My mom and I started watching Peaky Blinders this summer, and we are absolutely Loving it! The music, cinematography, costumes, and the actors (who doesn't love Cillian Murphy?) are all fantastic. I have always had an interest in the dark side of history (you can read more of my posts about dark histories here), so it was a natural response to the show to research the real Peaky Blinders.
The Peaky Blinders were a real gang in Birmingham before and during WW1. They were set apart from other gangs because of how nicely they dressed- often in nicely tailored jackets, waistcoats, and peaked flat caps. They started in the slums in the 1890s, and organized themselves into a gang that had a certain amount of political and social control. Unlike the show (warning: spoilers ahead), the gang was taken down in the 1910's by a gang lead by Billy Kimber, called the Birmingham Boys.
Another thing that the Peaky Blinders were known for is sewing a razor into their caps. The criminal profiler and historian, John Doulgas, believes that the caps were used as weapons for most members. The name of the gang is believed to come from how they would cut peoples foreheads, temporarily blinding them with their own blood. The name could also come from the slang of a Blinder being a well dress person. Where the name came from is a bit of a sensitive subject for historians- Carl Chinn (a professor with an MBE in English history) is a firm believer that the razor idea is a myth.
Most of the members of street gangs in the late 1800s were between the ages of 12 and 30. Later on, these groups started to create a pecking order. The 'leader' of the Peaky Blinders was a man called Kevin Mooney, though his real name was Thomas Gilbert. They often had land battles with another gang in the area, the Cheapside Sloggers. By the late 1890s, the Blinders were expanding their expertise, going into protection rackets, fraud, bribery, smuggling, bookmaking, and many other illegal pursuits. They were less of an organised crime group and more into street fighting and robbery. After almost 10 years of owning the streets of Birmingham, they attracted the attention of the Birmingham Boys. When they got greedy and made their way into the race tracks, the Birmingham Boys put a stop to the gang. The families in the gang mostly left for the country, distancing themselves from the other, larger gangs. There was more than one reason that the gang disappeared, however. The police got stricter with the gangs at the time, and the social circumstances were starting to change around this time as well- especially once the war started.
I have had so much inspiration from the costumes on the show, and after looking at the actual gang members I see why the costumes are so interesting! My outfit is a mens shirt from Van Heusen, my Bomb Girl Trousers, and DSign Step shoes. The photos were taken in Calgary, in one of the oldest areas of the city. These houses are Edwardian Row houses, called the Fairey Terrace, and was inspired by Victorian row houses in London.
If you would like to learn a little bit more about Fairey Terrace in Calgary, click here. If you would like to learn about the real Peaky Blinders, there is a fantastic video featuring Professor Carl Chinn here. Carl Chinn also has a book about them called The Real Peaky Blinders. You can also read the book that the costume designer and hair department used for the show, Crooks Like Us by Peter Doyle. It has pictures of actual criminals from the time, and is a fabulous reference book.
Thanks for reading!