Clitheroe Royal Grammar School
Item #: 1602
Source: Lancashire Life Magazine, November 1959
I’m glad that you enjoyed barechested indoor PE and being worked hard, sorry to hear that you didn’t like exercising shirtless outdoors in winter. It was always great doing athletics and other sports shirtless in summer though. I found that I stayed warmer in winter doing cross country in the rain barechested than I would have done wearing a rain soaked top.
Lads need discipline and the shirtless PE rule definitely helped to keep us under control.
Andy / Bernard getting any foot injury never once crossed my mind when outside doing the xc barefoot the worst thing that happened was we all had muddy feet at the end of the run but this was easily fixed in the showers and so much better than carrying around muddy wet plimsols all day long.
Hi Toby S, during normal PE we did a lot of running and general fitness stuff - also things like small sided football and basketball in the gym. Outdoors we did cross country, Games lessons were separate. To answer your other question - I didn't mind going barechested in the gym after the initial shock had worn off. Outdoors though - judging by other posts there won't be many who agree! - I preferred to keep my vest on. Not that I was given the option, of course!
Hi Sam, I can see why you were surprised. What kind of activities did you do during your lessons and did you prefer doing PE barechests or with a vest on?
Andy - I'm glad you didn't mind bare feet for cross country - I don't think many boys did. Some think there would be a risk of injury but was never aware of any damaged feet and it was so much easier to clean muddy feet than muddy plimsolls.
Hi Toby S, I agree with your comment about how being barechested for PE helped to create better discipline. I remember noticing (and feeling) the contrast among my class when this happened under a PE teacher rather like the ones you described. Until then we'd done our PE lessons in a vest, shorts and plimsolls/trainers and it was all fairly easy going, a lot of boys just messing around and no one really seemed to mind if you weren't putting in much effort. It all changed at the start of my third year (when I was 13) when the new guy arrived and immediately made us all take our vests off and line up in the gym while he outlined the standards he demanded of us.
I just remember feeling shell shocked at first and part of that came from the feeling of being more exposed, I think. Most of us were taken aback when he made it clear our PE kit from then on would be shorts and footwear only unless he said otherwise. But there's no doubt we were better behaved and worked harder in PE with him in charge and I think being made to do lessons barechested was a key part of that.
This was 1980s by the way, so maybe more recent than most other contributors.
Hi Josh H, I know what you mean, our PE teachers were ex army, demanding but fair, if you put the effort in which we did. Personally I felt that stripping to the waist for PE/Games at school helped instil discipline. I went to a mixed school and it was inevitable girls would see us exercise barechested which was a very regular occurrence. Laps of the field, cross country and outdoor fitness sessions were always done stripped to the waist regardless of the conditions. It may sound harsh but it would quickly take the edge off them.
Toby S - back in the 1950s amd 60s, many kids didn't "choose" to wear a vest, they wore one when Mum told them to, which was generally always, except when the weather was abnormally hot! My own Mum and Dad were regular vest wearers throughout their lives, and Mum, in particular was keen to ensure that I followed their example, although from when I was 10 or 11, leaving my vest off for a month or two at the height of summer became acceptable, as did sleeping topless. As I've already said, the introduction of topless PE was the trigger to discarding vests permanently, despite Mum's concerns. When I moved on to a boarding school at 15, I found myself an object of mild curiosity, being the only boy in my dormitory who never wore a vest, even in winter.
Hi Chris G, I found it rather odd that boys chose to wear a vest, it was just something extra to take off and hang on the peg and seemed rather pointless. By the time most boys turned 13 most had discarded their vests altogether. I started sleeping topless in March just a few days after my birthday. It was cold to start with but was okay and my first winter sleeping topless was cold but then so were PE/Games both in the gym which was kept cold by the PE teachers and outside so I was used to that. It didn't bother my elder sister she saw it as a natural extension what with PE/Games lessons and my parents enthusiasm for me to strip off as much as possible, an example being shovelling coal into the coal house was always done barechested.
In reply Toby S, I attended an all boys school 1961 to 1966.The P.E. teacher was strict and no one questioned shorts no pants and no top. The old fashioned plimsolls and no socks. That was it. It seems that only an more recent years that the softer options have become the nornm. I know everyone says it but it does seem that the teachers look so young. In my era they were all male and most of them had not long finished national service or served in World War 2. So there was no messing. But respect.
Toby S, how did you feel about not wearing a vest and sleeping topless? Although I spent a few summers without vests it was not until topless PE was introduced at school when I was about 13 that I stopped wearing them altogether, and I had to work hard at persuading Mum that I wasn't going to die of hypothermia as a result. In contrast, it was Mum who actually suggested that I might like to leave my PJ top off in hot weather when I was about 11, and by 13 I was sleeping topless all year round
Josh H, You have a valid point. My parents were all for me being barechested as much as possible. Neither approved of wearing a vest so I didn't and was told by my dad I was to stop wearing a top for bed. It was normal to be stripped to the waist for all PE/Games which, I think helped boys find their own identity. I don't know if you attended a mixed school like me but we got used to girls watching us exercise indoors and outside stripped to the waist from the age of 9 to 18. I doubt it gets more masculine than that.
At first I found having just shorts on for xc very strange, but, of course, we did as told or got punished.
I got used to it, and in summer it was fine. On a freezing winters day, running stripped to the waist was not good, but the whole class had to do the same, in fact the whole school had to in their xc lessons. Bare feet I didn’t mind, once I got used to it
When I told my parents, my mum thought I should be allowed to wear a top, while my dad thought it would do me good. In fact I was lucky not to be caned for being so soft, and in his day boys got caned properly not on shorts.
My old school did use the cane, but not anything like as much as the new one. Couple of weeks in, 2 classmates got caned. In pe I saw the results, 4 vivid red/purple welts across their backsides, and saw that it hurt them to pull their shorts on. Soon I was to find out what it felt like for real, and on pe shorts, not trousers, as 4 of us got caught smoking during xc and had to do a punishment gym session and run after school. At the end of this we all got 6 strokes of the cane, so I had 6 welts not 4 !
We always did cross country stripped to the waist. It was great after being in a stuffy classroom to have rain or the cold air against your bare chest/back. We always had plimmies on though.
Andy how did that first shirtless and barefoot run feel? Did you enjoy it or learn to like running that way? I always found running barefoot and shirtless quite refreshing and invigorating even in the rain as long as you kept moving that is. Plus I wasn't bogged down with a heavy wet shirt or plimsols
I know that I am moving away from the idea of the original postings re P.E. and I apologise but I would like to make the following observations.
Tom B: I agree with your latest posting and I think what is missing form some of these young lives is a father figure, or male role model.
Bernard: I also agree with your comments. Let boys be boys. There is too much of the softly softly approach today.
I changed schools at 13.
The old one had full pe kit indoors, and pe shorts, rugby shirt, socks and trainers for cross country. Cross country didn’t take place in very bad weather.
Indoor pe in my new school was just shorts, which was strange but ok, then a couple of days later we had cross country. It was cold and pouring with rain, and while I brought kit I expected it to be cancelled. My classmates soon put mr right, and we all turned up at the gym to change. Soon I realised other boys were ready, but were stripped to the waist and had nothing on their feet. One of my new mates said take your rugby shirt off, we just run in shorts, that’s all. I looked around and realised it was bare feet as well. Hurry up my mate said waiting for me, or we’ll both get caned. I rapidly stripped the top and plimsolls off, and went outside, rain pouring down my bare back
Tom - I think you have a very good point. This also shows the extent of the damage done by the so-called feminists. We really need to get back to letting boys be boys.
I do wonder if the kind of hardened masculinity developed by such activity is something missing from the lives of boys who turn to gangs, violence and criminality.
John, agreed running shirtless was great and running cross country in winter shirtless and barefoot even when there was snow on the ground was simply refreshing and invigorating as long as you kept moving that is.
Yes Ross, I did cross country barefoot and shirtless and thoroughly enjoyed it most of the time.
I'm sure it was good for the development of various muscles and if any-one had been injured the school would have stopped the barefoot part.
I wouldn’t have minded running barefoot around playing fields but on country paths there were often a lot of large stones. Perhaps if I’d been made to run barefoot I might have enjoyed it, I could just be making assumptions. Doing cross country shirtless was more enjoyable than having to run wearing a shirt or vest.
John, I don't recall myself or any other lad ever having any foot related injuries from running around barefoot for the cross country. Id probably say we actually benefited from running barefoot as this helped develop foot strength, ankle support and good for the legs.
Bernard, did you do PE and cross country barefoot and shirtless?
Hi Andrew H, you had great parents, I wish that mine hadn’t made me wear a vest underneath my school shirt. My mum thought that it would stop me getting childhood coughs and chest infections; I got those from inhaling my dad’s cigarette smoke. Bare chested PE was a great policy, most lads prefer to do PE shirtless when they get the opportunity to experience it. I’m so glad that I was able to benefit from it and it’s wrong that lads don’t get the chance in the present day.
Hi John, I started middle school 2 months after my 9th birthday. My parents never bothered with vests so I never wore one. The High School I attended also had a bare chested policy and with no exceptions all lads stripped to the waist. It kind of surprised some lads who'd wore vests throughout middle school but they soon got used to showing their barechests too.
I agree with Ross - barefoot and stripped to the waist is the best way for boys to do all p.e. - in the gym; on the playing fields and for cross country. It is the simplest and healthiest kit for any exercise.
I fear poor old Mr Dando has a very unhealthy obsession about covering up. Perhaps some strange, unfortunate experience left him mentally scarred for life while most people who had the benefit of a limited p.e. kit enjoyed the freedom it gave them.
As I have recorded previously I attended an all boys secondary school from 1961 to 1966. We never queried the fact that pe was done shirtless and we never queried the no pants rule. For outside games(which was a different lesson not to be confused with pe) we did wear a top for which there was no particular uniform. If hot then we would remove our top. But the no pants rule still applied.
I have seen the various comments for and against wearing a top during pe, and I think it is better without a top because if you are using the wall bars or climbing up ropes or participating in other exercises, you can see the definition that you are getting.
I am sorry to say that in my son's secondary school pe is now just relegated games ie football , tennis etc depending on season. No real "exercise". That is reserved only for the students who have selected to follow pe or gymnastics etc as a GCSE course.
I think "real" pe with exercises should be introduced to all ages at school bearing in mind the sedentary lifestyle of many young people these days.
So I take it that your Primary School introduced shirtless PE for boys from age 9, I bet you were pleased that you weren’t made to wear a shirt or vest anymore and could enjoy exercising more comfortably. I agree with your comments and it seems that Feminists have committed abuse towards males by preventing them from exercising shirtless at school.
Stripping to the waist is in no way child abuse. From 9 to 18 I never felt it inappropriate exercising topless/shirtless it felt normal and my parents definitely approved. I know my classmates didn't object to stripping off more so when the girls were watching and this always was a topic of light-hearted banter with them. I also always boxed topless in fact I cannot remember an opponent ever wearing a vest, it's not something I'd have wanted to do either. Boys should be encouraged to strip off for PE/Games and the confidence it brings also benefits in later life. The only reason why the practice stopped wasn't to benefit boys but due to the out of control feminists who don't want boys to become men. And you wonder why there's so many boys having issues identifying with gender...
Mr Dando, As someone who as a child did PE shirtless, I did not consider it in any way to be ‘child abuse’ and still don’t. It is wrong to make lads wear a shirt for indoor PE so that they become hot, sweaty and uncomfortable. Most male gymnasts train shirtless because they find it more comfortable, it is natural for males to enjoy exercising shirtless.