Hesketh Fletcher Gym Team

Childhood > Schools


Hesketh Fletcher Gym Team
Hesketh Fletcher Gym Team
Year: 1935
Views: 218,947
Item #: 1741
Hesketh Fletcher Gym Team of Atherton, Greater Manchester.
Source: G. Smith.

Comment by: Tom on 24th March 2013 at 07:39

In the sixties there were many times when boys used to take off their vests and do PE stripped to the waist whatever the conditions.

Comment by: John Lavender on 22nd March 2013 at 18:23

Here at this URL is a Video from across the Pond ; American boys doing Gym outdoors. This is another RT from the Burnley Grammar School Photo Thread, enjoy.
Any comments, either post on that page :


or email me direct.

Comment by: Mark on 19th March 2013 at 07:26

As has been said it was normal practice for young youths to be stripped to the waist and nothing was thought of it.
It certainly toughened them up and instilled a sense of discipline which is lacking today

Comment by: John Lavender on 18th March 2013 at 11:06

Have a look at this Film; from around time 05'15" the film cuts to the Boys doing a Gym Display. They are all extremely Fit and well-drilled and correographed and of course, are stripped to the waist..
(RT from a post on Burnley Grammar School Picture page on this website):


Comment by: Nigel on 15th March 2013 at 16:18

I also agree that being stripped to the waist enabled you to sweat freely and for that reason I always went bare-chested in the gym and outdoors.

Comment by: James T on 16th February 2013 at 18:35

I agree. Our teachers always maintained that by being bare top for PE and Games we could and did sweat freely during lessons. We were split into 2 teams, vests and skins. By the end of an indoor session it was common to see vests sticking to boys backs at the end of an indoor session.

Comment by: Pete on 13th February 2013 at 13:27

I agree with Philip that doing PE stripped to the waist was normal in the sixties.
I think most lads quite enjoyed being bare-chested even outdoors when it was quite cold.

Comment by: Philip on 13th February 2013 at 00:03

Like so many others PE barefoot and shirtless was the norm for me at school in the 60s including cross-country, even in the winter. It was just normal, nobody complained - on the contrary, I think most of us enjoyed it and we were made to work quite hard so it didn't matter if it was cold. Schools are not doing boys any favours these days by letting them (or making them) wear shirts, shoes etc and I'm sure it isn't healthy or practical.

Comment by: John Lavender on 8th February 2013 at 20:13

Looking at this Photo is very enlightening; these lads are superbly Fit; there does not appear to be an ounce of surplus fat on any of them, and also superbly Drilled i.e. Coreographed . It is also understood that these lads would have been just lads from working and middle-class families and were obviously having their wellbeing taken very seriously by their Instructor and taking it very seriously themselves.. Great Photo.

Comment by: Adam on 23rd January 2013 at 13:45

At my school in the 1960's the official uniform for PE and cross-country was shorts only.
As we started cross-country in September by the time the weather got really cold we were used to being stripped to the waist and barefoot.
Again in the Summer Term we did athletics bare chested and barefoot.By that time there were of course a lt of hairy chests on display among the sixth form lads.

Comment by: Kevin on 17th January 2013 at 16:03

Hi Lars,
You should have come to my school in the UK then! Every boy had to do PE in white shorts and bare chest and that was the same until I left school at 18.

Comment by: Lars on 15th January 2013 at 16:52

I am Lars, 19 from Germany. Yes I like this nice picture. All these good looking boys, stripped to the waist, just in gym shorts....
since I am bisexual, I like the straight athlitic bodys.
People told, that the did cross county running during PE even in winter with snow and just in shorts!
I like that, and run also wtripped to the waist in winter across our near forrest.


Comment by: John Lavender on 15th January 2013 at 16:17

Good Photo. The only way to do Gym really.
We did Gym in White tees and white shorts but several of the Boys used to strip off their Tops at any opportunity and do the Class Stripped to the Waist. (Independent Grammar School, N-E England, early to mid 1960s).

Comment by: Chris on 9th January 2013 at 13:04

It was the same with me - the girls could see us in the gym and outside too. All down that corridor was re-inforced glass doors as the gym was also used for assembly and other things, there was also a stage and adjacent a large storeroom too. Strangely our teacher insisted on vests being worn going into the gym and then made each lad strip down, leaving a line of vests along the front of the stage. In the second year, the girls came up with a plan to get a better view so when they were outside they'd "forget" something they needed for their PE lesson so 2-3 girls would be picked to come into the gym to get it. They timed it so they'd come in just as we started to strip down. However for outdoor sessions we were all stripped to the waist before going out onto the yard or field.

Comment by: Barrie on 2nd January 2013 at 15:14

Dave:- This was in the 1960's.
Some lads didn't like having to go bare-chested while others didn't mind.Of course we didn't have any choice as we had to go stripped to the waist in any event.
We didn't have mixed PE but the girls could see us in the gym.
Also we often took our shirts off outside at breaks when the weather was warm enough.

Comment by: Dave on 2nd January 2013 at 09:20

When was it? What was the reaction of boys having to go shirtless for PE. Was it the same outside or only in the gym?

Did you have to go barechested in mixed PE lessons? You've written that girls admired your physics.

Comment by: Barrie on 31st December 2012 at 16:07

Like Dawson my Dad kept me and my three brothers shirtless for nearly all the time.
As soon as we got home from school we had to strip to the waist and were kept bare-chested for the rest of the day.
We were all well built muscular lads with hairy chests and No.1 haircuts.
It goes without saying that we all did PE stripped to the waist(and bare-foot) and because of our muscular phyiques we were admired by the girls and other lads who were less muscular were jealous of us.

Comment by: Paul on 21st December 2012 at 07:26

I was always stripped to the waist for swimming so there was no problem for me in having to do PE while stripped to the waist.

Comment by: Dawson on 6th December 2012 at 18:05

Adam said “most dads would expect their sons to go bare-chested as a matter of course.”
This was also my experience. During the early 1990's my former HS track Coach encouraged us to go shirtless during practice. We trained and even competed shirtless, weather permitting. He maintained that having a shirt sticking to your back was unhealthy and clogged pores. His own son was always shirtless, no matter how cold it was.
My Uncle kept my teenage cousins shirtless most of the time. He was ex military and insisted on buzz style haircuts and a daily exercise regime. I recall a camping trip when they arrived without any shirts. Despite the cold nights they would remain shirtless and when offered the loan of shirts they refused. They had muscular physiques and encouraged me to work-out more, however that didn't last.
My Coaches son also had a great physique. It makes sense that being shirtless would lead boys to care more for their bodies.

Comment by: Connor on 26th November 2012 at 21:15

Yes Dave, my school was in the south of England and the reason was pretty much what you've said - the idea that making boys strip to the waist encourages them to keep their bodies in good shape. The change came about when I was 14 and a new head of PE decided that fitness standards among the boys needed improving. He sent out a letter to our parents explaining the changes that were being made and that included the new kit - basically our old kit minus the vest! And Adam's right about the attitude of dads, mine said going bare-chested would do me good as that was how they did PE in his day. I think it was mums rather than dads who complained. But the policy came into effect and I think it was successful, personally I definitely made more effort and got fitter. Also it was a great confidence boost when I realised girls were eyeing me up in the gym!

Comment by: Adam on 26th November 2012 at 16:03

In my school boys always had to be stripped to the waist for PE.It would have been no use getting your parents to protest and most dads would expect their sons to go bare-chested as a matter of course.

Comment by: Dave on 26th November 2012 at 00:45

I think boys take care more of their bodies if they aren't allowed to wear shirts for PE.Shirts are very useless. They're unsafe for some exercises especially for gym exercises.

Connor was it in the UK? What was the reason given of the minimal PE kit?

Comment by: Connor on 25th November 2012 at 12:57

Most of us felt very uneasy when we first learned we'd be doing PE with our vests off in front of the girls. There were several protests and a few boys got their parents to contact the school and argue against it. But the school wouldn't budge and made it clear that vests were no longer part of the permitted indoor PE kit for boys. So while the majority of us hated having to go barechested, I think before long a kind of macho pride took over and we wanted to look good in front of the girls.

Comment by: Paul on 17th November 2012 at 07:37

Kikoi,Maybe some do but when I was at school if the teachers made you go shirtless then you had to go stripped to the waist whatever you felt about it

Comment by: Kikoi on 13th November 2012 at 18:17

Don't some boys get embarrassed if made to be shirtless in front of girls.

Comment by: Neil on 23rd October 2012 at 07:32

When I started at secondary school I soon discovered that our PE uniform was shorts and plimsolls only.
Boys from another primary school to mine were apparently used to this as they were stripped to the waist for PE at that school.
When we changed for our first lesson these boys stripped to the waist at once whereas we were a bit slow to bare our chestsbut we had to do it.
We soon got used to it in the gym but when we had to do cross-country runs in the surrounding streets while stripped to the waist it was a different matter.
Even then we got used to it and after the initial shock I for one eventually rather enjoyed the freedom of being stripped to the waist.

Comment by: Simon on 14th October 2012 at 11:47

It was a similar story at my school if you forgot your PE kit - underpants only or shorts if there was a spare pair available. Sometimes boys would accidentally bring their swimming kit for a PE lesson and end up doing the class in trunks instead. Obviously getting it mixed up the other way round wasn't a problem, then you just wore your PE shorts for swimming.
However, if you forgot your kit for an outdoor lesson, you weren't made to do it shirtless and barefoot - instead you had to join whichever class was doing PE in the gym at that time. That happened to me once when I was nearly 16 and had to do PE shirtless and barefoot with a class of much younger boys. I was at least able to borrow a pair of shorts but it was still a humiliating experience.
As at Stuart's school, we had PE detentions - usually a fairly intense workout in the gym and for that you had to wear shorts only.

Comment by: Stuart on 13th October 2012 at 13:17

No one seems to have mentioned what happened if you forgot PE or games kit.

At my grammar school (early 70’s) for indoor PE if you didn’t have kit you had to strip to just underpants, which for nearly everyone was white y-fronts, although one or two boys had progressed to coloured versions.

With cross country you were given a spare pair of shorts, and made to run the normal course, shirtless and bare foot. With other games like rugby, again you wore just borrowed shorts, and ran laps of the field. Both of these punishments took place irrespective of the weather.

Anyone who repeatedly forgot kit would have been back in the gym for a detention session, which involved a workout/run, again in just shorts.

How does this compare to other schools?

Comment by: Mark on 12th October 2012 at 13:13

Like Toby I used to wear a chain around my neck in my case with a cross.I never took it off and can remember doing cross-country runs stripped to the waist with the cross dangling over my bare chest.

Comment by: Toby on 28th September 2012 at 08:57

I got on the wrong side of one PE teacher immediately for failing to take off the medallion I used to wear on a chain around my neck. He was really strict about kit regulations and warned me I'd be in serious trouble if he saw it again in his class. We had two PE teachers, the other one was more easy going and I continued to wear the medallion for his lessons but unfortunately the strict teacher was covering for him one day and all hell broke loose.
I had to take off the medallion, which he confiscated, and then announced that if I couldn't follow the kit rules he'd make them easier for me. Which meant I had to take off my vest, socks and shoes there and then and do the class in just shorts, barefoot and barechested. From then on that was my kit for the gym and for cross country I was allowed running shoes but still no top. It was humiliating as every other boy got to wear full kit while I was made to do each PE lesson stripped to the waist for the rest of the year.
Not surprisingly I had to put up with some pretty sarcastic comments from the other boys and those, along with cross country on a chilly morning, made PE a miserable experience. Even the other teacher's lessons brought no relief as the stricter one was head of PE and ensured that my punishment was always enforced. Even in the summer term when we did athletics on the track, I was the only boy who had to run barechested.
Eventually I got the medallion back but I never dared to wear it for PE again.