“This country is under new management …. by Order of the Peaky Blinders”.
This slight misquote sums up the Peaky Blinders phenomenon which has been sweeping the country the past few years but especially last year when the award-winning show made the leap from BBC2 to BBC1.
For those who don’t know, Peaky Blinders, a BBC show about a family of gangsters set in 1920s Birmingham (but mostly filmed in Liverpool, Manchester and Yorkshire), was first broadcast in 2013. It attracted a cult-audience of some 2 million which grew by word-of-mouth to some 3.3 million for Series 4, to say nothing of the worldwide audience who watch on Netflix. With its transfer to BBC1 in 2019, the audience grew to over 6 million, helped by its first advertising campaign on prominent posters in the Tube, main streets and bus stops.
However, whether you have ever watched a single episode or not, you are probably aware of the show thanks to the effects it has had on our country’s zeitgeist. Here are just five:
1/ The Peaky Blinders haircut
There is no escaping the tonsorial effect of the show: the Peaky Blinders’ haircut is today one of the most popular hairstyles for men (and not a few women). Created by Peaky’s hair and make-up designer Loz Shiavo, when it was first premiered in Series One, the actors used to wear hats when out in public to avoid being laughed at; now she says there is no need as everyone is sporting the cut! For those who don’t know, the cut is extremely short around the back and front, almost shaved in fact but left in long textured layers on top, brushed forward and coming down across the forehead (a “high number one disconnected, top-heavy” to be technical). With the obligatory Peaky cap on, only skin is visible until the cap is removed. This haircut may have found favour with hipsters across the country but did you know it was originally designed for soldiers in WW1, as lice and nits congregated around the nape of the neck? Take a look at this article to see what we’re talking about.
2/ The Peaky Blinders cap
Pity anyone who wore a flat cap before 2013 when the show began as no matter how long they’ve been sporting one, the standard remark on seeing one nowadays is “Ah, Peaky Blinders”. There has been a sharp increase in the number of young and middle-aged men wearing caps and this is neither a belated tribute to the cartoon character Andy Capp or Fred Dibnah but another effect of Peaky mania. All the main gang members in Peaky Blinders sport a cap but to be genuinely Peaky it should be the 8-panel Baker’s or News Boy’s cap. To remain within the law, it should NOT follow the Blinders in having a razor blade shown into its peak (hence the name “Peaky Blinders – think about it!). The comeback of the flat cap has been so widespread that in 2019 the Office for National Statistics updated the shopping basket they use to calculate the Consumer Price Index which charts inflation with the addition of the flat cap! And John Lewis attributes a 25% increase in demand for caps to the show.
3/ Peaky Dressing up
Of course, for really enthusiastic fans the cap is just the start of dressing up. At weddings, race meetings and just in your local pub, you will see groups of very well-dressed men with the giveaway Peaky cap. The Blinders are known for their sartorial elegance so the three-piece suit is de rigeur for fans. Attention to detail is all: the trousers should be cropped above the ankle, boots should be heavy, Oxford-style lace-ups, shirts should have a penny collar and the accessories need to be spot-on: tie pins, cufflinks, braces and an Albert chain should attach a gold pocket watch to the buttonhole of a waistcoat. The colours are dark but there are no such limitations for the ladies.
Arguably the 1920s was a high-point of ladies’ fashion (think Gatsby or Flapper) with beaded dresses with uneven hems or tassels, sparkling or feathered headdresses, topped off by a fur coat or stole (faux these days please) forming the evening look. Accessorise with strings of pearls, a small beaded handbag and a cigarette case and holder. For daytime wear, think below knee-length drop-waist dresses in a loose straight fit to elongate the figure, pleated skirts, cloche hats to match your short, bobbed hairstyle or pinned up hair (hairpins essential but NOT to be used as weapons!) and lace-up Oxford shoes or a Mary Jane heel. Try Garrison Tailors – the official Peaky Blinders tailor.
4/ Peaky Events
Now you have mastered the look and are all-dressed up, you won’t want to stay at home but go out and show-off your finery. From the earliest days of the show, Peaky fans have organised their own get-togethers (or takeovers!) at parties, the Peaky Blinders bars in Liverpool, Southport and Manchester, at the Black Country Living Museum (where scenes from Peaky Blinders are filmed) and even on a ferry to Holland. The last year or two have seen officially-sanctioned events enter the fray with a Legitimate Peaky Blinders Festival in Birmingham in the summer of 2019 and, very appropriately, an Official Peaky Blinders race day at Newmarket. It’s no exaggeration to say that every charity seems to be doing a Peaky Blinders-themed fundraising evening this year and the show is also a popular theme for weddings.
5/ Peaky Filming Locations Tours
The ultimate pilgrimage for Peaky fans is a tour of non-studio filming locations and it was Blue Badge guide Julie Kershaw who offered the very first Peaky tour of filming locations in both Liverpool and Manchester. Although set in 1920s Birmingham, no less than fifteen
Liverpool settings have stood in for locations as diverse as London’s Eden Club, a Detroit Hotel and the Margate shoot-out between Tommy and Alfie. Some of the most iconic locations of the show: Birmingham’s Watery Lane – where the Shelby brothers grew up
– and Garrison Lane, home of the eponymous pub, were also filmed in Liverpool. On your private Peaky tour of Liverpool, by either chauffeur-driven car or on your coach, you can re- live scenes from the programme or even extend your tour to Tommy’s Mansion in the Cheshire countryside. Peaky haircut, cap and outfit are totally optional but make for good photos!