What Is A Peaky Blinder?

Last Updated: October 18th, 2023 by Kerry Wisby (Teacher-BA English Literature, 1920s & Great Gatsby Expert)

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Image Flickr Creative Commons –Terry Kearney

If you haven’t yet watched the popular show Peaky Blinders, you will probably be wondering did they really put razor blades in their hats?  Or what the heck a Peaky Blinder is.

Maybe you’ve caught some bits and pieces of the show and you’re a little bit confused about what all is going on, and your curiosity has been piqued. Or, you simply want to know what the history is behind the Peaky Blinders and who they really were.

No matter what your reason is for wondering what a Peaky Blinder is, we are here to help. Keep on reading to learn more about the show, the history that has inspired it, and whether or not they really did have razor blades in their hats back then.

Everything You Need To Know About The Peaky Blinders


In this guide, we are going to give you all you need to know about the BBC drama Peaky Blinders, who the real Peaky Blinders were, what kind of hats are worn on the show, and even some information on the characters themselves. After this, you will be able to consider yourself a Peaky Blinders expert!

Who Are The Peaky Blinders?

who were the peaky blinders

Image Credit Flickr Creative Commons – Mike

The Peaky Blinders were a real street gang based in Birmingham, England back in the late 1800s. They continued to operate through the first world war before they disbanded and members joined other well-known gangs of Irish descent.

The Peaky Blinders came about because of the terrible economic conditions in England during that time (read more on when does Peaky Blinders take place ). The real Peaky Blinders wore flat caps, silk scarves, bell-bottomed trousers, overcoats, and other items of clothing that made them look very fashionable and above the social class that they were actually a part of.

This Birmingham gang is the inspiration for the Peaky Blinders gang in the eponymous show that has become so popular on the BBC. However, the time periods are a bit different, and many of the events are fictionalized and do not have a historical basis, so that is important to remember while watching the show.

What Is The Peaky Blinders About?

peaky blinders hat name

The tv series Peaky Blinders is a period drama based on family crime. The gang that it is based on was actually called the Peaky Blinders. Some of the events of the show are based on historical documentation, but the majority of the show is fictionalized.

One part of the show that is different is that the gang gets started in the early 1900s in the show, whereas in reality the gang was founded in the late 1800s. However, one of the things that are the most historically accurate is the above-average fashionable clothing the gang wore despite them living in a lower economic class at the time.

The best way to explain what Peaky Blinders is about without giving too much away is that it is a family crime drama. Good comparisons to this theme are tv shows like The Sopranos and the series of movies called The Godfather. If you enjoyed either of these, we recommend that you give Peaky Blinders a try. Not only is it a fascinating look at historical events between the first and second world wars, but it is also beautifully shot and the acting is fantastic.

Were The Peaky Blinders A Real Gang?

The Peaky Blinders were a real gang in the late 1800s and the early 1900s. The show has changed the time period in which they existed somewhat, instead of beginning the gang in the early 1900s and continuing it through the beginning of WWII. The characters are also fictionalized, but the gang itself did exist and wore many of the same fashions that are popular in the show.

What Are The Hats Called In Peaky Blinders?who are the peaky blinders gangGet the Cap

The hats in the show, and the hats they wore in real life, are peaked caps called flat caps. A flat cap can go by many other names, including a newsboy cap, cabbie cap, golf cap, and more. A flat cap was traditionally made from Irish wool and had an 8-paneled construction that folded over a short, flat brim.

How Did The Peaky Blinders Get Their Name?

what does peaky blinders mean

The origins behind the real Peaky Blinders’ name is lost to history. However, it is thought that it was likely given due to how fashionable the gang was for the time period and economic class. At the time, “peaky” was a slang term that equates to “dapper.” Essentially, the name likely came about because the gang always made themselves look good and stand out from the crowd.

Did The Peaky Blinders Really Keep Razor Blades In Their Flat Caps?

did they have razor blades in their hats In the show, it is suggested that the gang got their name because they sewed razor blades into the brim of their flat caps, headbutting opponents during fights and sometimes blinding them. While this does play out in the show, this isn’t based on historical reality.

Razor blades were a luxury during the time period the real gang existed. In fact, they weren’t mass-marketed for quite sometime after that. While these were men of some means due to their illegal dealings, it is unlikely that they had the resources to get razor blades for every gang member.

In fact, this concept is likely popularized by a book called A Walk On Summer Lane that was written in the 1970s. This romanticized version of events made its way into the tv show.

Are The Peaky Blinders Irish?

The gang in real life and in the show were Irish immigrants and descendants of Irish immigrants living in England.

What Is The Peaky Blinders Haircut Called?

The haircut popularized in the tv show was a common haircut in the 1920s when the show takes place. It was called a French Crop at the time but was often referred to simply as a crop. This haircut is characterized by a long top with faded sides. The top is usually pushed to one side on the fringe, not straight down. This haircut is very popular even today and can be a very flattering look for many men.

What Time Period Does Peaky Blinders Take Place In?

The real gang existed from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. The tv show takes place from the end of WWI to the beginning of WWII. However, the creator of the series, Steven Knight, has confirmed that it will take 7 seasons to tell that story, and Peaky Blinders season 5 is the most recent season of the show to air on the BBC.

Where Does Peaky Blinders Take Place?

The real gang and the tv show both exist in Birmingham, England. Birmingham has a rich history of Irish immigration and different Irish street gangs since the mass diaspora that occurred due to the Irish potato famine. That same famine is what led to so many Irish immigrants moving to the United States. Many US citizens to this day are now of Irish descent due to such a huge portion of the population making the journey to the US.

Is The Shelby Family Real?

The Shelby Family, which the show is centered around, is not a real gang family. They have been entirely fictionalized, even though the Peaky Blinders were in fact a real gang. In fact, almost all of the gang members and characters in the series have been fictionalized.

Who Are The Main Characters In Peaky Blinders?

Thomas Shelby

Thomas Shelby is the main character in the show, played by Cillian Murphey. He is the leader of the gang, and the show follows his family and his rise to power and success between the first and second world wars.

Billy Kimber

Billy Kimber is Thomas Shelby’s main foe in the tv show. However, even though Shelby didn’t exist, Kimber actually did. In real life, Kimber was a violent gang leader who died as a successful businessman, using his ill-gotten gains to fund a legitimate business.

Aunt Polly

Shelby’s Aunt Polly starts the series as one of his closest confidants and becomes one of the worst-affected victims of his schemes as the show rolls on. She is one of the pivotal characters in the family dramas that unfold.

Luca Changretta

Changretta is a mobster from New York who comes to Birmingham to take revenge on the Shelby brothers after they kill one of his kinsmen. He proves to be a foe that the gang wasn’t truly prepared for.

Ada, John, and Arthur Shelby

Tommy’s siblings are all affected by his dealings in negative ways on the show, having their lives almost come apart multiple times. Much of the show is focused on their love for him at opposition with their need to separate from his shady business.

Who Is Carl Chinn?

Carl Chinn is a history professor in Birmingham who has recounted much of the real history of the Peaky Blinders gang for the fans who would like to know more about the history of Birmingham. He can actually trace his ancestor back to this violent group and is one of the leading experts on the subject.


Peaky Blinders is one of the most popular shows on television today. Its worldwide popularity was earned through beautiful cinematography, historical easter eggs, compelling acting, and entrancing drama. If you haven’t tuned in yet, it is certainly a show that should not be missed.


What Is A Peaky Blinder?
What Is A Peaky Blinder?
All you need to know about the Peaky Blinders. Learn the real facts from fiction about the Peaky Blinders and how they inspired the award-winning BBC drama.
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