Clitheroe Royal Grammar School
Item #: 1602
Source: Lancashire Life Magazine, November 1959
It’s a pity that you missed out on more years of the great topless PE rule for lads. Looking back I think it should have applied all the way through my Primary School years, so I feel that I missed out too. I had a friend who went to a different school where lads did topless PE from age 7.
John - I must say that I envy you, even though my school PE days were a long time ago. I only got in three years of topless PE,as it wasn't introduced into my first secondary school until I was in the third form, and when I moved on to another school for myu sixth form years, PR vests were mandatory at all times and without exception, except when we were being weighed at the end of every term. Funny, that!
I was also fortunate enough to enjoy shirtless PE in the 1970s, it was much more comfortable than having to wear a vest or t shirt as we had to do until age 9. I enjoyed the freedom of barechested PE too.
Dave,Andrew and Luke, I was fortunate enough to experience the skinless regime in the early 1970s. I liked the freedom and bare chested policy.
No, I don't think shirtless PE was widespread by that time. To be clear, it wasn't even a general rule at my school - it was a rule imposed by the individual teacher who took my PE class. His view was boys shouldn't require more than a pair of shorts, plus footwear - so from then on my class all had to go bare chested.
However, my brother, who was two years below me, had a different PE teacher and to the best of my knowledge the boys in his class were always allowed to wear their vests.
Dave, barechest PE did exist late 80s to early 90s but at the time it seemed totally normal to me and initially assumed other schools did the same. Looking back now I suspect it was going out of fashion and most school even then were allowing tops but cant be 100% sure.
I didn't know that in the late 80s to early 90s shirtless PE rule had existed. Was it still widespread back then?
David, although our official PE kit included a vest our teachers simply made every boy strip off to the waist. It was a simple and effective method and demonstrated boys do not need a top for PE or games lessons.
Our introduction to skins and vests was a boy being singled out and made to drop his vest in front of the whole class. The teacher walked down the line and picked boys at random to join him, with a stern warning that those left in vests would strip off for the next lesson. Of course everyone knew there was a 50-50 chance of being a skin but it was obvious some of us (me and a couple of others) were picked to strip off nearly every session. It was really rare for me to wear a vest I have no idea why I picked out to strip off so much. Cross country was done either in skins or vests while for outdoor fitness sessions held on the field, sometimes the whole class would be told to strip off but more often the teams were games tops, vests and skins.
Hi David H,
From your reference to Army selection I'd guess you must have been at school around the same time as me (late 80s to early 90s). It seems your PE teacher took a similar approach to mine! The official PE kit was a vest and shorts but he immediately made it clear boys were required to do his lessons in skins. If the class had to be split into teams, half the boys were picked to wear bibs and the rest remained as skins.
Like you, I'm glad I was made to exercise bare chested at school. Yes, it took some getting used to at first but long term it certainly encouraged me to work harder and take greater pride in my body.
If it had been optional, I doubt I'd have taken my vest off voluntarily at first - how about you?
Chris, I think I fall into your third group. At primary school PE was mostly done in vest, underpants and bare feet and if you didn't have a vest then you went topless, moved up into my first middle school where indoor PE was done in a pool shirt, shorts and pumps, oh how luxurious and those that forgot went without. Then we moved house into a different area and I started my second middle school where indoor PE was done topless, and barefoot with shorts only. After a year and a half this came as an initial shock but soon I was used to it and came to enjoy the freedom especially when doing gymnastics.
Plus I might as well add we showered after every lesson, boys only and yes we showered nude. It wasn't an issue at all it was just been hygienic and clean. Alot better than spending the day sat in your own sweat!
During an Army selection course in 1995 the male candidates found ourselves in the gym for fitness tests. With the group split into teams of skins and vests the tests began.
It didn't take too long before our vests started to cling to us while we could see each member of the skins team sweat freely.
Halfway through the PTIs changed things around. The skins team were made to put their vests on and we were made to strip to the waist for the second half.
I was lucky at school. I have no idea why my PE teacher picked me to strip off lesson after lesson in all kinds of weather but I'm glad he did. I'd recommend bare chested exercise to any boy. They'd notice a difference in their physique, others bare chests and outlook after a couple of months. They're supposed to be young men after all!
Reading these threads it is apparent that boys experiencing topless PE fall into two groups, those who started at their school in the prior knowledge that PE was always done topless, and those who had toplessness introduced once they had started. But there is actually a third group - those who suddenly had tops imposed on them after one or more years of toplessNess. I had this experience when I changed school at the age of 15. After three years of PE without a vest, suddenly I had to wear one, and found the experience uncomfortable and restrictive. Did anyone else have vests reintroduced after a period of topless PE?
Yes the youngsters of today seem to be very self concious and as I said in my last comments even the 20/25 age group
At the age of about 8 in the 50's, a friend took me to the local swimming pool - a huge place (50 yard pool) with a large changing room. After changing, we walked unsuspectingly to the pool down a wide corridor which we later found out was called "the showers". It was the first time we'd seen grown men naked and we freaked out!
From then, I really wanted to shower naked, but never had the courage, until one day a few years later in secondary school our PE teacher told us to strip off and shower properly. We also had to let adults go first, which meant we had to queue for several minutes naked.
Of course we did as our teacher said as he was strict and keen on corporal punishment. Fortunately he was not allowed to administer the belt poolside but only in the changing room. Men would often congratulate him on using it.
How times have changed! But I still enjoy swimming and have totally lost my self consciousness in the showers. I think I would not have come to enjoy it had it not been for him and believe youngsters today are missing something which basically a great pleasure
With regards to the sleepwear, I expect during the weeks cam we would wear once or twice to look as if it had been used.About the sleeping when I returned home I continued to wear pyjamas however, whenever away at camp I would sleep naked. I suppose part of the reason for that was I was able to decide for myself. It must be a "generation" thing because when I am at the gym/swimming pool it seems that neither I nor fellows of an elder age group think nothing of stripping off in front of each other chatting as we do. Yet when chaps in say there twenties etc come in they undress so far and then disappear into the toilet cubical and come out changed into their activity wear. Too shy to be seen? Is that the generation we are breeding through modern practices?
Your comments about "sleepwear going to camp for the ride" and "being away from direct parental influence offers a good opportunity to experiment" reminds me of my introduction to sleeping 'au naturel' as a naive 'newbie' on my first night at boarding school, and prompts me to ask how your parents reacted when you came home from Scout camp with unworn nightwear, and whether you continued to sleep nude once you were back home.
Danny, I certainly agree with your comments about the feminizing of lads. Like you we had our swimming lessons at the public pool( obviously reserved for the schools use)and in the same way we all changed in one communal area and there was no thought of it being anything other than normal. After the lesson whilst we were changing if there was any larking about a teacher would come in and chivvy us up and no one questioned that a male teacher would walk into a changing area when boys were undressed. As other people have commented on previously, it has been the normal thing for men to share a large bath e.g after rugby or football matches. Furthermore I remember my father saying how in the army there was no privacy all in a dorm changing together.
My experience is not confined to school. I was in the scouts years ago when it was still all boys. Our accommodation was normally about 6 to a tent with not much room and definitely no privacy. Included on the kit list for camp was sleepwear. However we when it was time to get into our sleeping bags whether it was because we were away from our parents gaze or just being daring, most of us would strip off and go to bed naked. We thought of it as fun. The remainder felt daring enough to sleep in their pants which of course in those days we always briefs(no boxers around)so sleep wear went to camp for the ride and was never used.
During the day we were allowed to have fun. No stringent health & safety rules. There were obviously guide lines especially when swimming at scout camp. However, this would often take place in a local river.
Shame there is not the freedom for youngster to enjoy themselves today. To many restrictions.
I really laughed when Mr.Dando suggested that boys should wear tops for swimming to cover their chests.
This is proof of the mentality today of feminizing boys, as one of you rightly said.
We didn't have a swimming pool at school but I often went to our local pool to swim where the changing and shower room were full of boys moving about naked with no shame at all.
This seems to have changed in the last 20 years or so where boys are now taking showers with their swimsuits on and changing under a towel.
I completely agree with everything that you’ve written and would not have been able to express my views as well as you have. My father was pleased when my school introduced the shirtless gym rule for boys when I was 9, he had always done gym in just shorts and pumps and knew that it would be good for me to experience as a boy who lacked confidence.
I found that I preferred not having to wear a top for gym which was contrary to my initial fear before my first shirtless gym class. Throughout my time at school I never experienced any inappropriate behaviour from any of my PE teachers.
I do not understand why Mr Dando wants to treat boys and girls exactly the same, surely his is an extreme point of view and could be seen as a form of abuse.
Easily rectified Fiona. No more school showers and no more pointless Physical education designed to reduce young males into obedient cannon fodder and girls into obedient housewives.
With the start of the New Year we must show true 2020 vision and boost child protection and rights to privacy in educational institutions.
Lets name and shame those schools that still insist on towels for showers where others have abolished the mandatory requirement.
Indoor – plain white T-shirt, navy shorts, white socks, trainers
Outdoor – school rugby shirt and rugby socks, navy shorts, football boots
Indoor – plain white T-shirt, navy skort, white socks, trainers
Outdoor – plain white T-shirt, navy skort, school ‘rugby’ socks, trainers;School regulation P.E. hooded top is optional;
Year 10 & 11 – Plain navy tracksuit bottoms [no stripes] may be worn;Towel for showers;Shin/ankle guards are required for hockey, football and when playing hooker in rugby. Mouth guards are recommended for hockey and rugby. Footwear should be appropriate for the playing surface.
No to showers Fiona and yes to gender neutral school informs. Let the evil of the past never be repeated!
Mr Dando, Fiona has made another good point. You make some sweeping assertions so can I say that, although I never wore a top for gym or anything under my shorts, I was never abused or humiliated at school, and that although my gym master was terrifying he was no paedophile.
You seem to have found being in a group of boys showering with nothing on humiliating. That's a strong word but you do not suggest that you were singled out in any way. There is much evidence to suggest that communal, non-sexual nudity among men and boys is not humiliating. Just read the majority of contributions to this website. My generation will recall photographs in newspapers of professional footballers celebrating after the match in the team bath. For them it was a positive bonding experience. And the Imperial War Museum has many photos of soldiers in WW1 and 2 showering, swimming and larking about in their birthday suits as welcome relaxation. They all know what a man's body is like so why get uptight about it?
Obviously you feel differently, but is your feeling a fair basis for deciding policies in schools? The more examples you quote where showers are required the more you emphasise how many disagree with you, and not just on grounds of hygiene. Are you not concerned that the extreme modesty you advocate will make boys cripplingly shy and repressed about their bodies? You may send them into the wider world physically private but mentally vulnerable, worrying about things they should be able to take in their stride.
If there is nostalgia it might be for a time when boys were brought up as boys and the differences between the sexes had not been blurred by gender equality and political correctness. And what more striking example could there be of the feminisation of boys than requiring them, as you suggest, to swim in a swimsuit that covers their chests?
"we had no flannels or soap to wash ourselves."
Easily rectified and more hygienic, by taking your own.
Mr.Dando: What's your problem with shirtless PE? It's about freedom of movement and hygiene. Did you wear shirts for swimming lessons? Its' all the same.What's the purpose of shirts especially for gym work? I can't see your point.
I was forced to have communal nude showers between September 1985 to April 1987. These abusive practices were pointless as they denied privacy and we had no flannels or soap to wash ourselves. We did not have to undergo this humiliation at primary or middle school between 1977 to 1984 and during the upper year aged 15 and 16 showers were not mandatory and nobody used them from 1987-1989.
PE Kit Aureus PE sports top *
Aureus PE shorts *
Aureus PE socks *
Aureus long sleeve reversible games top
Aureus tracksuit (optional)
Black or white trainers with non-marking soles for indoor and outdoor use
Towel / Shower gel
Aureus sports bag *
This website might be about past experiences but it is dominated by the pro Brexit over 65's who are nostalgic for a period of UK educational history where caning, communal showers and topless gymnastics were the norm.
The whole point of learning from the past is to inform the future so that state institutionalised child abuse propogated by paedophilic pe teachers never occurs again.
We should campaign to end compulsory showers and topless male swimming in all British schools.
Mr Dando, Fiona's point had also occurred to me. In your campaign against school showers you have described them as humiliating, dreaded and barbaric. The majority disagree, citing hygiene and developing bodily confidence as among the benefits. I found communal showers slightly embarrassing the first time but quickly got used to them. After all, we were all boys and much the same. Why did you find them humiliating (Hesketh Fletcher, 21st December)? A history website is more about past experience than current practice. What made your experience so grim?
Mr Dando, none of the three school PE kit lists that you have posted in the last couple of days specifies that showers shall be taken nude, and none of them describes the pbysical arrangement of the showers thenselves,so they might be enclosed cubicles.
After more than 30 years since I left school in the 1980's it is time to ban mandatory showers and state enforced nudity in schools!
White PE Shirt with school logo
Black Shorts or Black Skort
Fleece with school logo - optional item for colder weather
Black Jogging Pants - optional item for colder weather
White PE Shirt with school logo
Fleece with school logo - optional item for colder weather
Black Jogging Pants - optional item for colder weather
All pupils are required to change for Physical Education into the PE uniform and pumps (not leisure boots as these have ridges on the soles).
In order to promote personal hygiene and independence skills, pupils are expected to shower after PE lessons. Pupils attending Hydrotherapy sessions should bring their own kit.
Hi Ben, ! was "introduced" to skins when I was a 9 year old. The big change at my new school was being made to strip down outside, something my new classmates were used to and I wasn't. Each day there was a d PE lesson timetabled, a double for four days and a double and a half lesson which really was hard. I remember the teacher telling me at the start of my first lesson I'd be striping off outside for each lesson for the first couple of weeks to get me used to it but was soon regularly picked to strip for the skins team. When we were inside there was an expectation you would sweat which was okay as everyone was stripped to the waist. As for those of us who were sporty and made the school/county teams we were told we'd strip off all the time. I think it was a school thing as we also did x country competition s against other schools stripped down too, now that made people look twice! I did enjoy PE. I think being made to strip off gave me a lot of confidence. Boys really don't need a t-shirt or vest on indoors and would be better off being pushed hard by a good teacher and sweating freely, regardless of their age is more beneficial.
Max, I can't see what's the problem of boys having to do PE shirtless. They don't wear shirts for swimming.What's the difference? There isn't any rude or harmful thing about being shirtless doing sports especially gymnastics.It's practical.