Clitheroe Royal Grammar School

Childhood > Schools


Clitheroe Royal Grammar School
Clitheroe Royal Grammar School
Year: 1959
Views: 220,812
Item #: 1602
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

Comment by: Andrea on 22nd February 2019 at 16:10

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!

Comment by: Ian on 22nd February 2019 at 13:07

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.

Comment by: Peter K on 22nd February 2019 at 11:54

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.

Comment by: Stuart on 22nd February 2019 at 09:15

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.

Comment by: Frànk C on 20th February 2019 at 10:23

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!

Comment by: Chris G on 19th February 2019 at 16:33


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.

Comment by: James on 18th February 2019 at 10:40

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.

Comment by: Paul on 17th February 2019 at 15:45

Re: garters (Michael, Charles, James)

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

Comment by: TimH on 15th February 2019 at 16:03

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)

Comment by: Chris G on 14th February 2019 at 18:14

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.

Comment by: ROY F on 14th February 2019 at 05:56

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

Comment by: Simon on 12th February 2019 at 00:19

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

Comment by: Ben on 22nd December 2018 at 06:23

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?

Comment by: ROY F on 21st December 2018 at 08:30

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

Comment by: Rob on 17th December 2018 at 12:10

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.

Comment by: Roy on 17th December 2018 at 06:07

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

Comment by: John on 15th December 2018 at 09:44

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.

Comment by: ROY F on 5th December 2018 at 07:41

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

Comment by: Andrea on 26th November 2018 at 13:25

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!

Comment by: Ian on 23rd November 2018 at 15:49

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.

Comment by: Francis Chroston on 22nd November 2018 at 11:03

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.

Comment by: Alan on 21st November 2018 at 06:24

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.

Comment by: Michael on 4th November 2018 at 23:35

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.

Comment by: Paul on 3rd November 2018 at 23:39

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.

Comment by: Michael on 27th October 2018 at 00:13

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.

Comment by: Charles on 25th October 2018 at 07:11

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

Comment by: James on 25th October 2018 at 06:53

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?

Comment by: Paul on 24th October 2018 at 10:51

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.

Comment by: Michael on 4th October 2018 at 03:38

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.

Comment by: Charles on 3rd October 2018 at 10:45

Yes James I agree.
Mum told me that I would not be in long trousers until at least 14. To have argued would have made it worse
I had one teacher who especially seemed to like smacking boys bare legs/ It really hurt.
And then all day i would get teased.
Te long walk home with red legs was never nice as I knew mum would have the hairnbrush, slipper or strap out straight away.