How to get the Peaky Blinders style
So, Peaky Blinders is back on our screens for another season. The critically acclaimed period drama is based on the era immediately following the First World War, and follows the eponymous Peaky Blinders gang, loosely based on the real gang of the same name which dominated Birmingham in the 1920s.
If you’ve not seen it, take it from us – it’s a truly gripping TV show that audiences love not just for the intrigue, richly detailed characters and dark, moody themes, but also the undeniably timeless style of the dapper gang members themselves. The costumes are immensely detailed and historically accurate, and the gang dress themselves in outfits that blend heavy fabrics with crisp white penny-collar shirts, not to mention vintage tweed, checked patterns and the baker boy caps. So, let’s break down the elements of this classic 1920s style, and how you can achieve it for yourself.
According to Stephanie Collier, the esteemed costume designer who worked on the first season of Peaky Blinders, the TV versions of the Blinders were intentionally dressed in longer coats to ‘get that high noon feeling’, with their hems flapping in the wind as the boys made their way to each showdown. And while we’re not suggesting you head off to meet any of your acquaintances with stolen military-grade machine guns, you can certainly achieve an equally impressive effect with a long, lapelled coat with heavy dark fabrics. Herringbone tweed should do the trick, although there are a variety of other heritage patterns and fabrics which are also good options – ideally in shades of charcoal, navy, racing green or black.
At the time the TV series is set, England was undergoing some pretty pivotal style revelations – watched closely by a whole host of other nations, all of whom were hugely influenced by happenings on Savile Row. The three piece suit was one of these style revelations, and remains just as versatile and popular today. For the classic Peaky Blinders look, it looks best in tweed, checks and other textures, ideally again in restrained shades of grey, blue or brown. Occasionally, you’ll see glints of gold or silver on the show, usually from pocketwatches and similarly historically-accurate accessories.
A good waistcoat is also an essential element of your new ensemble, and Collier recommends getting the trousers narrowed and shortened, drawing the eyes upward to the suit itself.
Interestingly, you’ve got a range of options here for the Peaky Blinders style, as each member of the gang carved out their own niche with their suits. Tommy Shelby, the leader of the gang, always turns heads with timeless and elegant suits that project an air of refined sensibility – perfectly becoming of the reasonable, modest businessman it often suits him to portray.
Meanwhile, his brother Arthur Shelby serves as the gang’s enforcer, and therefore favours rougher and heavier wool suits with distinctive cuffs and bulky overcoats. Typically, these were worn by gentlemen of the business class, and Arthur notably eschews many of the little sophisticated touches his brother often displays – fitting, given his general lack of interest in rubbing shoulders with Birmingham’s elite social classes.
One of the most pivotal elements in any Peaky Blinders outfit is also one of the most recognisable. The classic penny-collar shirts feature a collar that’s smaller and rounder than regular button-ups, and detachable to boot. Part of the reason why these penny collar shirts look so good is because they’re made to measure – if at all possible, you should aim to do the same, as that’s how they look best!
Similarly, striped shirts are a major feature of the Peaky Blinders wardrobe, and seem to be one of Tommy’s particular favourites. Notably, he often wears what modern style enthusiasts are starting to call an ‘air tie’ – in other words, a shirt buttoned up all the way to the top, without a tie. While it might look a little odd for a modern lounge suit, it certainly works for an authentic period style like that of the Shelbys.
The boots and hat
In keeping with the high-cropped trousers, the outfit is best rounded off with a pair of well-worn leather boots, ideally in dark brown or even black leather, ending just above your ankle. This was perfect footwear for the working class Shelby boys, who often tramped through the dirty pathways and dusty cobblestones of postwar Birmingham.
Finally, there’s that eponymous hat. Now, you don’t necessarily need a baker boy cap – a six-piece section cap will perfectly suffice. We wouldn’t recommend putting a razor blade in it either, for a whole host of reasons. It’s highly difficult, it’s highly illegal, it’s highly dangerous, and it’s not even historically accurate – it’s one of the few areas that the show has taken a bit of creative liberty with. The actual Peaky Blinders put cardboard strips in their caps, which meant that fights weren’t quite as gruesome as they are on the show. A hard piece of cardboard hitting your eye at speed wouldn’t exactly tickle, though, either.
Here at Acorn fabrics, we’ve got a huge range of fabrics perfect for creating the very image of the Peaky Blinders style. You can find our range of checks, stripes and prints in our expansive fabric types section – and if you’ve got any questions or you need any advice, just give us a call on 01282 698 662. We’re here to help!