all he got was a cold shower for asking.

I never got used to running like this, and I'm not sure which was worse, having to have bare feet or being shirtless on a freezing day. Generally he ran his lessons so that any minor digression was punished, and you didn't dare step one inch out of line, thus something minor like talking or being last changing, got you a punishment like hanging from the wall bars (one of his favourite punishments, climb up the wall bars, turn around, back against the bars, feet free, hanging from your arms, it hurt like hell), cold showers or even caning. I'm sure that most boys really dreaded his lessons.

I wonder how common running cross county in just shorts was ?

Comments by Liam on 6th November 2013  

In reply to Nick K, I was at school in the Home Counties, late 70s-early 80s.

Comments by NickK on 4th November 2013  

Liam. Interesting post. Can you give us an idea of (roughly) whereabouts your school was and what years we are talking about?

Comments by Matt on 4th November 2013  

At my school we did all our PE and cross-country etc stripped to the waist and barefoot whatever the conditions.
It was hard in winter but I actually enjoyed being stripped to the waist in summer.

Comments by Jim RH on 3rd November 2013  

I also found that wearing less in PE became more of a problem as I got older. In junior school for PE, girls wore vests and pants, and boys just pants. Though I was always quite self-conscious, it was nowhere near as embarrassing as in secondary school, when boys developed more and our differences became more noticeable.

Comments by Liam on 3rd November 2013  

You're quite right Spence, we wore a different kit for Games outdoors - shirt, shorts (black instead of white, as we wore indoors), socks and football or rugby boots. The shirts were reversible colours so one team had to turn them inside out. For cross country it was back to the white shorts (bizarre really as your legs could get completely spattered with mud on a wet day) and in winter we wore a running vest as well. However, when summer came around boys had to run with their vests off - and bad luck if the weather suddenly turned during the course of the lesson! I can remember getting soaked by a downpour while barechested on more than one occasion.
As I discovered when I made it to the school's track and field athletics squad, the boys' training kit was exactly the same. Vests were worn for inter-school matches but we had to strip to the waist to do all our training sessions. We trained alongside the girls, who of course wore tops while we were barechested and as we got older I think that became more of a problem.