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Are you enchanted by those bad boys known as Peaky Blinders? Even if you haven’t seen the series, you’ve probably seen memes and gifs featuring the Shelby family and not even realized it.
Peaky Blinders is one of the biggest hits on Netflix right now, and it’s not just their cleverness that has so many people watching. It’s the clothing for sure!
OK, maybe Thomas Shelby’s gorgeous blue eyes have something to do with it, but mainly, in addition to the superb plot and writing, the clothing styles have everyone talking.
Want to dress like a Peaky Blinder? You can mimic one of the characters or just mimic the look. Either way, you’ll want to read this.
What Kind of Suit Does Tommy Shelby Wear?
The actual Peaky Blinders outfit is called a tweed suit, which is a tightly woven type of wool. These were designed to be durable, and most of the patterns were meant to hide minor stains. Wool is very warm and well suited to England’s climate.
Unleash Your Inner Tommy Shelby: Men’s Peaky Blinders Costumes & Stylish Gangster Outfits
In the Roaring 20s, men typically wore classic style 3-piece suits almost everywhere they went. Even casual wear often included at least a waistcoat (today we call it a vest), suspenders, a tie, and a long-sleeved shirt.
Hats and Oxford, lace-up shoes or boots were also the norm, regardless of the season or the weather.
Women’s clothing changed dramatically from 1890 to 1920, but men’s changed only slightly. The main difference in men’s clothing from the 1890s to the 1920s were shorter pants, shorter sports coats, and a change of hats. Men also got rid of walking canes (unless medically necessary) and top hats.
How American Soldiers Brought Peaky Blinders Fashion to the States
Americans who fought in France brought back suitcases of clothing styles that were popular in Europe. The most popular styles came from England, where the Peaky Blinders are from.
In fact, the first men’s style icon was probably the Prince of Wales, who would later become the Duke of Windsor. The Prince was a well-known fashionista who had impeccable taste when it came to clothing and trying on new styles. American papers shamelessly would advertise clothing as “worn by the Prince!”
While most men wear a two-piece suit today, there is nothing wrong if you decide to get your Tommy Shelby on and go all out with three-piece Peaky Blinders suits. Let me tell you how to do this.
How Do I Get the Thomas Shelby Look?
I’m not sure if you want to go with the hairstyle first, but you could. Thomas Shelby’s short-on-the-side but long-on-top look is technically called the Textured French Crop. Even if you forgot the right name for it, I bet if you went to a salon and asked for a Thomas Shelby cut, they would know exactly what you want.
Start with a good three-piece suit. You can choose a tweed suit or some other type of material.
Consider patterns, such as herringbone, or dark colors such as brown, navy blue, and grey.
If needed, have the suit tailored to fit you perfectly. Tailored doesn’t necessarily mean tight, but well-fitted at the arms, legs, and waist.
Make sure the vest has at least one pocket for the required pocket watch!
Add the shirt. Tommy most often wears white shirts, but you do see the occasional colored shirt with a white club collar. Depending on how authentic you want to get, you can simply choose a nicely tailored long-sleeved white shirt,
or you can go all out Shelby and wear the white, round-collared shirts that were available in the 1920s.
This dress shirt with club collar (also called penny collar) comes in various colors and patterns that you can wear to the office and other casual events.
A tie is an absolute must. Thomas mostly wore the typical tie of his day,
but you can also go with a bow tie, which was favored by his brother Arthur Shelby.
Remember that belts were not yet common, but suspenders were.
There are lots of choices when it comes to suspenders, even matching sets with ties and pocket squares.
The type of shoes you choose will depend on your wallet and how authentic you want to be. Plain old lace-up Oxfords, sometimes called Wing Tips, will work just fine for the Peaky Blinder look.
If you want to go with two-toned shoes, so much the better.
If you take a close look, however, you’ll notice that Thomas Shelby, as well as his brothers, wore Oxford boots.
Last, but not least, would have to be the hat. If you want to simply dress sharp, you can ditch the hat, but to be true to Tommy Shelby’s style, you gotta have the hat!
Take note that not just any flat cap will do. Look closely at the hats that the Shelby brothers wear in Peaky Blinders. They’re called newsboy caps today, but you might also hear them called flat caps or, in 1920s England, peakies.
To be as authentic as possible, look for a cap that has seams. Of course, you shouldn’t hide a razor blade there like the Peaky Boys did, but this will give you the authentic Thomas Shelby look.
The great thing about it is that you don’t need to buy Peaky Blinders suits specifically. A well-tailored tweed or wool-blend 3-piece suit will do. Wear it with a tie, suspenders, round-collared shirt, combined with a newsboy cap and Oxford shoes, and you’ll be easily mistaken for a Peaky Blinder.
Work on your accent, too.
More Tips for Creating an Authentic Tommy Shelby Look
Whether it’s a cosplay event, wedding, or you just love the style, you can get as authentic as you like and get your Thomas Shelby look by adding just a few details.
We’ve already talked about the hair, but take a good look at everything about Thomas Shelby. Tommy Shelby always looks sharp, so it’s important to groom yourself properly. This includes getting a haircut, shaving, and keeping your nails clean and trimmed, as well as shaving daily.
If you’ve got the right flat cap, shoes, and a three-piece Peaky Blinders suit, you can really add some vintage authenticity by adding a pocket watch and chain. Tommy has worn both gold and silver watches so you can choose which one suits you best. I think this one is perfect because it even has the old-fashioned button hanger so you don’t lose it.
During cold weather, you’ll want an overcoat. Everyone is crazy about the coat that Thomas Shelby wears with the black velvet half collar.
The proper overcoat of the period is below the knees, cut in the back so it can swing. It is usually black, but it can be brown.
Other details include:
Shirts didn’t come with buttons yet, so cuff links were fairly standard. Tommy Shelby seems to prefer square cufflinks but since he also wears round ones, you can choose.
Thomas is never without a good tie clip, and there are several colors to choose from.
Short-sleeved shirts were still another 20 years away so most men would wear sleeve garters to hold their sleeves in place, and you can find lots of still shots where Thomas is wearing sleeve garters like these.
In very cold weather, Thomas Shelby is frequently seen wearing some sharp leather gloves like these.
Of course, you don’t have to add all of these, but adding just one or two of these to your suit will give you that truly authentic Peaky Blinders Thomas Shelby look that everyone is crazy about.
Thomas Shelby Halloween Costumes
If you want to spend this Halloween dressed as Thomas Shelby, you’ll be in good company. However, that probably means that you don’t want to pay several hundred dollars for an authentic outfit, right?
I’ve got the answer for you. You can grab the look of a Shelby for less money when you know a few little secrets.
Many store sell 1920s gangster costumes like this one.
Add a Peaky Blinders hat
and some spats, and you’re set!
You can also go this route. Wear the pants and suspenders with the coat, then simply add a sportscoat or vest.
If you want the Tommy gun, which was commonly seen in Peaky Blinders, you can try this one,
along with the flat cap and spats mentioned above.
Perhaps the most inexpensive way of doing this is to wear your own clothes, perhaps an old suit you already have or you can pick one up at a second-hand store. Bow ties or slim neckties will do.
Add a few accessories such as the Tommy gun,
the Peaky Blinders hat,
and a fake pocket watch.
The flat cap alone will tip off everyone that you’re going as Tommy Shelby or another Shelby brother!
Are the Clothes in Peaky Blinders Authentic to the Roaring 20s?
For the most part, yes.
Some men simply don’t care much about fashion, and they wore whatever they wanted or whatever had been popular in their heyday.
Take Inspector Campbell, played brilliantly by Sam Neil, from the first season. You’ll note that he doesn’t go for the typical flat cap of the day, nor does he favor the fedora or boater. Instead, he prefers the derby, sometimes called the bowler hat from the 1890-1910 period.
Campbell also uses the walking cane that was commonly used by wealthy men in the same time period.
So sometimes, it’s not that the suits weren’t accurate, but some men simply prefer a different style.
You’ll notice that there are no double-breasted suits worn by the Peaky Blinder brothers even though this was a popular style.
Also, the Kimber gang wore coats that were much shorter than those worn by the Peaky Blinders. Whether this was simply so people could tell the two gangs apart or there was some other reason for this, I’m not sure.
Generally speaking, you’ll find very authentic looks when you watch Peaky Blinders. Even if you decide to wear a double-breasted vest, you can achieve the Peaky Blinders style if you add the hat, shoes, watch, and overcoat.
Before You Go ….
If you’re reading this and wondering why anyone would want to dress like Thomas Shelby, here are a few reasons
- To look stylish. Tommy Shelby is known for his sharp suits and stylish hats. If you want to look your best, dressing like Tommy Shelby is a great way to do it.
- To feel confident. When you dress well, you feel better about yourself. If nothing else, Tommy Shelby is a confident man, and his clothing choices reflect that. If you want to feel more confident, dressing like Tommy Shelby can help.
- To make a statement. Tommy Shelby’s clothing choices are not just about looking good. They also make a statement about who he is and what he stands for. If you want to make a statement with your clothing, dressing like Tommy Shelby is a great way to do it.
Of course, there are also some potential downsides to dressing like Tommy Shelby. For example, you might be mistaken for a member of a gang, and some people dislike the Peaky Blinders series because of the violence.
I say that when it comes to dressing up, the choice is yours. Or, as the band ZZ Top put it so well, “Every girl’s crazy ’bout a sharp-dressed man!”
You might also like to read our other article on Popular Peaky Blinder Suit Styles
Written by Kerry Wisby – GatsbyFlapperGirl.com
Owner & Founder of GatsbyFlapperGirl.com
Kerry Wisby, a former teacher with a BA in English, is the founder of GatsbyFlapperGirl.com. With a passion for all things 1920s, including The Great Gatsby novel, her website is the ultimate source for Roaring Twenties fashion, history, and party ideas. Read more about Kerry here.