Burnley Grammar School
Item #: 1607
Source: Lancashire Life Magazine, December 1959
As I've said previously, I was mandated to run a lot of three or four mile long cross country's barechested in my school. The trouble is that the course partly took us out of school and into some quite public nearby areas before returning back into the rear of the school's large playing fields to the finish most of the time. It's one thing to make it mandatory for boys in PE to not wear anything on top inside the school building or grounds but is it really acceptable to tell boys doing a PE class that involves leaving school grounds that they must do it barechested? It felt really unfair that me and the boys with me in my PE class were made to do so. Not one of our teachers running with us was ever prepared to do what they expected us to do like that.
Paul B, if the criteria for boys to wear long trousers was judged by the boy's height then it was possible that much older boys could be wearing shorts when their taller, younger contemporaries would be promoted to wearing long trousers at an earlier age.
I do not now if it has relation to the topic, but for me shorts for pe was okay because like some other lads at secondary school because we were short in height our parents kept us in shorts. I did not get my first pair of long trousers until I was 13., an until I went to secondary school and started swimming lessons up until then my swimming trunks were the horrible knitted wooly type. Very baggy!
Apologies to you Alan,it was from myself,James.
At the school that I attended it was not obligatory to wear shorts for our sporting activities and we were allowed to track suits if the weather was unsuitable,but I never wore one as I was still wearing short trousers at the secondary school that I attended.
Thank you for making your position clear. I have no problem with lads being given the choice to wear a vest or a t shirt for indoor PE. There should always be a choice. Many lads may choose not to wear a vest or t shirt for indoor PE and shouldn’t be forced to wear one.
John: "Has it not occurred to you that some lads may prefer to do indoor PE shirtless, why should they have to be made to wear a vest or a t shirt simply to satisfy people with your point of view?. "
Clearly you only read the bits you want to read. I have made it clear that I am OK with lads who wish to exercise in that manner doing so, provided that those lads who are uncomfortable with it are not forced into that situation. In other words, those who wish to can, and those who don't wish to can wear a tee shirt (which "William" and perhaps you, find "excessive".
Nothing more, nothing less, so what is so hard or unaccptabl to understand about that?
You seem to be 100% certain that your point of view is right and are adopting the moral high ground. Has it not occurred to you that some lads may prefer to do indoor PE shirtless, why should they have to be made to wear a vest or a t shirt simply to satisfy people with your point of view?. You keep asserting that many people on this forum are keen on what lads should wear in PE today, you are equally keen in asserting what they should wear. I personally did not find exercising shirtless in the gym at school in any way weird and still do not consider that I was abused. People are commenting on their experiences of PE just as you have done. Some of us had positive experiences and for others their experience was different. You do not wish to hear any point of view that disagrees with yours.
William, Please spare us. In a reply ABOUT me, not to me, on 21/12/20 you wrote:
"Alan advocates a level of male modesty that many would think excessive."
What is "excessive" about suggesting boys should be allowed to wear tee shirts, or even vests, especially in a co-ed situation?
You seem to be the one advocating "minimal" clothing and citing examples of countries where such practices occur, including nude swimming.
It just seems frankly macabre to me a grown man should be so concerned about the topic of minimal kit, when he is not forced to undergo humiliations himself - the boys we are talking about were forced into it. I am sure many people find that unacceptable, especially in the context of co-ed schools where both sexes have to share facilities at the same time.
Sorry if that offends but best to say what we mean.
Alan, Over the years this has been a conversation, not a debate that has to be won, and there is no point your mocking or taking a swipe at contributors who presume to say something that is at odds with your own strongly held views. I am advocating nothing - just offering some background to nude swimming at boys' schools, as Paul B requested.
I'm sorry William, but your views to me are extremely naive. At one time we painted ourselves with woad and lived naked in the woods. That is no reason to do it today. We live in a modern era with modern ideas. Today, in Britain, with cheap easily available clothing, public nudity is considered immodest and indecent. It's OK for boys to swim nude, you seem to be saying, because they see each other in the showers. Well, this applies to footballers. Should they be running round the football field stark naked because of that?
You seem, if you will allow me to say so, from views you have previously expressed, to be an advocate for nudity. Well, good for you, I hope you could find a naturist club where you can let it all hang out, so to speak, but most of us would feel uncomfortable in such a situation and won't be joining you there. You have the right to join, we have the right to say no thank you. The problem with school swimming in the nude was that there was an air of compulsion about it that is highly distasteful. Luckily, given public awareness of the peccadilloes some "professionals" get up to, it is unlikely that this questionable activity will ever return to British schools.
Paul B, I think people were swimming for centuries before swimming costumes became practicable. It is well documented that in the 19th century men and boys in Britain swam nude. Eton boys swam in the Thames. As materials were developed that made costumes possible the practice died out except for male institutions, including boy's schools with their own facilities. Why bother with trunks when the boys were used to seeing each other with nothing on in showers etc? That was the logic. Nude swimming lives on in northern Europe with single sex sessions in some public pools.
Alan, I agree there seems to have been no logic for it, and I assume that it does not happen now. I do not know if schools still provide swimming lessons as part of the curriculum.
Alan, I agree as I say there seems to be no logic for it.
Paul B: I think this sinister nude swimming routine was started in the 19th century, and shamefully continued well into the 20th century with the excuse of "tradition" but the intent of providing sexual thrills for dirty-minded masters. It should have been discontinued (if allowed to start, which it shouldn't have been) at the dawn of the 20th century
Like many of the contributors to this site, I attended an all boys school.(1961 to 1966) and pe was topless wearing shorts and no underpants. For games outdoors it was football no specific uniform football shirt shorts and again no pants. We had weekly swimming lessons at the local municipal pool and exclusive to our school.. Trunks we were worn the only design at that time were the briefs style. What I do not understand is that where people have said they were at an all boys school and it had it's own pool , it often seems that the boys would not wear swimwear. Was there a logical reason for this, because pe would not be conducted without shorts.
when shorts were worn for pe,
Jono G: Isn't it nice to know so many of us were put to embarrassment and discomfort just to satisfy prurient schoolgirls?. I think this argument, if argument it is, is yet another demonstration of the failure of co-ed education. School as youth club
Robin, My school was mixed and the PE teachers had us exercising bare chested indoors and frequently outdoors too. It was school policy all boys entered the gym wearing vests then be told to drop them and go bare chested. With the large reinforced windows that ran the length of the gym it was easy to see boys stripped to the waist, exercising and showing sweat and that's what girls saw daily simply by looking through the windows. There was ribbing from the girls but it wasn't nasty but did bring comments about how we looked and performed bare chested and comparisons with boys from other classes they'd seen stripped off too.
Leeds Lad: Yes, sometimes I| was, and I wasn't trying to downplay the effect it could have - I just meant with the teacher we had and his moods and whims, it came it bit lower in my list of worries..
Robin: I agree with a lot of what you say, however, your remarks about how much it pleased co-ed boys to be the focus of the girls attention (other posters have made the same point), I don't think what is visually appealing to girls or boys ought to be at any level of what makes for good teaching.
I think single sex education is better, especially when you have the boys treated more toughly and the girls more leniently under the same roof.
I am sure if it had been the case that the boys wanted to look at girls in bikinis (the nearest equivalent I can think of) that girls would have been encouraged to parade around in that manner, in fact I am sure it would have been bought to a swift end. It makes it seem like boys who liked to be admired, girls who enjoyed voyeurism and teachers with fetishes were conspiring together. Bad luck for the more shy boys who didn't want attention
Well Alan, I can only assume you were never the one left till last. Lucky you! ;)
Leeds Lad: I am not trying to play it down, but compared to the other indignities we had to go through that one never bothered me. As regards the teachers, they had in general so little interest in the psychological wellbeing of their pupils, I doubt it even crossed their minds
Hello all, I've read the sentiments of some of the people posting below and I agree students being made to strip down for games/PE should not be a thing in this day and age (and it largely isn't as far as I'm aware).Certainly I don't doubt that it was commonplace in decades past, or that it might have benefited students to experience it but times change and attitudes shift. We have of course become much more aware and cautious of adults in positions of authority ie. teachers having unsavoury intentions towards students.
For myself, I did experience a fair amount of shirtless PE in my time but mostly on a voluntary basis. With the exception of forgetting our PE kit, we could choose to go shirtless for some PE activities if we wanted such as indoor gym sessions or cross country runs or any other activity the teacher deemed appropriate. In truth, our PE lessons were not as intense as some of those described here but we were encouraged and pushed hard based on our individual ability. Like most of the boys in my class, I was initially reluctant to take my shirt off, especially in front of our female classmates but a few did strip willingly and were bare chested virtually for every lesson. I recall being impressed by their physiques and also noting the increased attention they got from the girls. Eventually, having built up my fitness to a point, I did overcome my nerves and for the first time went shirtless for a cross country run and it turned out to be not nearly as bad as expected. In fact I earned a number positive comments on my body from some of the girls,including my best friend. From then on I tended to strip down more frequently as I found out having my bare chest on display to the girls was a very good motivator for staying in shape and laying off the junk food!
That being said, while I personally had a more positive experience being shirtless as did many other posters here, I can't discount the fact that no doubt a great many others did not and dreaded having to strip down for such lessons. And surely any positive benefit is outweighed by the potential harm students might suffer from such practices. In any case, PE/Gym is only one part of a students education. Children, especially teens already have a lot on their plate in today's world between the rest of their studies, hormones, social media etc. They shouldn't also have to worry about their bodies being on display to their peers.
A lot of people seem to have strong feelings on what they were and weren't allowed to wear in PE / Games lessons, and what showering arrangements were in place. Far more upsetting for me was the humiliation caused by letting pupils "pick" each other for teams. PE teachers should have realised that, and picked the sides themselves, in my opinion.
In my case it was most certainly abusive. None of my classmates wanted to be shirtless outdoors in snow and subzero temperatures while the gym was empty.
The fact the other PE teacher was a rational human being and didn't subject us to the same treatment left us in little doubt even then that it was abuse.
This was our standard PE kit at school for anything that was not rugby or swimming. Rugby was boots, socks, shorts and jersey - no underpants of course and in an all boys school with its own pool, swimming was naked. A towel was required for all sports sessions and a (communal) shower compulsory at the end of the lesson. The shower was luke warm at best and more often icy cold.
I loved sport, I still keep fit - if only my gym was open!
John wrote: "Just because a few lads disliked exercising without a shirt or vest doesn’t make how we were made to do XC wrong or in any way a form of abuse."
As we are writing in January with snow on the ground in a lot of places in the British Isles, I think many reasonable people WOULD consider it abuse. It is 2021, not 1921.
Dan P - sorry, I don't follow the logic of what you said about cross-country competitions. Why did the teachers from the opposing school make their boys strip to the waist when they saw your team? Wouldn't it be more logical for them to keep their tops on so it'd be easier to tell who was running for which team (similar to what Robert related)?
At my school (early 90s) we did indoor sports with one team topless but not outdoors as a rule, I'm glad to say!
I take it that you didn’t have a problem with being made to do XC shirtless. Just because a few lads disliked exercising without a shirt or vest doesn’t make how we were made to do XC wrong or in any way a form of abuse.
Robert, Being above average at xc I always made the school team. For competitions we also ran topless which really attracted attention from spectators, in addition there were many occasions when our opponents PE teachers saw us all topless before the start and reluctantly told their pupils to remove their t-shirts/vests simply to even things up.
Alan, I believe he implemented changes when promoted to Head of PE. A young teacher who had much success with the previously dismal school football team.
This obviously helped him achieve free reign
Dave, normal kit less the T-shirt. Same on sports day with a few in T-shirts to distinguish them as a team. Sports day was in summer so it wasn't a big deal.
The XC shirtless in December is something I'll never forget