Clitheroe Royal Grammar School
Item #: 1602
Source: Lancashire Life Magazine, November 1959
I think that's a really good point Danny C. I'm sure it must be easier to get used to something when you start at an earlier age. Until I was 13 I'd never previously done PE or sports bare chested, which is why I didn't find it easy to adjust straight away when the new teacher made us take our vests off. If that had always been standard practice for boys across the board I'd have thought nothing of it!
I remember when my brother turned 13, he was allowed to wear a jockstrap. Gosh how he and his classmates thought they were now real men! Now boys wear cycling shorts under their shorts ... all looks ugly and cumbersome. How fashion dictates and how the stupid just follow!
I've often wondered whether it would have been far easier if all schools had simply got the boys doing their PE shirtless and showering from the moment they start at the age of five, or primary at eight, rather than waiting until we get to 11 or 12 at the really awkward moment and that dramatic change of school culture which then affected so many. There would have been none of that impending dread of what was to come, as it would have always been a part of school life. I do wonder if such a thing would have been a positive for me or not. What do others think?
I changed school at 13.
My old school had full kit for PE and xc, so I assumed the new school would be the same.
First xc lesson, we all arrived to change. I soon noticed other boys were stood there ready in just their shorts, stripped to the waist, bare feet.
I had shorts on, and was pulling on a vest. One of my new friends said "we're not allowed to wear vests, just your shorts" My response was "no plimsolls" "Yes, bare feet as well"
That was how it was, pair of shorts only all year around, same for pe.
Hi Toby P. I started senior school at 11 so was 13 when I first had to take my vest off for PE. That may be one reason why a lot of us didn't find it easy at first; at 13 I was certainly a bit more self conscious about my body than I would have been a couple of years before.
TobyP/Sam, we were required to go without a vest or a shirt for PE and games and we were expected to wear just our shorts till we left school at 16.
We were 11 years old when we were first expected to strip off and it came as a bit of a shock.After a while I became complacent and didn't feel undignified to be seen just wearing shorts. We were identified as to which team were in by the color of our shorts and my mother purchased
some shiny, satin shorts in blue.
Hi Sam, Both my middle and high schools policy was all boys were expected to perform all PE/Games lessons stripped to the waist. Some newcomers were a little surprised having worn at least a vest at their previous school and took a little time to adjust especially exercising outdoors. From reading your comments I'm assuming you and your PE group would be around 11-12 years old when you first started being made to strip off for PE?
Thanks for your question Chris G. Definitely the first time I had that situation I felt resentful of the boys in the other class. This was only a few weeks into the term and it just seemed unfair to be wearing less than they were, almost as if my reduced PE kit was like a punishment for something. Our teacher was actually away, so in theory we could have worn our vests for the shared lesson, but none of us had one as we'd been instructed not to bring them to PE any longer. It also didn't help that a few of the lads from the other class laughed and jeered when they saw us walking into the gym.
It was quite a while before that happened again, I don't remember how long exactly, but the next time I felt different. Not superior as such, but certainly not inferior, just more confident about being bare chested I suppose. By then it just felt like that was my normal PE kit!
Sam. When you were sharing a gym with another class who were wearing vests, were you jealous of them or did you feel superior?
Toby P, was this the standard approach throughout your school or did it vary from one teacher to another? Some of my teachers had different rules about this. In my first two years at senior school we wore a vest and shorts for PE, for the third year another teacher took my class. His view was the same as you described - no reason for boys to wear a vest, so he made us take them off. It was a shock at first and some boys grumbled but we had to get used to doing PE bare chested. After a while we didn't really think about it, except on rare occasions when we had to share the gym with another class and those other boys still had their vests on.
MarkT Our teachers had the same approach, no shirt or vest but stripped to the waist indoors and outside. There's simply no need for boys to wear a top. This is practical and effective
For us lads it was shirtless, shorts and barefoot all year in or out and in all weather. If a lesson planned was to be outside and it was raining well it was tough we still went out and got on with it.
Natalie,it was the same at our school that I attended,we had to take our sports in all weathers in minimal kit which was the same for summer as winter. The shorts and vest that we wore did nothing to stave off the bitterly cold weather and we couldn't wait to get back indoors.
Rob,I certainly wouldn't have worn short trousers if I hadn't been compelled to by my parents, although I can appreciate the benefits that you pointed out. I suppose that boys tended to wear long trousers much earlier than myself and I found it difficult to accept this imposition.
Being the only boy in my class still wearing short trousers proved very difficult to accept and of course teasing was very prevalent by younger and older boys,although teachers tried to stamp it out.I suppose being very shy as a boy constituted to my apprehension about wearing short trousers in public.
James, your girls were certainly luckier than we were! We never came inside for bad weather and I’ve got vivid memories of playing netball in torrential rain. Our courts flooded at the slightest opportunity, and it was common that we’d all be splashing through 5cm of standing water, as well as getting soaked to the skin by the rain!
James, I wasn't exactly kept in short trousers all the time until I was 18 but my mum used to tell me to put my shorts on if she saw me wearing my long trousers when I was in the garden in the summertime. She said this was because she didn't want me to wear the knees out and have to buy me new trousers, but she also knew that if I changed into shorts I would also take my shirt off to get a tan. She obviously enjoyed seeing me stripped off as did my two younger sisters.
I started work just before I was 18 so was able to buy my own clothes, but I continued wearing shorts in the summer whenever I cared to. It wasn't a problem for me at school wearing short trousers until I was 14 as a fair number in my class were still wearing them and we were never teased.
Rob,if it were raining very heavily or very cold the girls were not subjected to their sporting activities outside and were allowed to watch the boys from inside the gym.
Did you ever question your parents' decision to keep you in short trousers till you were 18 or did you wear them with alacrity?I found it extremely difficult wearing shorts going through secondary school as most of my contemporaries were wearing long trousers.Were you ever teased for wearing shorts?
James, how unsuitable did the weather have to get to stop the girls from playing netball outside yet the boys still carried on playing sport shirtless? It sounds a bit unfair; were they watching from the comfort of the inside of the gym?
Rob,we did have the girls as 'spectators' as when the weather was unsuitable for the girls to play netball outside. I'm sure they enjoyed the spectacle of so many boys running round topless.
I was quite surprised when I was kitted out in grey uniform short trousers at the age of 11 when I was to be enrolled in my new school as I wanted to wear long trousers like most of the other boys of my age.I was never given an adequate reason why I had to wear shorts through my secondary school years,but it was with reluctance on my part that I should wear short trousers with my new school uniform.
Of course very few boys wore shorts at the school that I attended and I noticed that the new influx of first year boys wore long trousers,which always made me look very young for my age.
Like yourself,my leg were tanned and this was appreciated,
particularly by my mother,and it was at her instigation that I should continue to wear shorts throughout my school years.
What a strange school you went to that decided you didn't need to have showers after PE from April to July but had to at other times. Most of us sweated far more in summer.
Easter 1986 meant a respite from the humiliating communal shower until the return of Rugby, football & Cross country from September 1986 to April 1987. Once I entered the upper years I never took a school shower again. Let us use the Easter holidays & Covid-19 pandemic to end all school showers.
Here is a school that still requires pupils to have towels.
Compulsory wear for physical education
The outdoor kit is based on the Academy colour of burgundy and includes an Academy rugby/hockey top. All students will need a pair of football/hockey boots as well as a pair of stout black outdoor training shoes for work on the all- weather surfaces.
Burgundy/white rugby/hockey shirt *
Black shorts (plain, no logo) *
Burgundy/white rugby/hockey socks *
Black/Burgundy games skirt (girls) *
Black leather trainers (non-marking soles)
White polo shirt with badge *
Black shorts *
White sports socks
White leather trainers (non-marking soles)
Those students who prefer to wear the approved tracksuit bottoms rather than shorts may do so.
In addition to the items listed above, all students are able to shower at the end of each physical education lesson and will therefore need to bring a towel. Wet towels will of course need to be kept away from books and files in bags.
We cannot change the past but together we can call for greater privacy in schools and an end to gender based discrimination.
Ben, We weren't supervised in the changing room, but because we were used to doing as we were told, we certainly daren't not just duck our heads under the showers. We had two PE lessons a week plus a double games lesson out on the playing fields; so we had to use the showers three times a week and because we were always worked hard in the gym and running with sweat we needed to spend time in the showers to freshen up properly.
James, We didn't go topless for games, e.g. football, but if you were, I'm sure the girls at your co-ed would have been pleased to have been spectators.
Uniform was also strict at our school and it was not uncommon for boys to wear short trousers. In fact I remember one boy who still wore them in the sixth form and my parents kept me in them until the winter after my fourteenth birthday. When I went into long trousers, I had to wear shorts at home and all weekends in the summers because my mum didn't want me to wear the knees out of my long school trousers. This continued until I was almost 18 and left school. At least I used to get my legs tanned and along with the majority of men nowadays I still enjoy wearing shorts in the summer.
Rob/Ben,I attended a co-ed secondary school and it was the convention to go top less for PE and games and like yourselves I was very apprehensive at first,but the kit was standard for all boys from ages 11 to 16.
I agree the communal showers were a bit scary,but this was something we had to accept.
Uniform was quite strict,but the wearing of short trousers was allowed until we left school and my parents took advantage of this and kept me in shorts till I left school.
Thanks for the reply Rob, glad to know you weren't running in Arctic conditions wearing just shorts!
I suppose in any case, at least you were made aware of the rules about kit beforehand. At my school the PE kit was listed as vest and shorts, so it was something of a shock the first time I was told to take my vest off and join the skins team.
You make a fair point about the communal showers - a bit scary at first but it's the same for everyone. We had what were supposed to be mandatory showers after PE but they weren't strictly supervised, nobody tended to notice if you quickly ducked in and got your hair wet, then out again!
Ben, here on the south coast the weather is a lot milder all year round anyway, and we did not seem to get sent out when it was really wet and cold like a lot of the subscribers to these websites. The PE kit was standard for all boys in the school, from first form, aged 11 through to sixth formers and everyone soon got used to it. The shock for me, though, came at the end of the second lesson when we all had to take a shower. We all went back to the changing room and were expected to take our shorts off and go in to the open communal showers where there were five large overhead showers . I stood looking at the boys who were already naked in the showers and for a few moments did not what to do. I realised that there was no way out and bravely took my shorts off and walked into the showers and joined the others. It was another case of everyone having the same kit, and I soon got used to it.
Mark, it was certainly better in the gym and we could look forward to getting in the showers afterwards and washing the sweat off .
Rob, I think looking back running around the hot sports hall or gymnasium without a shirt or sweaty plimsolls was better and probably a little more hygienic also running laps in the summer outside shirtless and barefoot was quite glorious.
Ben, I meant that I am sure that would have enjoyed being barechested outdoors as well!
Despite your assurances Rob, I'm not convinced I'd have found running outdoors barechested quite so enjoyable as you did! Surely it must have got really cold and wet at times! Was it just your class who had to do that, or standard for all boys in the school?
One of the reasons I wouldn't have been too unhappy if they'd imposed a barechested rule in the gym was that it would have been fairer than vests and skins. As you said, a lot of boys felt shy about doing PE in skins and I think that was made harder by not having the same kit for everyone.
Ben, thanks for your response. You're right, we just did as instructed and I never gave a thought about taking my socks off. At the start of that first lesson, when the PE teacher had told us how to get changed and had left us to do so, there was some discussion as to whether we were allowed to wear T shirts. Obviously some of the boys were were feeling shy about having to show their bare chests in front of others, but we told them that we wear only allowed to wear shorts. Pleased to hear that with hindsight you would have preferred to have had to have been barechested in the gym. I'm sure you have also enjoyed the freedom outdoors as well!