As post-Easter exams approach, Life and Style's Jess Howlett shares her tips on how to remain motivated over EasterWritten by Guest Author on 19th March 2018
Peaky Blinders: The Truth behind 1920s Fashion
TV Editor Matt Dawson questions whether the elegant and seemingly harmless fashion choices of the Peaky Blinders actually romanticises criminality
Now unless you have been living under a rock for the past few weeks, you are probably aware that the Birmingham-set period gangster series Peaky Blinders has returned to our screens (and it is very good). Complete with its star-studded cast featuring the likes of Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy and Helen McCrory, the show has sparked a fashion trend leading some to imitate the dress sense of Tommy Shelby and his clan. But should we be encouraging this look?
On the outside, it may seem harmless. After all, the way people dressed in the 1920s was elegant compared to today’s standards: fancy dresses and three-piece suits are hardly as commonplace as they used to be. Peaky Blinders takes this one step further by establishing a trademark style of an undercut haircut and a flat cap. However, while this may seem fashionable, it is easy to forget that this is a way of dress popularised by gangsters who, let’s face it, aren’t exactly the most savoury of people.
“it is easy to forget that this is a way of dress popularised by gangsters who, let’s face it, aren’t exactly the most savoury of people.
Furthermore, the gang was never entirely fictional, and in the show, their iconic caps are used to conceal the hidden weapon of a razor blade. This is where the name comes from; by using their hats to blind their enemies by slashing at their eyes, which we see more than once on screen. While this in part stems from local urban legend, the criminals that Peaky Blinders are based on went on to become “the most feared gang in the country”.
Apart from the violent and criminal aspects of these characters, they are very much products of their time: one in which men and women had distinct gender roles and liberal thoughts were discouraged. As a protagonist, Tommy Shelby is the typical “bad boy” archetype – chauvinistically treating women like objects and looking good while doing it. Of course, this is not the first time that a character like this has gone on to be a fashion icon – just look no further the Mad Men’s Don Draper or the various incarnations of James Bond. Although they make fascinating characters to watch, their life choices aren’t something to be imitated.
But then one has to raise the question: where is the line between appreciating the sense of style and identifying with the character? If it was Tommy Shelby alone who dressed like this, there would not be as much of an issue. What causes the controversy is that, while incredibly dapper, the Peaky Blinders style is essentially a uniform for a criminal organisation. As we live in a world where the likes of Prince Harry and Paul Hollywood have to publicly apologise for wearing a certain other uniform, should we not treat the Blinders look in the same way?
“While incredibly dapper, the Peaky Blinders style is essentially a uniform for a criminal organisation
Perhaps comparing fashion choices inspired by a TV series to dressing-up as a Nazi is a little extreme, but it cannot be denied that they are in a similar vein. Regardless of historical accuracy, the style promoted by Peaky Blinders romanticises what is the essentially the fashion sense of street thugs, albeit from a century ago. No matter how glamourous they appear on the small screen, the actions of the characters should not be condoned, and perhaps we should start by not imitating how they look.