Ashford Academy: New Term, New Uniform


This is another piece of fiction set at Ashford Academy; a high school that has banned the boys from wearing long trousers. It's set around the same time period as part one and part two when the new uniform rules are introduced. You may want to read the prologue or part zero to find out what led to the trouser ban, but it's not essential.

-o0o-


A group of Ashford boys are chatting in the school yard. “So what do you think about the new uniform?” Tom asked. The rest expressed their disapproval, most of whom were transferring to Central Comprehensive to avoid having to wear it. “Lucky buggers.” Tom gulped.

“You're not staying here are you?” John asked.

Tom nodded and said that in spite of his pleas, both his mother and father are insisting that he remain at Ashford because it's a better school than Central.

“I heard that the head's trying to turn it into an all-girl's school, and wants all the boys to transfer out. No boy in his right mind will enrol at Ashford now... and those already here will have to dress and act like girls!” Anthony claimed.

“That's bollocks Tony!” Callum retorted. “They might have to dress like girls but they won't have to act like girls... and there's a few boys on my street starting here in September... not that they want to.” he added.

“I heard she's just trying to promote equality...” Peter said. “...by treating boys and girls the same.”

“If that was the case, then surely the girls would be wearing pants instead of the boys wearing skirts.” Anthony retorted.

“They're not skirts, they're shorts.” Tom insisted.

“They are girl's shorts though.” Callum told him. “Called 'clots' or summit.” he added. “I wouldn't mind wearing shorts for school but there's no way I'm going to wear girl's shorts.”

“You transferring too?” Peter asked him.

“Too right!” Callum replied. “You?”

“I hope so... but Mum doesn't want me to.” Peter frowned. “She reckons Central's too far away and that Ashford's a better school.”

“Who cares?” John asked. “I'd rather walk across town to a crap school than dress like a girl at a good one.”

“We won't be dressing like girls!” Tom insisted. “We just have to wear shorts.”

“Have you seen the shorts?” Callum asked. Tom shook his head, then gulped when Callum told him that they look just like a skirt, and a pleated one at that. “In fact, I think I'd rather wear a skirt than the shorts Mrs Bell is introducing!” Callum added. 

“You could if you want.” John said. “The new regs don't have separate boy's and girl's uniforms... they say that all students can wear the shorts or a skirt.” he explained.

“Well I'm transferring to Central... so I won't be wearing either.” Callum smugly stated. The phrase 'me too' echoed around most of the group, with only Peter and Tom abstaining.

When Peter got home that evening, he told his mother that almost all of his mates are transferring to Central Comprehensive after Easter because of the new uniform rules. “More fool them.” Peter's mother replied. “They're sacrificing a good education.”

It's not the first time that Peter has asked his mother to let him transfer to Central too. “Ashford's a much better school and you've got your finals next year.” his mother reminds him. “You only get one shot at high school Peter, and transferring from a good school to one that's not so good, just because you don't like the uniform is madness!” she explained for the umpteenth time. Peter claimed that he'd still get mostly straight A's at Central, and he's probably right... but there's more to it than that. “I know love, but it's the distance too... I wouldn't be able to afford the daily bus fairs, let alone an entire new uniform.” she tells him.

“But you'd have to buy me a new uniform for Ashford too.” Peter points out. “And those shorts are quite expensive apparently.”

“They are!” his mother replies. “Over thirty pounds a pair!!” she adds. “And you'd need at least three pairs.”

Peter frowns for a moment, before suggesting that it might be cheaper to pay the daily bus fare to Central than to buy the new shorts for Ashford. “Maybe so... but I'm hoping I can avoid buying you a new uniform altogether.” his mother replies.

“Really?” Peter asks with enthusiasm. He knows that the current fifth form boys will be exempt from the new uniform regulations, so maybe his mother has found a loophole. “How?”

“Well... I had a read through the new rulebook...” his mother replied, “...and your sister's old uniform might do...”

“But she didn't wear shorts.” Peter interjected.

“No but...” his mother began, picking up the new school rule book and flicking to the relevant page. “...the rules say that boy's don't have to wear shorts.”

Peter gulped as he took the booklet from her. He knows that there is no separate rule for the boy's and girl's uniforms as the rules simply state that all students must wear either a pleated skirt or a pair of grey box pleated shorts. “I can't go in a skirt!”

“Of course you can.” his mother replied. “Those new shorts look just like a skirt anyway.”

“I know but...” Peter gulped. He cast his mind back to Callum's claim that he'd rather wear a skirt than the new shorts, but he doesn't have to wear either.

“I know it's not ideal Peter, but those culottes are so expensive and it's money we simply don't have.”

“But...” Peter gulped. “I can't wear a skirt... it'll be freezing, not to mention humiliating.”

His mother reminds him that it's springtime, which is usually followed by summertime, and he'll be anything but 'freezing'.

“I mean in winter.” Peter replied.

“You'll be just as cold in shorts... and you did claim they'd be humiliating too.” she reminded him.

“I know but...” Peter frowned, “...surely you could find a Central uniform in a charity shop.”

His mother sighed and reminded her son why transferring to a new school isn't a good idea. “Central has terrible pass rates and dreadful facilities... you know that.” she told him. And she was right. It is a daft idea to trade off a good school for an acceptable uniform. “You won't be the only one wearing a skirt.” she claimed.

“I'll be the only boy.” he claimed.

However his mother assured him he wouldn't. “I know for a fact that Gina Marshall's going to be sending George in a skirt.”

“Why?” Peter asked. “They're loaded.”

“She doesn't like the shorts.” his mother shrugged. “They're more like culottes than normal shorts.”

“Yeah I know. I don't think Tom Wickliffe knew until today... he looked mortified when Callum described them to him.”

“Is Callum staying too?” his mother asked.

“Nah... he's going to Central with everyone else.” Peter said. “Lucky thing.”

“You're the lucky one Peter.” his mother told him.

Peter could have argued all day and all night long, but knowing that money doesn't grow on trees, he reluctantly concedes. Over supper that evening, Peter's mother asks his sister if she'll route out her old school skirts so Peter can try them for size. “You going to wear a skirt then?” Paula asks her brother.

“It looks like I have to.” he frowns.

“Cool.” she smiles. “Those culottes the boys will be wearing look horrendous.”

“I'm sure a skirt will look worse.” Peter replied.

Later that evening, his sister roots out her old school skirts and gives them to Peter. “Thanks.” he frowns as he takes the bundle and places them on his bed, before opening his wardrobe and removing a handful of empty clothes hangers.

“Oh... you'll need some skirt hangers instead of those.” she said, before popping out and returning a moment later with a handful of skirt hangers. Peter reluctantly thanks her and begins clipping the skirts to the hangers.

“Aren't you going to try them on first?” she asks.

“Not until I have to.” he replies.

“But they might not fit.” she informed him.

Reluctantly, Peter tries on a skirt hoping that it won't fit, but unfortunately it fits quite well. “Let's see how it looks with your shirt on too.” his sister insists. So he puts his school shirt on. “Hmm... it's a bit too baggy.” she says, observing how it bellows out of his waistband. “A fitted one would look better.”” she adds before disappearing and returning a moment later, “Try this.” she says, passing him one of her old school shirts.

“This is a blouse.” he complains as pushes his arms through the sleeves.

“It's a fitted shirt.” she replies.

“The buttons are the wrong way round.” he moans as he struggles to fasten them.

“Are you going to wear socks or tights?” she asks.

“Socks, obviously!” he replies.

“And shoes?” she asks.

“Er... yes... I'll be wearing shoes too.” he retorted.

“Which shoes?”

“My shoes.” he told her.

“Well... let's see how they look.” she asks. So he pulls on a pair of his socks followed by his usual school shoes, and his sister screws up her nose and shakes her head. “What?” he asked.

“They just don't look right... and those socks are so wrong.” his sister informed him, before suggesting he try knee socks instead.

“I don't wear knee socks.” Peter retorted. “I'm not going to wear yours!” he added after his sister said she'd fetch him a pair of hers. Peter insisted his own shoes and socks looked fine, but Paula disagreed... so a third opinion was required.

“Mum.” Paula said as she entered the sitting room. “Don't you think Pete would look better with some of my socks instead of...”

“Oh that looks OK.” their mother said as Peter reluctantly emerged from behind the door, clad in his sister's old school skirt and one of her blouses. “How does it feel?” she asked him.

“Weird.” Peter said, looking down at himself.

“Well it will at first.” his mother smiled as her eyes dropped to his feet. “I think Paula's right about those socks love.” she added. “Knee socks would look better.” she suggested. “Or tights.”

“I'm not wearing tights mum.” Peter moaned. “And I'd rather not wear knee socks either.”

“Well if you're going to insist on wearing ankle socks, I'm going to insist they're white.” his mother told him. “Paula's got plenty.” she added after her son said that he doesn't have any white socks.

Peter looked down at himself, nervously felt the pleats on the skirt and said “I can't believe I'm going to go to school in this.” He gulped and looked at his mother with pleading eyes.

“I know you'd rather not wear a skirt, but it looks OK.” his mother assured. “Is that one of Paula's shirts?”

“It's a blouse.” Peter replied.

“It's one of my old school ones.” Paula stated, “But I guess it's yours now.” she said to her brother.

“Will you get him some socks?” their mother said to Paula.

“Sure.” Paula replied as she squeezed past her brother. Peter began to follow her.

“You may as well stay here Peter.” his mother advised, before asking him to come closer so she could have a proper look.

“Oh mum... stop fussing.” he moaned as she put her fingers down the waistband of his skirt.

“I'm just making sure it fits.” she replied. “Does it feel OK?”

“No!” he replied. “I feel like a dork.” he sighed. “Surely it's illegal to send lads to school dressed like this?”

His mother cast him an empathetic smile. “I know it's not ideal but it's certainly not illegal.” she grinned. “Oh thanks love.” she said when Paula returned with a pair of white socks and placed them in her beckoning hand.

“I'm not wearing knee socks!” Peter blurted when he realised what his sister had fetched for him. But in spite of his plea, he sat, removed his shoes and socks, and pulled the pair of white socks over his feet and up to his knees. He gestured a puke after being told they look 'nice'. “They're horrid.” he insisted as he put his feet out in front of him. He slips his feet into his shoes, ties the laces, stands up and looks down at himself, before complaining that his shoes look too clumpy.

“Yeah they do a bit.” his mother agreed, before suggesting he try a pair of his sister's shoes.

“Her shoes won't fit me!” Peter insisted.

“Course they will.” Paula replied. “Yours fit me.” she added.

“When have you ever worn my shoes?” Peter asked.

“I borrowed your running shoes last week.” she revealed. “And those green baseball boots last month. And they both fit me perfectly.” she added. “So it stands to reason that my shoes will fit you.” she told him before leaving again.

Peter looks down at himself and complains that they're turning him into a girl. “No we're not love.” his mother assured. “We're just making sure you'll look OK next term without breaking the bank.” she smiled, before pointing out that his legs could do with a shave too. Peter insists that under no circumstances will he shave his legs, but his mother claims that most of the other boys will be shaving theirs, “...especially in winter.” she adds as Paula returns with a couple of pairs of shoes.

“Surely winter's the time to leave them hairy?” Peter states.

“I expect you'll be wearing tights in winter.” Paula stated. Peter baulked at the thought of wearing girl's tights. “Count your blessings Pete... us girls had to endure winter in knee socks.” she reminded him. Before these new uniform rules came in to force, the girls at Ashford Academy weren't allowed to wear tights as only ankle or knee socks were permitted. But now the boy's have to wear short culottes (or a skirt), tights are finally allowed.

“Paula's right Peter...” their mother said. “...you'll be a lot warmer in tights and they'll be a lot more comfortable if you shave.” she explained.

Paula added that he should really shave if he's just wearing socks too. “You'll look silly with hairy legs.”

“It not my legs that look silly, it's this skirt.” Peter frowned.

“It honestly doesn't love.” his mother assured, before she and Paula had a brief discussion about the boy's culottes, both agreeing that they aren't very nice. “Which shoes di you bring?” her mother asked, spying the two pairs of shoes dangling from each hand.

“I wasn't sure which style you'd want so...” Paula said. One pair is the ubiquitous flat black ballet pump, the other is the less common low heeled Mary Jane style.

“Neither.” Peter gulped as he observed the options.

“Well you're the one complaining that your own shoes are too clumpy.” Paula retorted. “I'm only trying to help.”

Reluctantly, Peter shut up and sat down. He removed his own shoes and reluctantly slipped his feet in to the flat ballet pumps, but being a tad too big they didn't stay on long. Next he slipped on the Mary Jane's and fiddled with the buckles before standing up so his mother and sister could have a 'proper' look. They both insisted they looked nice, and insisted that they were a good fit. Peter wasn't so sure about how they look, but reluctantly admitted that they did fit and were relatively comfortable. “They wouldn't look so bad with black socks.” he gulped.

“Black tights would look better.” his sister suggested.

“I'm not wearing tights!” Peter insisted.

“Well don't be shy if you change your mind come November love.” his mother advised.

Peter asks if he can go and change. His mother tells him he can, but advises him to try the rest of the skirt's Paula has given him, just to make sure they all fit. Peter feels half naked as he walks the short distance to his tiny box room, and imagines he'll feel just as naked when he walks the short distance to school in a few weeks time. “Maybe tights would be better?” he thinks as he looks at his shoes and socks, gulping at the thought. He dismisses the idea on the grounds that wearing tights as well would be far too weird, yet also accepts that come mid winter, he'll probably change his mind.

As instructed, he tries the rest of the skirts for size before putting his own clothes back on. It's whilst he's doing this that he hears a knock on his bedroom door. “You decent?” his sister's voice calls. Peter opens the door and Paula handed him another small bundle. “PE kit.” she says.

“Oh, er... thanks.” Peter gulps as he takes the clothes from her. Paula lifts her old PE skirt and removes a little pair of burgundy shorts from the bundle. She tells him that she used to wear these instead of gym knickers, and advises Peter to do the same. “Thanks.” Peter reluctantly replied. “I wasn't planning on wearing gym knickers.” he added with a gulp.

“My swimming costume's in there too... but I think Mum's going to buy you a proper boy's one.” Paula added, before advising him to try the PE skirt for size as that might need adjusting.

Paula leaves him alone and Peter unfolds the clothes. “God!” he gulps as he unfolds the swimming costume and dreads the day he has to wear it. “Even they boy's ones are really for girls.” he frowned as he put it in a drawer. He removes his pants and fastens the wrap skirt around his waist. Unlike his sister's school skirts which are pleated all the way around, this has a flat panel on the front and knife pleats around the back and sides only. It also seems to be significantly shorter than them too, hence the little pair of shorts to wear beneath it. There's also two polo shirts each bearing the school crest, a few pairs of burgundy knee socks and a couple of pairs of thick PE socks for winter, and a rubber swimming cap, also bearing the Ashford Academy crest. “Do we have to wear this too?” he wondered as he put everything away. He checked his timetable. The first PE session is on Tuesday afternoon and he's not looking forward to it... especially now he has his kit.

A few days before the new term begins, Peter’s sister asks him if he's shaved his legs yet, before advising him to do so. “You want to look nice on your first day don't you?”

“Not 'that' nice.” Peter gulped.

“But you don't want to look completely stupid do you?” she asked. “No one wears a skirt with hairy legs.”

“Well by rights I should be wearing those shorts instead of a skirt.” Peter replied.

“And you'd still look daft in those with hairy legs.” his sister insisted.

“I'll look dafter if I'm the only one who has shaved them.” Peter gulped. “And what if I cut myself?” he asked. “I don't want lacerations all the way up my legs.”

“You won't.” Paula insisted. “It's just like shaving you face.” she told him. “You can do that without cutting yourself can't you?”

“Yeah but...” Peter stopped himself as he knew he was just making excuses. “Can I use the same razor?” he quizzed.

“Well use a new one... but yeah, it'll be fine.” Paula smiled. “Loads of women use men's razors on their legs.” she told him. “And pits.” she added.

“Do I have to shave those too?” he reluctantly asked.

“It's up to you.” Paula said.

Peter must have spent an hour in the bath carefully shaving his legs. It took far longer than he expected and the bathwater was positively tepid by the time he'd finished. “If I'd known how long it takes I wouldn't have bothered.” he said after admitting to his mother and sister that he'd 'done it'.

“It'll only take a minute or two next time.” his mother told him.

“I don't think there's going to be a next time.” he replied.

“Why not?” his sister asked. “Don't they feel nice?”

Feeling his smooth skin through his pyjama pants, Peter claimed they felt weird. “It's kind of nice I suppose. But more weird than nice.” he explained. His sister told him that that's because he's never had shaved legs before, and that in a few days they won't feel quite so odd. “Maybe.” Peter reluctantly replied. “I still can't believe I have to wear a skirt though... it's going to be so weird going back to school on Monday.” he frowned.

“Well, hopefully you'll learn a few more adjectives on Monday.” his sister smugly retorted. “Then everything won't have to be weird.” she grinned.

Realising that his legs are now completely free of hair came as a surprise on Sunday morning. In some weird way it was nice surprise as he guiltily ran his fingers over his smooth skin, before pulling on his jeans and a t-shirt. After Sunday lunch, his mother asked him if he needed to get anything ready for school tomorrow. “Not really.” he replied. “I suppose I should give my assignments the once over.” he added.

“Have you got your uniform ready?” she asked.

Peter coyly nodded. “Oh... I need some socks.” he said. “Seeing as you won't let me wear my own.”

“You've got socks.” his mother replied. “I put them in your drawer days ago.”

“But they're all knee socks.” Peter moaned, claiming that he'd look too girlie in those. “Can I borrow some ankle socks?” he asked his sister. “Please.” he added.

“If you insist.” his sister smiled, before directing him to the relevant drawer in her dresser. Peter went to choose some 'decent' socks from his sister's sock drawer. He wasn't happy that his mother insisted they must be white, but on seeing the rest of her selection, white were pretty much the best of a bad bunch. He found three pairs of white ankle socks that didn't have any girlie patterns, and transferred them to his own sock drawer.

Meanwhile in the kitchen, Peter's mother expressed to his sister that she felt a bit guilty for a; not transferring him to Central, and b; not being able to afford the boy's shorts. “He's clearly petrified at the thought of having to wearing a skirt.” she said.

“Yeah but... he'll look a lot better than the boy's who'll be wearing those minging culottes... especially now he's shaved his legs.” Paula replied. Her mother agreed. Peter returned and Paula asked if he'd found some socks. Peter nodded and forced a smile, before saying that he'd found three pairs of plain ones.

“All white I hope?” his mother asked. Peter gulped and nodded.

The following morning, he dresses himself in his sister's old uniform, is reassured by his mother that he looks 'fine' and he'll soon get used to it, before nervously climbing the steps from their basement flat and entering the outside world. 




As he walks the half mile journey, he's joined by a handful of girls from his form. They tell him his skirt looks nice, but in a kind of teasing way. “Are you wearing a blouse too?” Daisy asked in a perplexed tone. Peter said he was, before explaining that due to the cost of a new uniform, he has to make do with his sister's hand-me-downs. “Who are they?!” Daisy exclaimed as they neared the school gates.

“Oh god!” Peter frowned. A small hoard of photographers from the local press were assembled, taking snaps of students as they filtered through the gates. Mrs Bell, the headmistress was there too, seemingly making sure the press don't harass any of her students.

Of course he's self conscious on his first day as he is the only boy in his form wearing a skirt. He noticed that quite a lot of the first and second year boys are also wearing skirts, but that's of little consolation to Peter who's choice of uniform is questioned by almost everyone in his form. Another non-consolation comes from the fact that a good half of the girls all praise him for wearing a skirt instead of the culottes on the grounds that the culottes are horrible. It's a similar story with his leg hair, the girls give him a thumbs up, the boy call him a freak. Peter thinks it's only a matter of seconds before they start on his girlie shoes and socks too, but looking at the footwear worn by the few boys that returned to Ashford, he's not alone in wearing girlie shoes. A couple of Peter's friends teased him as they headed for the toilets... “Those are yours Pete!” they said as they passed the girl's wash room on their way to the boy's.

It didn't seem fair that the fifth year boys were exempt from the new uniform rules. Clad in their long trousers, they take great pleasure in referring to all the boys in the years below them as 'girls' and claiming that Ashford is turning into an all-girls school.

When Peter returns home his mother asks how his first day went. “OK.” he replied, before telling her that he was the only one in his class who'd worn a skirt and the only one who'd shaved his legs. “There's only five of us left in my class.” he added. “And about thirty in my whole year.”

“Oh dear.” his mother exclaimed. “Have all the rest transferred to Central?” she asked.

“Yeah.” Peter replied as he hung his backpack from a dining chair. “Apart from the fifth formers... they're all still there and they can still wear long pants.”

“Well they've only got a few months left.” his mother said, glancing at his skirt, legs and ankle socks.

Peter removed his cardigan (also a hand-me-down from Paula) and slung it over the chair too. “I'm going to change.” he said as he began to head for his room.

“Oh please don't.” his mother asked in a pleaful tone. “I've hardly seen you in your new uniform.”

“I've had it on all day though.” Peter moaned.

“Well another hour or two won't matter.” she smiled. “Oh, did you try your PE skirt for size?” she asked. “PE is tomorrow isn't it?”

“Yes... and yes.” Peter replied. “Yes.” he added after his mother asked him if it fit or not.

“And remind me when swimming starts...” she said, “...I still need to get you a costume.”

“Paula gave me hers.” Peter replied.

“I know but you'll want a boy's one.” his mother advised.

When his sister returned home from college, she too asked Peter how his first day went. “Not bad.” he frowned. “The lads think I'm a freak for wearing a skirt but the girl's were a bit more encouraging.”

“Well take no notice of them... when it comes to style, girls know best.” she told him.

“Yeah I guess.” Peter replied.

Before Peter went to bed, his mother reminded him to get his PE kit ready. With a skirt and blouse hanging from the knobs on his wardrobe doors as he packed his PE kit into his pump bag, Peter frowned to himself. “They'll probably have us playing netball or something.” he sighed. He's fairly certain that he'll be the only boy wearing a skirt whilst the other wear the PE skort. He dreaded the thought of it bouncing up and down as he leapt and jumped. Then he remembered the little shorts Paula had given him, and made sure they were packed too.

Yet again, the girl's saw Peter's PE skirt in a more positive light than the boys did. From the front, both garments were identical, with a wide flat panel and narrow knife please around the sides. It was only from the back that the difference between the skirt and skort was obvious. The skort doesn't bounce up like Peter's skirt does, but thankfully, he wears a little pair of burgundy shorts to preserve his modesty, just like the girls do.

On Thursday morning, Peter's three pairs of white ankle socks were in his laundry basket, meaning he had no choice but to wear one of the pairs of white knee socks his mother had put in his drawer. He hoped he could get away with wearing them scrunched down around his ankles, but his mother insisted that he pull them up. Why he was so against wearing knee socks he wasn't sure... they're just another girlie accessory to an already girlie uniform. Maybe it's the fact they are as white as the driven snow that bothers him. Plenty of other boys wear knee socks, but for the most part they wear grey or black ones. No one else seemed to notice that Peter wore girlie white knee socks with his girlie shoes and girlie skirt, but one thing Peter did notice is when one had begun to slip down more than the other... prompting him to intermittently re-align them throughout the day. On Friday evening after school, his mother noticed him straightening his knee socks and said that it was nice that he's taking pride in his appearance. “Well I look stupid enough as it is.” Peter stated as he looked down at his attire. “I don't want to look like a scruff-bag too.” he added.

When he changed out of his school uniform that evening, Peter was looking forward to two whole days of dressing like a boy should dress. On Saturday he met up wit a couple of pals who'd transferred to Central, and neither of them believed him at first when he confessed to having to wear his sister's hand-me-down skirts rather than the shorts that the Ashford boys are supposed to wear. However he mentioned nothing about shaving his legs to them. They exchanged stories about their respective schools... Ashford's the same as it was last term apart from the obvious, and the fact that boys are now in a definite minority, and the fifth form boys (currently exempt from the new uniform) have a bigger superiority complex than usual. On the other hand, Central Comprehensive is overcrowded with the teachers doing more crowd control than actual teaching, there's nowhere near enough text books to go round, and in some classes, even chairs are in short supply! The school dinners are bland and the toilets are apparently filthy. On hearing that Central Comprehensive is less than ideal, Peter is somewhat relieved that he hadn't been transferred too... but then again... attending Ashford is less than ideal too.

On Sunday afternoon, Peter's mother asks him if he's got any homework to do. “Only domestic science.” he replies.

“Didn't you do that yesterday morning?” his mother asked.

“I loaded the washing machine put it through the dryer...” Peter stated, “...I just need to iron my blouses, and my skirts.” he gulped. Putting the word 'my' in front of words like 'skirts' and 'blouses' was a new and unnerving thing to say. Under the watchful eye of his mother, Peter pressed his own clothes for the first time in his life. “This is really hard!” he commented as he lined up the pleats of his skirts before pressing them.

“You're doing a good job.” his mother said. “I'm chuffed to bits that laundering and ironing is one of your homework assignments rather than one of my chores.” she grinned. “Is it going to be every week?” she teased. Peter nodded as he carefully put the hot iron over the numerous pleats that he'd fastidiously lined up. “Really?” his mother asked.

“Yeah.” Peter half-heartedly replied as he clipped the skirt onto a hanger before placing the next on the ironing board. “Miss Taylor, the DS teacher said the skirts are a lot easier to iron than the culottes....” he said as he began lining up the many pleats. “...but I can't see it.” he added. “They only have about six creases... these have got about fifty.” he sighed.

Once he'd finished his ironing, he asked his mother to sign his homework chitty, stating that Peter had loaded the washing machine, either hung it on the line or put it through a dryer and finally ironed it all. His mother ticked the boxes and signed her name. “I could get used to this.” she grinned as she gave him the slip of paper back.

Peter felt just as coy, shy and nervous as he did the previous Monday as he walked to school. He'd forgotten how the breeze felt as it caressed his legs, and having shaved them for the second time before bed last night, they felt smoother than ever. He hadn't really noticed last week just how many of the first and second year boys also wore skirts. There was quite a lot of those girlie white knee socks with knitted patterns up the side, and some even had bunches or wore Alice bands in their hair! “At least I don't have to dress 'that' girlie.” he thought as he walked through the school gates and headed to his form room.

“You shaved your legs again Jacko?” one of the boys in Peter's class asked.

“Yeah.” Peter mournfully replied.

“Weirdo!” the boy teased.

Peter did feel a bit guilty for removing his leg hair, as if he's betraying his gender. But looking at the other boys with their hairy legs emerging from their short culottes, Peter knew what he preferred.

“Wearing a skirt and not shaving his legs would be weirder.” one of the girls interjected. “They do look better.” she assured, casting Peter a smile as he made sure the tops of his knee socks were level.

By the end of his second week Peter felt a lot more accustomed to wearing a skirt. He is also far less hostile towards wearing his white knee socks too. He knew that he was still making heads turn on the way to and from school, but the same goes for the boys wearing their culottes. In spite of the fact that plenty of girls insisted his skirt looks better than the culottes the other boys wear, Peter still wishes that he could wear the proper boy's uniform instead of his sister's hand-me-downs. But knowing that money is in short supply, and that his mother does the best she can with what little she has, Peter doesn't pester her for a pair of culottes. “They look more or less the same as this anyway.” he tells himself as he removes his skirt that Friday evening.

After five weeks of the new uniform rules, stepping into a skirt every weekday morning feels completely normal to Peter. It's only when he gets to school where the other boys in his year all wear the box pleated culottes does he begin to feel a little self-conscious. It's really only the fifth formers that give him any grief about his skirt and hairless legs, but they also give the other boys grief for wearing culottes, so nothing would really change if he didn't have to wear his sister's old skirts.

Thankfully his mother did buy him a proper boy's swimming costume, which fits far better and is much more comfortable than his sister's old swimsuit (he'd tried it on out of curiosity a few weeks ago). Actually wearing a swimsuit similar to the girl's isn't half as bad as he'd expected either. For a start, there's no chance of it accidentally coming off as swimming trunks have been known to do. The fact that Peter is now the fastest swimmer amongst the boys is put down to his hairless legs... but in reality, the strongest swimmers had all transferred to Central Comprehensive. In a bid to improve their speed, a small handful of boys turned up to the next swimming session with shaved legs too! But Peter is still the fastest swimmer amongst the boys, and very proud of it.

One afternoon when he gets home from school, his mother announces that she has a surprise for him. “What is it?” he excitedly asks as he takes the Oxfam carrier bag from her and roots inside.

“I've been trawling the charity shops almost daily hoping to find you a pair.” his mother says as he unfolds a pair of the boy's box pleated shorts. “I do hope they fit.” she smiles. Although the regulation school shorts are also very girlie, Peter is over the moon that he no-longer has to wear a skirt for school. “Well, you've only go one pair Peter, so you'll still have to wear one of your skirts when they're in the wash.” his mother tells him.

For a brief moment, Peter feels a little disappointed that his skirts aren't entirely a thing of the past (yet), but the reality of the situation quickly kicks in. “Oh well... I don't mind wearing a skirt now I'm used to it.” he replied. “But thanks for these.” he says, holding up his new (to him) culottes. “I won't have to sit with my knees together all day.” he smiles.

The following day, Peter is as proud as punch to finally be walking to school wearing the boy's uniform. This is met with approval from the boys in his class, but not from the girls... but Peter doesn't care... he's just happy to feel like one of the lads again. Without making too much of a song and dance about it, most of the few boys that remain at Ashford Academy tend to agree that the new uniform isn't that bad. “Once we're through the gates it's fine.” Tom admits. “It's just the walk to and from school that I dread.” he adds. Of course many of the fifth form boys still taunt and tease all the boys below them, but it's like water off a duck's back now. In a few more weeks they'll have finished their exams and will be gone for good, taking their long trousers with them. The warm spring sun beats down on Peter as he walks home that afternoon. A couple of girls from his class walk part of the way with him. “Aren't you glad you're not wearing long pants on a day like this?” Daisy asks.

Peter looks up at the sun then down at his legs and recalled just how clammy his polyester school trousers could get. “Yeah.” he replied. “I wish I hadn't worn knee socks today.” he added as he glanced down to check the tops were level. They weren't so he paused to pull one up an inch or so.

“You're so fussy.” Angela said as she and Daisy halted whilst Peter sorted his socks out.

“They just look wrong if they're not level.” Peter said as they set off walking again. “It is kind of nice wearing these when it's this warm.” he added, briefly taking hold of his culotte shorts. “It's winter I'm not looking forward too.”

“Well think yourself lucky we can wear tights now.” Daisy replied. “It's freezing in knee socks when it's really cold.”

“I don't like the idea of wearing tights.” Peter said.

“You will in December.” Daisy knowingly informed him. “In fact I think boys should be banned from wearing tights for their first winter... just so they know what us girls have had to put up with all these years.”

Angela wholeheartedly agreed. “You boy's don't know how lucky you are.” she added.

They soon parted company and Peter walked the rest of the way home alone. His mother asked him if he'd enjoyed wearing his new culottes today, and Peter said he had. “Some of the girls were a bit disappointed though... Sandra Winters said I'd gone over to the 'dark side'.” he said with a grin.

A few days later, Peter's culottes are in the wash and he has no choice but to don one of his skirts again. He does this reluctantly, but during that day he realises that he actually prefers wearing a skirt. The culottes are OK when he's stood up, but when sitting down the box pleats bunch up, making them look awkward and unsightly. They also sometimes 'choke' him after being seated for long periods, something that doesn't happen with a skirt.

Peter spends a few weeks alternating between his shorts and a skirt. The early heatwave continues long into May, so much so that the whole county has been subjected to a hosepipe ban. Whilst his friends who attend Central Comprehensive complain about it being far too hot in their poorly ventilated classrooms, and not much better in the school yard, Peter and Tom stress that although their school uniform isn't great to look at, it is far more comfortable on hot summer days than long pants could ever be. “Yeah.. I think I'd rather swelter in pants to be honest.” Anthony retorts.

Tom does have a little whine about wearing the culottes. “Sometimes it feels like they're slicing my balls.” he says, causing both Anthony and Callum to grimace.

“That's why I wear a skirt most days.” Peter replied.

“Don't they do that?” Tom asked, before thinking about it and adding. “Course not!” After a moment thinking, Tom said, “I don't think I'd have the guts to wear a skirt... and I can't imagine asking my mum for one.” he chuckled.

“I didn't have any choice.” Peter replied. “But now I have a choice, I prefer the skirt.. even if it is a tiny bit more girlie than the 'clots'.”

“You two are weird.” Anthony said. “We should be talking about what we're going to do at half term and you two are talking about school uniform!” He was being more jovial than spiteful and the comment was well received. The conversation did switch to what they'd get up to at half term, which is only a few days away.

That evening whilst Peter's ironing his culottes, his mother asks him if he prefers them to a skirt, and Peter coyly admits to preferring his skirts. “I thought so.” his mother smiled. “You don't seem to wear them half as often as you could.” she added. Peter explained why he doesn't really like wearing his culottes, and his mother said that he doesn't have to wear them if he doesn't want to. “Your skirts look much nicer anyway.” she added.

“Yeah.” Peter agreed. After a moment's silence, Peter plucked up the courage to ask his mother something. “Mum?” he asked

“Yes?”

“You know those knee socks with the patterns on?” he shyly asked, drawing an imaginary zig-zag pattern on the ironing board

“Pelerine?” his mother suggested.

“Is that what they're called?”

His mother nodded. “I think so.” she said.

“Well... I wondered if....” He began to blush. “...if they're not too expensive...”

“Would you like some?”

“I know they're a bit girlie but...” he coyly replied. “...I kinda like them.”

His mother smiled. “”I think Paula might have a couple of pairs... I know she probably won't wear them these days.” she said. “Or would you like some all of your own?”

“I don't mind.” Peter replied. “If it's OK with Paula.”

“Why don't you ask her when she gets in?”

Peter became hesitant. “Errr.... wouldn't it sound a bit odd if I asked?” he gulped. “I mean.. they are really girlie.”

“Would you rather I asked?” his mother suggested. Peter nodded, gulped and smiled. “And it shouldn't matter that they're a bit girlie... the boundaries between boyish and girlie are a bit blurred at Ashford.” his mother added.

“Tell me about it.” Peter replied as he clipped his freshly ironed culottes onto a skirt hanger. “It's really hard to tell with some of the first years.”

“Georgie Marshall looks sweet with his new hair do.” his mother says. “Have you seen him?”

Peter nods as he lays one of his blouses on the ironing board.. “I don't think I'd like to go that girlie.” he says. George, who's mother insisted he wears a skirt instead of culottes, has recently had his moppish hair curled and wears a white ribbon in it.. much to the delight of the girls in his year.

“So long as it complies with the uniform rules, you can go however you like.” his mother replied, much to Peter's approval. “Aren't you concerned about what some of the other boys might say if you turn up wearing pelerine socks though?”

“I'll just tell 'em my Mum made me wear them.” Peter cheekily suggested. “To be honest they probably won't even mention them.” he added as he moved the iron to and fro over his blouse. “They don't seem to have noticed that I wear a blouse instead of a shirt.”

“Fair enough.” his mother smiles. She continues watching her son as he irons his school uniform. She doesn't have to watch over him but she does enjoy it. “Do you enjoy ironing?” she asked.

Peter screwed his nose up. “I don't mind it.” he said as he laid the next panel on the ironing board. “It just needs to be done.” he said as he pushed the iron over the white cotton blouse. “I prefer ironing my blouses because they're easy.... there's a certain amount of pride getting all of the pleats lined up on my skirts... and the culottes are a pain in the.” he explained as he hung the freshly ironed blouse from a clothes hanger. “The legs don't quite fit over the board so the pleats are really hard to keep together.” he added.

“Well if you don't wear them you won't have to iron them.”

“That's another reason I prefer wearing my skirts.” Peter replied as he gathered all his ironing and prepared to take it to his room.

“I like it when you say that.” his mother said. “My skirts.” she smiled.

“Well they are.” Peter replied before leaving the kitchen.

His mother smiled as she watched him go. His pleated skirt swished this way and that. She felt as guilty as hell when she told him that he'd have to make do with his sister's hand-me-downs instead of forking out for the new boy's uniform... but seeing just how comfortable he seems wearing his sister's old clothes, she can't help but wonder what other items Paula might have outgrown.