Clitheroe Royal Grammar School

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Clitheroe Royal Grammar School
Clitheroe Royal Grammar School
Year: 1959
Views: 213,501
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: Peter on 19th July 2014 at 07:40

At my old secondary school the normal PE kit was just white shorts. So we were always stripped to the waist and barefoot both indoors and for cross-country.
I had doe PE bare-chested at primary school so it was no big deal but some lads were mortified at having to bare their chests but they had to get used to it!!!

Comment by: Will on 9th July 2014 at 23:50

Interesting thread. I went to a catholic all boys school in Newcastle in the early 80's from the age of 13-18. Our kit consisted of trainers, white socks, white shorts and a long sleeve house shirt which depended on what house you were in in terms of the colour. This was worn for all outdoor PE including cross country. we had what was called games done outside and PE Indoors,. Full Kit was always worn outdoors but for indoor pe, the house shirt was not allowed,it was compulsory to go topless and barefoot. I remember some of the fat kids being mortified. For me it was never a big deal, you just took your shirt off and thought nothing of it, though I guess as I shared a room at home with two brothers, I was relaxed about showing my body off as lads did not wear any pjs to bed back in those days so going topless in the gym was no big dealto me. What was really strange was when we went into 6th form. We were told that shirts were optional in 6th form and the strange thing was that me and all my mates continued to go topless. By that stage most of us had developed good masculine chests, I had a hairy chest which I rememeber thinking was so damn manly, and enjoyed showing it off. Although beingmade to do pe in mimimal clothing back then as 13 year old kids, I don't think it was a bad thing as it made us proud of our bodies and into the men we are today. Certainly made me much more comfortable about taking my shirt off when I was a young man

Comment by: Roy on 30th June 2014 at 18:15

I agree with Tim about the fabrics used for PE gear in the sixties.
Our PE shorts were white lightweight with football shorts being dark and of a heavier material as were our football shirts.
For PE both indoors and outside we were stripped to the waist.

Comment by: Tim on 6th June 2014 at 11:57

Interesting comments from John on the new styles of footwear - I'm starting to see them in the gym, too.

Fabrics have changed completely over the years as well. At Grammar school in the early 60s our gym shorts were white cotton - in quite a lightweight fabic, whilst our football (& cross-country) shorts seemed to be a much heavier weight (black) cotton - almost a twill. Tops for football were a cotton rugby style shirt; for gym most of us wore cotton T-shirts. The much shorter cotton & nylon shorts of the 70s and later hadn't made an appearance. The manufacturers would have been people like Gymphlex & Bukta, or whoever the local outfitters would have been buying off at the time.

Comment by: John Lavender on 26th May 2014 at 17:58

To Tim, Re: Shirtless and Barefoot Running.
Yes Tim, Barefoot/Minimalist/'Natural' Running is definitely on the rise. I work in specialist Retail at Northern Runner in Newcastle and we sell a Lot of Natural Running Shoes, much more than even One Year ago. we also have a Chi/Natural Running Practitioner who organises Masterclasses Locally in Newcastle and uses our Shop as a Focal Point for them.
Shirtless Running.
I run Shirtless when I can and as much as I can, although I always carry a Breathable Top or a Singlet in my Bumbag with me. Even if it is raining I still find topless/shirtless, whatever you want to call it, more comfortable as there is No Clothing to stick to your Upper Body or get sweaty in warm, or wet and heavy in rainy, weather.

Comment by: Tim on 25th May 2014 at 09:18

Worth commenting that bare-foot running is coming back. Living opposite a large piece of common land, I saw a young guy running stripped to the waist and bare-foot, on a not particularly nice day last week.

Comment by: Josh on 17th May 2014 at 13:03

This was especially true if you had to go barefoot on cross-country outside the school grounds.
There didn't seem to be much bother about being bare-chested wherever it happened.

Comment by: mark on 30th April 2014 at 21:51

i remember boys being more concerned by being bare foot rather than being bare chested

Comment by: Pete on 29th April 2014 at 18:37

I think that most lads would have no problem with having to be stripped to the waist and would probably quite enjoy it.

Comment by: mark on 26th April 2014 at 10:10

I vividly remember my first day at comprehensive school as if it was yesterday. I was terrified of starting at the big school. On our very first day there we had a PE lesson and we obviously didn't have our kit. Boy and girls did PE separately at our new school. There were pupils from quite a few middle schools. We had always done PE in just our underpants but I knew that not all schools were like this.
The gym master was a small man and carried a large plimsoll(slipper)He took us to the changing rooms and said that we would play shirt and skins games.Half the class would do it in just their underpants and the other half would do it in their pants and school shirt. There were gasps from many pupils who had never done PE stripped down to underwear. So we quickly stripped down. The top half of the alphabet did it in just underpants and the other half in pants and shirt. I was a B so it was just in pants. Some boys did not want to go bare foot and ran into the gym in their socks. They were told in no uncertain terms to take them off. One boy was almost in tears as he took them off in front of us all. Another boy was very overweight and had kept his shirt on. The master went through us all one by one asking our names. This boy was a C and was told to take his shirt of. He started to cry and got a whack of the slipper and told to "grow up"
Many boys were extremely uncomfortable at being so exposed.I never quite understood why so many got upset at being bare foot. I imagine they must have gone bare foot at home at some point. Or maybe they always wore carpet slippers.
I remember when we did gym after this that we had to take a communal shower after. None of us liked it. Anyone just running through the shower was made to stand at the entrance naked and then take a cold shower, he also go a good whack on his bare behind.
Looking back i now realise that our gym masters had all been in the war. Consequently they were damaged goods. I had a few friends who told me that family memebers who had been in the war had come back very different people. Most had become very sadistic without realising it.
I have to say that some of our teachers were psychotic and incredibly strict. They simply should never have been allowed near children.

Comment by: Maltamon on 25th April 2014 at 21:22

It is time that we allowed pupils the decency to wear what they want in Physical education classes. We live in a mult-ethnic pluralistic society and we should take into account the needs of muslim, homosexual, transgender and modest school children.

There are too many schools that allow teachers the right to veto the wearing of tracksuits.

Boys PE kit

Red embroidered polo shirt
Black embroidered shorts
Red embroidered socks with two black stripes
Black/Red reversible rugby top
Training shoes (non marking soles)
Black embroidered tracksuit bottoms are OPTIONAL items and can be worn at the teachers discretion.

Tracksuits may be worn over P.E. kit at the discretion of the teacher in cold weather.

For Indoor P.E. they will need:-

BOYS - a pair of shorts, white T-shirt and black pumps.

GIRLS - a leotard or shorts, white T-shirt and black pumps. Muslim girls must remove head scarves for the teaching of P.E.

N.B. Not only is it Kirklees Policy that children do indoor P.E. in bare feet but it is educationally advisable. Muslim girls must also remove head scarves for PE. This is for health and safety reasons. At teachers’ discretion pumps may be kept on.


Performing Arts in Year 9 is taught for one period per week to all pupils in mixed ability groups. School PE kit is required with bare feet.

Despite the passage of the Human Rights Act 1999 and the Equalities Act 2010 there is still open discrimination against boys.

Additional for Movement
Girls: Black leotard
Boys: White shorts
No jewellery is permitted during PE lessons

Too many schools require an intrusive "change of underwear" policy.

A towel and change of underwear must be brought to your P.E. lessons.

(Boxer shorts must not be worn during PE lessons; tighter fitting underpants or an athletic support are necessary.)

A towel for use after taking a shower, and changes of underwear and socks are essential. All games and PE kit should be taken home after use for washing. Pupils should be reminded to bring it to school on the appropriate days and should not, of course, wear their day clothes for PE.

Pupils should not be forced to shower but their are still school colleges and academies that require this.

A towel is required as pupils are expected to shower

There are also academies that force male students to remove underwear and put on swimming trunks under shorts.

PE Kit – Outdoor

Coombe Dean navy and gold rugby shirt
Navy shorts
Swim trunks (under shorts)
Gold long Coombe Dean socks
Black soccer/rugby boots (with safety studs)
Coombe Dean blue fleece
Optional tracksuit bottoms

It is time we protected all school children against cruel inhuman and degrading treatment. Lets prevent what happened to us in the Jimmy Saville era of the 1970's and 1980's from happening to kids today. End state sanctioned child abuse in UK schools.

Comment by: mark on 25th April 2014 at 00:06

I started school in 1967. PE kit at infant and middle school was simple. We didnt have a kit. Boys did it in just their underpants and girls did it in pants and vest. We all changed in the classroom and files down long corridors to the school hall in our underwear. At comp boys and girls did PE separately. Our indoor kit was just a pair of white shorts. We were barefoot and bare chested. Outdoor sports varied. We played football cricket or did cross country. If we forgot our football boots or running shoes then we were made to run around the grass fields bare foot. If we brought the wrong kit then we got PE detention that was done in just shorts. We were never allowed to wear underpants in any PE activity at comp. Showers were mandatory and we had to spend five minutes in the shower as a minimum.
I remember the gym master running the cross country with us and he carried a green flash slipper which he applied liberally to our backsides if he thought we were slacking.

Comment by: Martin on 16th April 2014 at 08:25

Had a really good chuckle at this picture "The team Captain leading the Cross-Country team to victory against St Botolphs" It really is like an illustration from Boys Own Paper! I can almost hear the caption being read by a thin guy with a pipe and moustache and a plumy BBC accent. :-)
Sorry for being flippant, but it really is such a great photo and is so evocative of a long gone era! Wonder if they are all still around, they will be in their mid 70's now I guess?

Comment by: Nigel on 9th April 2014 at 12:15

When I was at secondary school in the 1960's all boys had to do PE stripped to the waist both in the gym and outdoors. This also included cross-country runs.
We were also barefoot in the gym and like Stewart we also had to do cross-country barefoot.
The only time we wore footwear was for football and there some boys also stripped to the waist for that.

Comment by: Stewart on 7th April 2014 at 16:05

I went to an English grammar school in the late 1960s and early 1970s and it was compulsory for both boys and girls to run cross country events barefoot.
In fact all P.E. for both sexes had to be done barefoot, indoors and out. The only time footwear was allowed was for rugby in the winter.

Comment by: Dominic on 16th March 2014 at 11:31

I attended an all boys school in the 1980s and I can't remember anyone ever doing cross-country barefoot. If you forgot your running shoes what usually happened was you were told to join one of the other classes doing PE in the gym, or sometimes swimming instead.
However, it wasn't unusual for boys to do cross-country barechested - sometimes by choice, but more often when we had a House run. There were two Houses at the school and we had inter-House competitions in most sports. About three or four times each term, cross-country would be designated as a House run, with every runner scoring points towards the House total. The easiest way to tell which boys were running for which House was to have teams of vests and skins, so when we got to the changing room the teacher would announce 'House run, House X in vests, House Y in skins'. You never knew beforehand there was a House run or which team you'd be in, it was just decided there and then. Not surprisingly, most boys preferred to run barechested in summer, but of course it was pot luck.

Comment by: Thomas on 14th March 2014 at 14:00

As far as shirtless cross country runs are concerned, it is certainly very rare these days if it happens at all. However, there are plenty of videos on youtube that show young teen boys training for cross country barechested, oftentimes alongside girls who are clad in just sports bras.

When I was on my school's cross county team not that long ago, it was not too different either. When I started out I used to run in a t-shirt and shorts, but as I spent more time training with my team mates some of the girls kept encouraging me to lose the shirt altogether, which I eventually did. I suppose whenever a new boy joined up, they had some sort of competition to see how quickly they could get his shirt off!

The teacher certainly never raised an eyebrow at most of the boys going barechested (or the girls wearing what might have been considered scandalous back in the day). To be fair, we usually trained in pretty hot and humid weather. For actual competitions though, a singlet/vest was the minimum attire.

Comment by: Adrian on 13th March 2014 at 00:55

I've been following the comments here for a little while and finally got round to adding my input. I must say, Oliver, you seem to have been let off lightly, so far anyway. It looks like there are around 20 people here who report running cross country shirtless and around a further 10 who ran shirtless and barefoot. In your first, rather inflammatory comment you effectively called those 30 or so people liars although I'm sure you didn't mean to.
I'm only a few years older than you and no-one I knew seemed to think it at all inappropriate for boys to go off on a cross-country run topless or barefoot.
It might be that, having stayed in the education system and been swept along by changes that result in topless/barefoot running being very unlikely at schools now, you find it less easy to remember the times that those of us who left the education system when we were still young can remember well.
For my part we were expected to go out on cross country runs shirtless as was, I'm sure, quite common at the time. We were told that we could wear our plimsolls or run barefoot. Most of us wore our plimsolls at first but abandoned them before the end of the first term. Our route had no streams but did include a couple of fields which sometimes contained cattle. To get out of the second field and back on the track we had to climb over a gate in the corner of the field. Next to the gate was a cattle trough which always seemed to be overflowing which led to the area around the gate being a quagmire. While negotiating this area with plimsolls it was quite common to pull a foot up leaving the plimsoll in the mud thus requiring a great effort to retrieve said footwear. It soon became clear that the barefoot boys were right and we all ended up running barefoot without any ill effect - happy days indeed.

Comment by: Oliver Kerr on 12th March 2014 at 08:06

Hi Richard. Sorry you feel you have to patronise me, but I am neither young nor ill-informed, I was born in 1956 and attended two secondary schools and later taught in several others in the Manchester area before a career change to the Dept of Education in the 1990's. I received the cane (twice) during my time t school, saw the introduction of computers, calculators, even felt pens. Saw the disappearance of short trousers, showering after Games and mandatory nude swimming! (although this was not a requirement at any school I went to) However I have NEVER seen or heard of anyone doing Cross-country in bare feet, even in pre H&S days there was far too much risk of injury, and no PE teacher I have ever met (and some of them were real bastards!) would send boys off school grounds without shoes or shirts/vests. I know it wasn't 'indecent' for boys to go without shirts (poor choice of phrase on my part) but it was considered 'inappropriate' by all the teachers I knew, fine on the school field, but outside the gates? Never!

Comment by: Phil on 11th March 2014 at 23:57

To Oliver - I'm not sure what the problem is. Quite a few people have commented that they ran cross country shirtless and barefoot many years ago. It was no big deal, except perhaps in the coldest of weather. There were certainly no "public decency" issues with boys exercising shirtless 50 years or so ago and bare feet gave as good a grip as plimsolls which were the only alternative then.
There is a short video on the internet of Ohope Beach School's 2011 cross country event. This is a primary school in New Zealand and most of the children ran in bare feet - the fact that some were wearing shoes makes it look as though they had a choice - the terrain was not all grassy.
We all had varying experiences in our schooldays and the lack of one particular experience in the life of one individual should not be taken as meaning that no-one else had that experience either. I appreciate that, in the interests of equality and political correctness, it seems that boys have become somewhat feminised recently and are discouraged or even forbidden from removing their shirts in situations where once it would have been quite normal and acceptable.

Comment by: Oliver Kerr on 11th March 2014 at 07:14

Reply to comments by Matthew
I know what Mathew is saying, and agree completely with him. I was at school a few years after that and it was exactly the same. At our school we wore t-shirts in the gym but I know that friends at other schools didn't, and indoor football was always shirts V skins, although we always wore shirts or vests for outdoor PE! Nude showering was compulsory, and heaven help anyone who tried to 'skip' it, and while we swam at the local council pool, so like Mathew we all had to wear trunks, but a couple of the boys in my patrol at Scouts went to Manchester Grammar which like many other 'Public' schools, famously had compulsory nude swimming for all the boys! We also did X-country in all but the most severe weather, dressed only in shorts and running vests or t-shirts (AND shoes of course!) with the PE teacher following us on a bike in a full tracksuit!!!
What I am very dubious about is these claims of boys doing X-country completely topless (round the school field perhaps, but certainly not out on the local streets and footpaths) and the frankly pretty unlikely claim of running X-country in bare feet. This is Britain guys, not S.Africa! Professional runners and modern schoolboys manage to run through puddles and mud without their shoes 'quickly disintegrating' and the potential for foot injuries is very high. With the possible exception of a few 'sadistic' PE teachers (and there were some!) I doubt this ever happened!

Comment by: Richard on 10th March 2014 at 23:06

To Oliver - you are obviously young and ill-informed. In the 60s there were no computers in schools or homes; there was corporal punishment and some boys ran cross country barefoot, shirtless or both. Just because it might not happen now does now mean it didn't happen 50 years ago. I'm sure boys were a lot tougher then and it wasn't thought of as indecent for boys to be seen outside without shirts.

Comment by: Matthew on 10th March 2014 at 09:25

To Oliver. In the 1950s and into the early 60s, the school system had total power over us - conscription in post-school life would take the control to even greater levels. I never ran in rain or snow but, in my case, PE (including running) was always done stripped to the waist and wearing plimsolls and there was the compulsory communal shower afterwards. There was no swimming at my school but I had a friend who went to an all-boys school where swimming was done naked throughout his secondary school career (11 - 18)

Comment by: Oliver Kerr on 9th March 2014 at 09:52

Oh come on! Doing cross country running barefoot and topless? I just DO NOT believe that on the grounds of safety and public decency! There is a few too many erotic fantasies going on here!

Comment by: Richard on 6th March 2014 at 23:57

Those lads look positively over-dressed! It was a little later when I was at secondary school but we always ran barefoot and stripped to the waist. These boys may have had to wear a bit more as the photo was going in a local paper, perhaps - what they are wearing is hardly uniform. We used to run through deep mud and streams - any footwear would not have lasted long so bare feet were the only sensible option.

Comment by: Adam on 28th February 2014 at 13:53

Good for you John! It's interesting that you've found some of today's teenagers so accepting of people who prefer to exercise shirtless, even though they don't choose to do so themselves. I can't help thinking they might be more likely to go shirtless if it was something they had experienced at school, as we did in my day (and clearly yours too). The majority of PE lessons at my school involved Shirts v Skins so I had to get used to being shirtless from a young age. I remember the first time I was a Skin and had to strip to the waist it felt a bit strange but, like John, I soon found I actually preferred it. We weren't required to do cross country shirtless but one summer's day another boy in my class asked to take his top off and was given permission to do so. When I saw that I decided to join him, along with a couple of other lads, and I loved the feeling of freedom, of the elements on my bare skin. After that I ran shirtless whenever I could and have continued to do so. I think it's a shame that boys today aren't given the same opportunity because, as far as I know, Shirts v Skins just doesn't happen in schools any more.

Comment by: John Lavender on 27th February 2014 at 10:44

I have been following this thread for a while and note the comments. I'm an older person and have no qualms about running Shirtless, like Dave I used to try and do without a Vest or Tee in Gym/PE class at school and used to prefer being on the 'Skins' Team when it came to "Skins v. Vests" for any team games played in the Gym. I run shirtless when ever possible as well. I'm training for an off-road event including obstacles at the end of March (which I intend to do shirtless in view of the extreme wetness/mudiness-likleyhood of the event); last week I was doing a Shirtless run and Obstacle Practice at a local Outdoor-centre, I had finished-up and was going to get showered-off when I got talking to one of the Centre Staff. They had no objection to me running shirtless personally and that the *kids* present at the centre probably would not mind but that any *parents* picking up their kids Might, so they asked me to stick a shirt on for my walk-back to the Changing rooms, which I did.
)I think it might have been half-term for some of the local schools).
What does this say about the Parents, as opposed to the Children?
I did a shirtless Run yesterday at the same place yesterday, involving more muddy off-road sections and Obstacles Practice, I cam across a group of about 6 or 7 16-18 year olds practicing Bouldering/Climbing on a large Boulder edifice. I stopped with them for about 5 minutes and we had a general chat about what they were doing; they were cool about my Shirtless-ness although of course they were dressed for THEIR activity including the customary 'Slogan' Tees and hats.
I explained that I was 'old-school' and that running shirtless as such wasn't really a big deal for me and I got the impression that they did not mind at all. The day's weather was cool - around 7c and breezy with occasional Rain squalls interspersed with brighter intervals. I had around 50minutes out on the trails at the Centre and the Obstacle Course and felt fine afterwards, no ill-effects.

Comment by: Martin on 25th February 2014 at 15:22

re: Andrea's reply,
We were the same for swimming, as I stated we had to wear normal swimwear for 'official' swimming lessons, gala's, competitions etc. The school swimming lessons when we all went in the pool completely naked were additional, and were held on weekday lunch-hours, Wednesday being mixed boys and girls, and Saturday mornings being mixed and open to everyone, swimwear was optional and most of us went nude!
With regard to changing for PE, we had to use the classrooms for things like sportsday, (because of the numbers involved) but for normal PE and country dancing lessons we had a changing room, and of course at our school boys and girls did these lessons together, all of us had to strip-off, we were only allowed to wear a pair of shorts with no underwear, shoes or tops, and the no-tops rule applied to the girls as well! I didn't like PE or country dancing as I wasn't any good at them, but at the end of the lessons Miss Newman (who took us for PE) always told us all to take our shorts off and go in the showers with nothing-on. Somehow I doubt if a female teacher would be allowed to supervise a crowd of naked 11 year old's in the showers THESE days! I confess that I might not have liked games or PE, but I DID love going in the showers, I could have stayed there for hours!

Comment by: Phil on 23rd February 2014 at 23:30

Martin - I think you must have been at school later then me. I was at a boys grammar school in the 60s and we did "proper" cross country runs - along a rough track, out on to a road and on to a large area of open countryside where we ran on paths, across grassy sections, through a muddy stream and around the edge of a ploughed field. We did this all barefoot and shirtless throughout the year but mostly in the winter. There was probably less broken glass around then but plenty of sharp stones etc but no-one ever came to any harm. I don't think I could do it now but youngsters feet are tougher than adults or they were then. From seeing visiting schools cross country teams it seems as though it was not uncommon - some teams wore plimsolls, some ran barefoot.
I never knew what a jock strap was - I heard of the boxes that cricketers wore but otherwise nothing was allowed under shorts for any p.e. or games and certainly no shoes or shirts!

Comment by: Andrea Smih on 16th February 2014 at 16:11

This is a repeat of a post I made under the Burnley Grammar School thread, but relevant as it's about primary school pe.

There was no nude swimming when I was at primary school in the 1960s. The boys wore swimming trunks and we wore one piece bathing costumes.

For pe. I generally wore a pe skirt or shorts and a T shirt. As there were no changing rooms we had to change in our classroom along with the boys, so by the final year I got quite adept at putting on my pe kit before removing my school skirt! I was still flat chested when I left primary school so changing into the T shirt wasn't an issue (I generally wore a vest anyway), but a few of my more 'developed' classmates were allowed to go to the toilets to change.