Hesketh Fletcher Gym Team

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Hesketh Fletcher Gym Team
Hesketh Fletcher Gym Team
Year: 1935
Views: 221,427
Item #: 1741
Hesketh Fletcher Gym Team of Atherton, Greater Manchester.
Source: G. Smith.

Comment by: Andy on 31st March 2020 at 21:42

At my (all boys) school we had three PE teachers, all men and I think ex-military PTIs, that was common in the 1960s and early 1970s.

There was a no underpants rule, PE was shorts and plimsolls only.

Two were younger and while strict, popular. They were fair, encouraged you but also whacked hard when you were out of line. They both wore white shorts and plimsolls as we did and you could tell that neither wore underpants.

The third teacher who was older was disliked. I suppose these days we would say he was burned out. He had brought forward a couple of good athletes who had won things at the Commonwealth Games and I think was satisfied with what he had done and was now all for an easy life. He often sent classes out to run alone rarely joining in anything. I do remember one summer day though when he did decide to participate in athletics which was track that day. I remember being fascinated to run behind him and realise that he was wearing a pair of very patterned brown and orange underpants under his shorts. Nylon Ys were becoming the fashion at the time and I remember wondering why a man who slippered lads mercilessly for wearing underpants was wearing underpants.

Of course no one dared ask.

Comment by: Dave on 31st March 2020 at 21:27

For those who went to school in the 80's:
You have written you had a shirtless PE rule.
Was it widespread in the UK as far as the 80's? I've thought it was widespread only to the late 70's or early 80's.

Comment by: Josh H on 31st March 2020 at 17:12

I do not remember our pe teacher checking as such to see if we were wearing pants under our shorts. As other people have said our shorts were white and very thin, if I remember correctly some of them were nylon The only style underwear worn at that time was normally white briefs and if worn under the shorts would have shown through. Over time, coloured briefs came into fashion and it certainly would not be possible to wear them under white shorts.
There was only one occasion that I remember one of the lads was silly enough(yes he purposely wore pants under his shorts why I don't know)and of course the teacher saw them So, in front of the class he had to remove his sorts go to the changing room and return in just shorts and then bend over and "receive" the slipper.
No one ever did any such thing again.

Comment by: Andrea on 31st March 2020 at 13:31

At secondary school, far from being made to remove our underwear, our indoor PE kit consisted of the regulation navy blue knickers we were supposed to wear under our classroom uniform and a white polo shirt. We were also allowed to wear our vests or bras under our polo shirts. However, at the end of the lesson we did have to strip off for a shower. Did you have to shower after PE / games?

At primary school both boys and girls wore their normal underwear beneath their PE kit. I know this because we had to change in the same classroom. Was this the case at your primary?
Towards the end of primary, most girls developed the knack of putting on their PE shorts or skirt before removing our skirts or dresses.

Comment by: William on 30th March 2020 at 21:44

I was at a boys' grammar school in the '60s. For gym we wore shorts (no pants) without a top. How boys got changed reflected their confidence. At first I was shy and skinny and changed in the way described by Andy, even though we all saw each other nude in the showers. But the way the confident boys just stripped off looked more manly and after a while I followed their example. Hiding behind a shirt started to look more embarrassing than having nothing on.
For the shy boys getting changed for swimming was worse than gym. We went to the local pool and two boys changed in a cubicle designed for one adult. You can't dry yourself wearing wet trunks so you just had to take them off and get on with it. Modesty was impossible.
We never wore anything under shorts: gym, rugby, hockey, athletics, cross country. I don't think we were inspected. None of us would have dared to disobey our gym master; he would have noticed in the showers. No top and no pants quickly became ingrained. It helped that it was the same for everyone.

Comment by: Chris G on 30th March 2020 at 21:23

I was a "top-off-first/top-on-last" dresser right from early childhood, probably responding to a domestic ethos of covering at least one's "rude bits" even if otherwise completely bare. In that respect, I was perhaps one of Simon's "confident boys" although as my mum, unlike Simon's, was rather keen on vests, until I was about ten I rarely went without one, except for the few weeks of the school summer holidays. And so it continued into secondary school, until the introduction of topless PE eliminated the need to take (or wear) a vest to PE classes and with it ultimately eliminated the need to wear a vest to school, or anywhere else, at all. I certainly had no issue with wearing just shorts and plimsolls for PE, and three years of topless PE certainly prepared me for my transition to boarding school and life in an open-plan dormitory, where nobody wore vests and where almost everyone slept bare-chested.

Comment by: Paul on 30th March 2020 at 21:16

Biggles: we had a no underpants rule and PE shorts were thin and white so anything underneath was quite obvious. Periodically there would be a check when we all had to turn to the benches in the changing room and bend over and anyone wearing underpants had to take them off, step back into their shorts and stay bending over for a dose of the strap, six was normal and it stung so much I take my underpants off on autopilot to this day.

The PE teachers were often in the changing room when we were changing and any lad dithering over taking off his underpants would be reprimanded. Equally they were there when we were stripping for showers and if you were wearing underpants you were as good as caught.

It really wasn't worth the risk of the strap and I would say compliance was over 95% if not 99%.

Comment by: Biggles on 30th March 2020 at 18:03

To Josh and others who had the no-underpants rule for PE at their school.

Were there any inspections or supervision by the coach or teacher to make sure that no boys wore underpants under their PE shorts?

We only wore shorts for PE at my secondary school but we didn't have to take our underpants off.

Also, for the female posters here, were there any girls schools which applied this no-underpants rule for PE, or was it just for boys?

One last question, was this rule for boys ever applied in primary or junior schools, or just in secondary and other older boys schools?

Comment by: Andy on 29th March 2020 at 18:34

I too was at school in the 80s, I remember always getting changed for PE in the same order. Being shy I always took my trousers and underpants off first, that way my shirt offered me some cover while putting on my shorts. I always put my T- shirt on last. I noticed others changed their top half first and this left the lower half fully exposed while putting on their shorts. Some also changed sitting down, but I found shuffling into shorts a difficult so always stood to pull up my shorts.

Comment by: Josh H on 29th March 2020 at 13:34

I attended an all boys secondary school 1961 to 1966. I do not ever worrying about having to do pe with not top or just wearing shorts with no underwear and plimsolls with no socks. It just was that way. I suppose I was a bit ready for it because my elder brother attend the same school I already knew that when I went there it would be the same for me.

Comment by: Simon on 29th March 2020 at 12:30

Rachael, to answer your question my mum didn't insist I wore a vest - I'm sure if I'd said I preferred to go without, she wouldn't have made a fuss. It just wasn't something I'd ever thought about but you're right, PE probably did influence me to gradually stop wearing a vest. I was 12 the first time I did PE barechested and probably started to leave the vest behind within a year.
One thing I remember noticing, as a general rule, was that the more confident boys tended not to wear vests. Also, they would often get changed for PE in a distinctive order - taking their school shirts off immediately to show their bare chests before even untying their shoelaces or anything like that. Then, if we were doing PE outdoors, the T shirt or football shirt was the last thing to go on. If PE was in the gym it was mandatory skins anyway.
Boys who were a bit more shy tended to change in a different manner and I was no different at first, anyway - I'd put on the rest of my PE kit and postpone taking my vest off until last.
Did anyone else find boys had a particular order for getting changed?

Comment by: Chris G on 28th March 2020 at 20:39

Rachael: Introduction of topless PE when I was about 13 had the unintended consequence, for me and for virtually all of my mates, in that instead of going to school wearing our vests, taking them off for PE and putting them on again after the lesson, we soon "forgot" put them back on and we generally went vest-less for the remainder of the day. Inevitably, it was then just a short step not to bother with a vest at all on PE days, and a further short step to not wearing one at all. Mum, always keen on kids wearing vests, even in summer, had been surprisingly encouraging when I first told her I wouldn't need a PE vest any more, but was less enthusiastic when she realised that I had stopped wearing them altogether, even in winter, as a direct result of this.

Comment by: Rachael on 28th March 2020 at 18:22

Hi Simon, did your mum make you wear a vest under your school shirt? I remember there were plenty of colours vests that lay discarded by those on the skins team. Did being picked to strip off to the waist influence to stop wearing one and what age were you when you stopped.

John, thank you for taking the time to reply to my post, it's appreciated

Comment by: Chris G on 28th March 2020 at 15:55

I was about 13 when topless PE was introduced in my school. The PE master gave us advance warning just before the summer holidays that from the beginning of the next term the only kit that we would require for indoor PE would be shorts and plimsolls, and actually asked what we felt about the change. I don't remember anyone, in my class at least, having any objections or reservations. As far as I can remember, all of us thought it a good idea and there was a lot of working on tans during the holiday months in readiness.

Unfortunately, after three years of topless PE at this particular school, I moved on to a boarding school because of family circumstances. Here, heavyweight cotton T-shirts and rugby shorts were required PE wear at all times, a ruling which concerted pleas by myself and a number of like-minded classmates to the headmaster and PE teacher failed to influence.

Comment by: John on 27th March 2020 at 20:01

Simon, Rachael,
I totally agree with both of you that requiring boys to strip to the waist for PE was a good thing. I’m sure that the boys that I was at school with were more disciplined exercising bare chested and it helped to deal with any body issues that any of us might have had. I was a skinny kid but soon realized that I was amongst other skinny kids and lads who had weight issues. We tried harder at PE and did want to look look good as we got into our teens.

The skins team in shirts vs skins team games always seemed to work together and often beat the shirts. Making lads wear tops for PE is wrong if lads don’t want to wear them.

Comment by: Simon on 27th March 2020 at 12:17

Rachael, you're absolutely right. Even when I was at school a lot of us boys had hang ups about our bodies and I suspect that problem is worse nowadays. I was initially shy about going barechested in PE because I had excess puppy fat. But there were other boys who found it difficult because they were worried about being too bony, or having acne, or later on having too much or not enough body hair... whatever it was, we all had to deal with our issues. I think in the long run it helped being required to strip to the waist. You wanted to look good, in front of the other boys as well as the girls - and later on it was such a confidence boost if you realised a girl was impressed by your body!
I don't know if others agree, but I think gping barechested also helped to make us more disciplined overall.

Comment by: Ryan on 27th March 2020 at 10:03

I agree with Danny. Following Mr.Dando's comments where is this all going to lead. Are we going to expect a return to the Victorian swimming attire and arrangements for male and female? The majority of males do not wear a top when they go swimming. Furthermore does he expect that men will be made to wear tops at all time even in the summer?
When swimming my preference is to wear brief style trunks and that should be my prerogative without anyone else saying what should be worn. Unfortunately, there are some people who want to dictate otherwise. Likewise it is up to individual schools and institutions to set out what should be worn as uniform or sports gear.

Comment by: Andrea on 25th March 2020 at 22:26

Mr Dando,

My reading of the original rules is that boys had the OPTION to go bare chested for indoor PE if they so wished, not that they were FORCED to. So it could be argued that the new rules are more restrictive. Similarly it has removed the option for year 4 to 6 girls to wear leotards if they wish to.

Comment by: Rachael on 25th March 2020 at 22:25

Mr Dando, surely encouraging boys to strip to the waist is a good thing. It would help reduce the do called hang ups with their physique and done in the safety of school and fully CRB checked teachers.

Comment by: Danny on 25th March 2020 at 14:03


Maybe your other campaign to make boys wear tops for swimming to cover their chests will also be adopted in swimming pools and for school swimming.
Who knows.

Comment by: John on 24th March 2020 at 22:44

Mr Dando,
I completely disagree with you, boys are different from girls and this is a biological fact. Boys should be allowed to decide if they wish to wear a top or not for indoor PE; if boys prefer to do gym classes barechested they should be allowed to do so and not forced to wear a vest or t shirt.

Comment by: Mr Dando on 24th March 2020 at 19:38

No boy should be forced to ever have to do barechested PE and I'm glad my campaign stopped this school from having a shirtless rule for males. Here are the old rules:


PE Indoor
• Girls R-Y3 - Navy/black leotards
• Girls Y4-Y6 - Navy/black leotards or white T-shirt and dark shorts
• Boys R-Y6 - Dark shorts and white T-shirt /bare chest

Here is the new gender neutral kit


PE Kit
White round neck cotton t-shirt
Black shorts
Optional plain black tracksuit (to be worn during winter if needed)

It is optimistic to see that now children are self-isolating and doing PE from home pupils are no longer forced to have school showers or wear discriminatory PE kits.

We must use this hiatus in institutional schooling to repeal all mandatory shower rules such as this one:

Corbridge Middle School maroon shirt with school logo (compulsory)
Corbridge Middle School maroon shorts (compulsory)
Corbridge Middle School outdoor rugby top (optional)
Corbridge Middle School blue base layer top (optional)
Long socks for outdoor lessons
Strong footwear (boots or trainers) for playing rugby/soccer/hockey (pupils should bring both types of footwear to outdoor lessons)

Towel (showers will be taken if the weather has been inclement or the ground muddy)

Please note. Earrings must be removed during P.E. lessons and sporting activities

Together we can make schooling a better experience for all kids!

Comment by: Rachael on 24th March 2020 at 19:23

Hi Simon, Although we had separate lessons we could still see boys in the gym due to the reinforced windows that ran the length the of the corridor so we were treated to a good view either of boys exercising or stripping off their vests at the start of a lesson. We did have a boys vs girls basketball and netball game each year normally in May. The boys always played as skins, it was a laugh but always was competitive. I always enjoyed seeing boys go topless for PE/Games lessons but it was good to see boys being able to demonstrate their masculinity. It's something that is sadly lacking in today's world.

Comment by: John on 22nd March 2020 at 17:32

I was 9 when the stripped to the waist for boys PE rule was introduced at Primary School. I felt self conscious just wearing shorts and pumps but after the second lesson I forgot that I wasn’t wearing a top and with the rest of the lads actually preferred it. At Senior School indoor PE was topless for gym, basketball was played with both teams shirtless and wearing different colored bibs.
Football was occasionally played shirts vs skins outdoors in winter if the PE teacher ran out of colored bibs, we were lined up and half of us told to take our shirts off. I got to enjoy playing football shirtless in winter, the skins team always seemed to gel better and work harder than the shirts.
For cross country some PE teachers made us run in shorts and trainers, but even if we were allowed to run in t shirts or vests many lads used to go topless anyway.

Comment by: Simon on 22nd March 2020 at 17:15

Hi Rachael, I was one of those boys who wore a vest under my school shirt during the 80s although not everyone in my class did! Interesting to hear your perspective on boys' PE kit,  I wasn't clear whether boys and girls did PE together at most of the schools you attended?
At my school it was usually separate PE classes for boys and girls, alternating between the gym and outdoors. Boys and girls wore the same kit outdoors - T shirt and shorts - but in the gym it was shorts only for boys. We did team games in coloured bibs or skins.
On occasions when the weather was really bad, outdoor PE was cancelled and we all had to squeeze into the gym together. Of course that meant us boys all had to take our T shirts off with the girls looking on and they certainly seemed to enjoy the spectacle! I remember feeling self conscious at first, along with many of the other lads, but as I grew into my mid teens I wanted to look good in front of the girls and having to go barechested probably made me work harder in PE.

Comment by: Rachael on 22nd March 2020 at 15:30

John, I hope you don't mind me asking at what age did you first start to be stripped off for PE, what sports did you play when you were skins and did you not mind being topless when it was cold? Thanks for your time.

Comment by: John on 21st March 2020 at 23:40

I think that it was good discipline and character building for lads to be stripped to the waist for PE/games, the policy didn’t do my brother and I any harm.

Comment by: Andrea on 21st March 2020 at 22:33

Yes, at Primary both girls and boys wore T shirts and shorts for PE, with our normal underwear beneath.

Did the girls who had just started to develop get any comments / teasing from the boys (or the other girls for that matter)?

Comment by: Danny on 21st March 2020 at 00:29

Andrea, I don't remember any girls wearing bras in primary school, even in last years at age 10-11.
A few may have had small breasts at that age but I think they were too small to require a bra.
As I said before we all wore vests under our shirts at school, both boys and girls, so girls with even small breasts could be seen under their vests when we changed for PE.
We all wore the same PE kit at primary school, both boys and girls, white shorts and white vest or t-shirt.
Did you have the same PE kit as boys in your primary school?

Comment by: Rachael on 21st March 2020 at 00:11

Hi Danny, I attended mixed secondary schools though due to my parents work we moved around quite a bit. One thing was constant though and that was boys doing PE/Games stripped off to the waist. My last school had lads from 13 to 18 stripped off both indoors and outdoors often when it was cold. Again teams of vests vs skins and just plain skins were very common. It must have been tough doing sit ups and other exercises on a bitingly cold winters day stripped off to the waist.