The true-life-inspired style of the BBC’s Peaky Blinders is slashing across boundaries of cool, classic and contemporary. Here’s looking at the vibe of the most stylish show on streaming
Rewind to 1800s, the soot black streets of Birmingham. An industrialising Britain was dragging the world along, and as a nation put itself to being the engine behind an empire, its streets were growing crowded, and competitive. Around this time, rising from the slums of the city, there is mention of a gang of criminals called the Peaky Blinders. They were so known for their violent behaviour, but also since a comparative word of stylish for its time was “blinder”. Dressing dapper was a part of the deal for these men, recognised by their friends, foes and crooked cops alike by their flat caps, crisp shirts, button vests and overcoats.
And then someone at the British Broadcasting Corporation had the brilliant idea of giving the Blinders an alternate history, shifting their timeline to post World War I Britain, turning the Peaky Blinders into a family gang with a cold and ambitious patriarch at its head. What they did retain though, was the name, and the style. For the original gangsters and as also for their on-screen counterparts, the clothes were a way of showing their worth at a time when the initial rigours of urbanisation were cluttering spaces and minds up, much like today. Wearing a good suit with a devil-may-care attitude was the Blinders’ way of marking their territory, and BBC’s excellent show mimics this same spirit in its hair, costumes and colours.
Triangular, basic and functional, the newsboy cap was usually made of wool or tweed – no fancy materials. In fact, at a certain point the British Crown had made wearing caps in public compulsory for grown men on certain days to boost wool production. Consequently the paperboy cap or flat cap as it was known, became a symbol of the working class, and was omnipresent in sooty industrial areas, on young heads and old. Its construction was basic – a flat top piece, sewn-on or buttoned to the “peak”, giving the cap its triangular profile. On the show, it adds a generous dash of boyishness to the Blinders, whose opponents are older, hatted people, making their stares and tempers a shade scarier.
THE ‘DO: The Undercut
The Undercut was a popular hairstyle in the slums of England through the first half of the century. It usually indicated an inability to afford skilled barbers, and post-war, it went with ravaged men who had returned from the nightmares of the trenches. By the 20s, the time in which the show is set, the undercut had become a popular working-class hairstyle for young men, since it was easy to maintain. It was also the haircut of choice for many gangs in Manchester and Birmingham, including the Peaky Blinders, where it made things easier during fistfights in streets. For the show, it was a drastic style for actors including male lead Cillian Murphy, who had never buzzcut their hair before. Of course, with plenty of wax, the top crop was usually kept in check under the cap.
THE RAIMENT: Tailored Suits
Their heads may have been working-class, but when it came to clothes, the Blinders ensured that they were noticed and respected. It was rare for gangs of its time to be dressed in expensive clothing and fabric – the average lowlife criminal was concerned with cheaper stuff. But the Peaky Blinders were different, they understood the value of making a statement in their line of work, and were known for their taste. The fact that their crisp collars, buttoned-up vests, tailored suits and long overcoats looked completely out of place in their rolled-up-sleeves environment only added distinction and an air of supreme confidence to the Blinders, extending their reach and reign. Stephanie Collie’s costume work on the show is one of its stars in itself, and her previous work on films like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels has also ensured that the sinisterness of the gangland attitude comes shining through in the cuts of the suits of the Peaky Blinders.