In the latest season of Peaky Blinders, Birmingham’s most famous criminal gang is back with more roaring 20’s style as they careen towards a stock market crash and one of the classiest eras of men’s fashion: the 1930s.
The Peaky Blinders, like any good criminal gang, has a uniform that inspires both admiration and fear. Over 5 seasons and a decade of history, their style (and 1920’s style in general) has come to influence modern fashion in many ways. The prohibition high & tight hairstyle is back; boots are becoming increasingly popular; newsboy and flat caps are making a comeback.
Unlike the bold fashion choices that came to represent criminal rivals of the Peaky Blinders, the understated monochrome palette lacked flash and austentation even as leader Tommy Shelby and his gang began to climb the social ladder. It’s also got a distinct appeal for the modern gent for its timeless look. Today let’s take a deeper look at the style of the Peaky Blinders, the history behind the gang, and how you can replicate their look in a modern way today.
In Birmingham in the late 1880’s and 90’s, gangs ruled the streets in the midst of an industrial revolution that had failed to lift its many laborers from poverty. The show, based loosely on true accounts, is set 3 decades after the real Peaky Blinders operated as a gang. Their use of razor blades sewn in the peaks of their caps is unfortunately 2 parts myth and 1 part truth. As you can see below, the gang did wear their trademark caps, but disposable double edged razor blades weren’t marketed until 1903 and even if they could have afforded them, they wouldn’t have had the means to sew the thick metal blades into their caps.
The Style of the 1920s
In retrospect, the style of the 1920’s was special because it represents an important inflection point in men’s fashion history. By the time the decade was running out, fashion had nearly completely transitioned away from stiff, Victorian styles and into the modern era.
The tailcoat had all but disappeared for everyday wear, and suits were tailored with a loose, draped cut that enlongated the legs, compressed the waist and emphasized the shoulders. Even though nearly 100 years have passed, almost every element of the typical 1920’s (and the Blinder’s) wardrobe is wearable today – save for the starched, detachable shirt collars and the Albert watch chains.
That being said, though styles were becoming more modern, the environment the British public lived in was still harsh and required heavy, durable clothing. Central heating was years from being ubiquitous; industrial towns like Birmingham were coated in soot and grime; the impossibility of keeping clothes clean meant that almost all clothes were dark, heavy, and simple. Working class men owned only a few outfits, a single overcoat, and one pair of boots, all of which is reflected in the choices the Peaky Blinders make with their clothes.
Peaky Blinders Style: Subversively Class-Conscious
So what does the style of the Peaky Blinders say about them? It’s not always obvious on screen, because the Blinder’s crew is mostly to be found amongst friends that all choose to stick to the house style rules.
Style changes as time passes in the show are slow and subtle, and they consistently honor their working class origins by sticking with dark colors, subtle patterns, and garments characteristic of their hometown. While among the upper classes, Tommy and the Peaky Blinders make choices that openly flout class conventions of the time, such as wearing black gloves, which informs those around them that they have no interest in fitting in. As a rich man, Tommy can afford lighter colored gloves that were a visual indicator of higher class. Rather, they are there to challenge the establishment using their unique style as one of their many weapons.
How To Dress Like the Peaky Blinders
Dressing like Shelby or any other member of his faction is far easier than some of the bolder suits and outfits worn by other Gentlemen of Style we’ve covered like Harvey Specter, Hannibal and even the cast of Downton Abbey. Though the look is suit-heavy in it’s original form, the individual elements can be paired with more modern garments for a more wearable look.