The Peaky Blinders TV series has captured audiences around the world with gritty, somewhat true, accounts of the lives of Birmingham’s criminal gang Peaky Blinders. The fascination with the 1920s era, gangster life, and questionable characters have led to an interest in early 20s men’s clothing as worn in the mini-series. Tom Shelby’s character is the most admired style featuring grey or blue tweed suits, club collar shirt, long overcoat, lace-up boots and an iconic grey 8-panel cap. Creating a Peaky Blinders outfit or Peaky Blinders costume is possible thanks to a revival of vintage 1920s inspired men’s clothing. I will show you not only what to look for but where to buy it online in the UK and USA for reasonable prices.
For an instant gangster Halloween costume look here.
Peaky Blinders Suit
For all 4 seasons (5 coming soon) Thomas Shelby has worn the same suit with only some moderate changes in the last two seasons. Set in 1919 which was somewhere in between Edwardian fashion and roaring 20s style there was the look of the Jazz Age. Men’s Jazz suits that had slim fitting high waisted pants with a tapered cuff hitting slightly above the ankle, a narrow shoulder sack suit coat (loose and straight) with peak or notch lapels, and matching 5 or 6 button vest. Only the upper and middle classes could afford a new suit, most people living in Birmingham would have worn older, second-hand clothes that may not have matched or fit well. Wearing a suit without a vest was a common sign a man was working poor. Shelby being a man of the lower class but having some wealth dressed a little better than the neighborhood gang but was also careless in his choice of clothing.
Shelby’s suit was usually made of a grey tweed and later a blue wool. Blue suits became very popular around 1924, when season 3 was set, noting a fashion move from the drab post-war years to the colorful roaring 20s. Wool suits were quite heavy compared to today’s fine suiting material that gave it a thick textured look to it. You won’t find this fabric available today unless you have a suit custom made. The closest new suits are a textured tweed or faux tweed pattern. The fit is slim but not skinny. Most modern skinny suits that are on trend now are even slimmer fitting but easier to find and more affordable than reproduction 20s Jazz Suits. Shop suits.
Other suits worn by Shelby and his gang include brown wool, windowpane blue, pinstripe or chalk stripe blue and tweedy brown-green. There were no black suits or brighter colors, even in summer, in this part of the world. If you want a look that better fits the later seasons (set in 1924 and 1926) your suit will need to feature wide legs with a below ankle length, wide jacket lapels and a looser fit. Men’s fashion at this time was enjoying greater freedoms of movement, color, and lighter materials. Read more about the history of men’s 1920s suits.
The vest the suit comes with fits short on the torso because the pants came up high to the rib cage. Modern pants are low-waisted requiring a longer vest to cover the torso (exposed shirt between pant and vest is taboo.) Around 1922 vests started to feature notch lapels. Shelby wore a few of these in the later seasons. Shop men’s vests.
On each vest, he hung a pocket watch from a chain. Watches fit inside a slit pocket on the left side of the vest with the chain clipped to the 3rd button hole. The pocket watch looks to be gold plated (alternative cheaper watches were nickel plated). We don’t get a clear view of the watch face but most watches at the time had a white face and script front like this one:
Suit trousers rose high on the waist, ballooned out over the hip, had a deep crotch and a narrow leg that ended with a 2-inch cuff around the ankle. The length of the trouser exposed men’s boots but gradually dropped below the ankle by the mid-20s. Shelby’s short pants were a sign he was a few years behind the fashion trends. Shop just pants.
Trousers were worn with suspenders or braces to hold them up. They buttoned on the inside with a Y or X back. They were usually made of striped elastic wedding although leather was also an option for heavy duty use. Shop suspenders.
Peaky Blinders Outfit: Shirt and Tie
To our modern eyes, the most unusual thing about the Peaky Blinders men is the wearing of white, round, detachable collar shirts. Detachable collars made is easy to clean or replace white collars without the expense of buying a new shirt. The round collar often called a club collar was the primary shirt collar of the late teens and early 20s. By the mid-20s the classic pointed collar began to replace the round collar. Collars and cuffs were almost always white until the mid to late 20s. The shirt body was hardly ever white, instead favoring vertical stripes in blue and grey with brighter colors- yellow, pink, purple, and green- joining in by the mid-20s. The fit of dress shirts was quite wide and boxy, no slim fit yet! The cuffs were held together with cuff links, an accessory that displayed a man’s wealth or lack thereof.
Necktie or bowties were worn with men’s dress suits and shirts. Shelby tended to not wear either, a fashion faux pax unless the occasion called for it. He preferred dark solid colors- black, blue, burgundy on regular or skinny widths. I occasionally saw him wearing a paisley or Macclesfield tie for dressy occasions. In reality, 20s ties were much more colorful then what Shelby wore- artistic liberties made by the costume designer reflecting Shelby’s dark character. Other cast members wore similar neckties and or bowties in polka prints or tweed. Shop ties and bowties.
Peaky Blinders Hat and Caps
Most of the Peaky Blinders gang and general working-class men wore caps for hats. They were wide and floppy 8-panel caps made of wool or tweed. They were the most affordable hat and durable for manual labor work. It may seem out of place to see a 20s man wearing a nice suit with a casual hat but it was trendy, especially with young men, in the late teens/early 20s as well as the working classes. Colors ranged from medium grey to dark grey, brown to green in heavy tweed textures like the suits. Wealthier men topped their heads with felt hats like the fedora, Homburg, or bowler.
Peaky Blinders Outfit: Coat
Shelby’s overcoat was an outdated Edwardian style with black velvet collar, moderate peak lapels, and a fitted waist. It would have been expensive, even used, therefore appropriate for his character but wearing it clearly shows he was not up to date on fashion. Other men’s coats were more in line with a 1920s style that favored long straight lines, oversized wide lapels, large patch pockets and one but more often double rows of buttons. Coat colors were brown, grey or blue- hardly ever black (another artistic liberty by the costume department.)
Peaky Blinders Boots & Shoes
The final element of a Peaky Blinders outfit ends at the feet. Working class men wore lace-up leather boots in black or brown with a thick sole and a cap toe. Gentlemen’s dress boots for business or pleasure were a similar design but with a thinner sole, shaped toe and decorate brogue or wingtip perforations. The photo below shows Shelby in the middle wearing two-tone brown lace-up boots. This was for a dressy occasion otherwise he wore black lace-up cap toe boots. The man on the far right is wearing oxford shoes, a newer option for gentlemen. Shop boots and shoes.
Your Peaky Blinders Outfit
The following are some of the best Peaky Blinders outfit or costume pieces available online at a reasonable price. You can certainly get a custom made or higher quality reproduction outfit from a number of online tailors but for the average man, these are out of reach financially.
- 3 Piece Suit: A grey tweed suit like these suits (USA or UK) or these in the UK or a solid blue or brown suit. Tweed suits can be found in the UK at Magee1866
- Shirt: A white round club collar shirt with a striped body. In the USA look at Paul Fredrick shirts. In the UK try a Penny Collar shirt and in the AU here or here. For a band collar shirt for the collarless look try this one USA and a grandad collar shirt in the UK
- Hat: An 8-panel “newsboy” cap in grey. Avoid 1-3-panel hats. It needs to look wide and floppy. In the USA these are best sellers. In the UK this one is good. In the AU I like this brand.
- Coat: Thrift stores or charity shops will offer you good overcoats are low prices. New overcoats are quite expensive and usually shorter than 20s coats. Try this one (USA) or this one (UK). More coats here.
- Pocket Watch: Gold watch with a white face and script font. In the USA this is a good costume watch. In the UK this is an affordable option. AU this one.
- Boots: Stacy Adams Madison cap toe boots are a favorite. In the USA and UK. In the AU these cap toe oxfords or dress boots are good choices. There are many other brands selling lace-up boots online too.
- Don’t see what you are looking for? We are always adding links to new suits, shirts, hats, shoes and accessories to the website. We can also do a custom search for you- just ask!
- For a woman’s version of a Peaky Blinder’s men’s outfit look at these gangster girl outfits for inspiration.
- Hairstyle- Shave down the sides of your head and leave a few inches of hair on top. Brush it forward and oil it. Presto!
Oscar’s Peaky Blinders Costume
For the annual Lake Tahoe Great Gatsby Festival, Oscar chose to dress like Thomas Shelby. We sourced his costume from a mixture of pieces we already owned and some we ordered last minute on Amazon. Oscar also chose to have me cut his hair in Shelby’s style which is very handsome on him and on-trend now. Vintage is back!
- Suit: Chester Cordite 1930s repro peak label grey/blue 3 piece suit
- Hat: Brown flat cap like these
- Shirt: Paul Fredrick blue shirt with white club collar
- Tie: Silk knit skinny tie from The Tie Bar
- Pocket Square: Gold silk plain square from Jos A Bank
- Pocket Watch Chain: Double Albert chain
- Shoes: Vintage brown two-tone wingtip shoes
Need help with your Peaky Blinders outfit? Ask us anytime.