The Real Gang That Inspired “Peaky Blinders”

the real peaky blinders

Did you know the “Peaky Blinders” was inspired by a real-life gang?

Yep, it’s not just a Netflix original crime show; the Peaky Blinders were an actual gang that operated in Birmingham in West Midlands, England during the 19th century. The smash hit British show is based loosely on the group of the same name. But, of course, add some Hollywood magic and there’s six seasons of a show about the gang’s brief reign. 

Here are the three major differences between the true story of the “Peaky Blinders” and their depiction in the British series

1. “Peaky Blinders” didn’t have family connections with each other

In the show, family is everything; It’s the glue. The gang is led by the Shelby family and headed by Tommy Shelby, who is played by Cilian Murphy. But, in real life, “Peaky Blinders” were made up of poverty-stricken young teens to men in their 20’s (the youngest being 12 years old), who relied on theft to relieve the economic hardships they have been experiencing. 

They also mainly stuck to theft, intimidation, and assault compared to the show that depicts large-scale operations. These members of different groups banned together to run the streets of Birmingham, but they were not related by blood. The photo below shows the actual members of the “Peaky Blinders, and interestingly enough, none of these members are featured in the drama series.

2. Netflix made the gang’s reign and influence last way longer than reality

In reality, the gang mainly operated during the 1890s and early 1900’s. The Shelby family in the show’s reign starts directly as an aftermath of World War I. But to extend the show to its sixth season, Netflix inflated the Shelby family’s power and influence past just street violence and into politics. Also, making the family’s influence prominent throughout the 1920s and into the 1930s.  But by the start of World War I, the real “Peaky Blinders” had lost their territories, members, and power before ultimately ending their reign

3. “Peaky Blinders” Didn’t Actually Have Razor Blades in Their Hats

The gang distinguished themselves by being well dressed in tailored suits, jackets, and peaked flat caps. The term “Blinder” stems from someone who is well put together and well dressed.  “Peaky” stems from their caps that they wore. But, the characters in the show get their gang name from them sewing razor blades in the peaks of their caps so they could quickly pull them out and blind their opponents. Historically speaking, the actual “Peaky Blinders” wouldn’t have been able to afford disposable razor blades since they were new and considered a luxury item.

While we can expect Hollywood to do some TV magic to make the story more dramatic and interesting to keep viewers’ attention captured, there are some major differences between what actually happened  with the “Peaky Blinders” and how the show depicts them. It seems that Netflix mainly took the setting, the name, and loosely what the gang represented before writing their series.

Related History in Memes: “The Story Behind This Iconic Photo From the Al Capone Trial”

Share the Post:

Read These Next