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The complete story of the Peaky Blinders

”By order of the Peaky Blinders!”

Does this statement sound like music to your ears? Are you a true fan and think you know everything there is to know about Tommy Shelby and his ruthless gang? Then read on quickly. This blog tells the whole story surrounding the popular Netflix series Peaky Blinders. From characters to the true story, everything is covered. Even if you are not a true connoisseur of the series, this blog is for you, but be warned! This article contains several major spoilers, so further reading is at your own risk. After reading, you'll know all about Thomas "Tommy" Shelby and his Peaky Blinders gang.

The TV series Peaky Blinders centres on the Shelby family.

The series in brief

For those who could use a refresher course, we first look at the overall progression of the series, because what is Peaky Blinders actually about? Peaky Blinders is a 2013 British drama series that tells the story of the criminal gang of the same name. Led by Thomas Shelby, they control Birmingham during the 1920s and 1930s. Through bribery, violence, extortion and illegal trafficking, they consolidate their grip on the city. Their ambition to amass ever more power brings them into conflict with major rival gangs and political groups. Violence, betrayal, murder and corruption are central themes in the series. The series has a total of six seasons, with the sixth and final season appearing on Netflix in 2022. The series is characterised by a unique style and setting that is entirely consistent with zeitgeist of the early 20th century.


The men and women of the Peaky Blinders

During the six seasons of the series, we are introduced to many different characters. While some characters only have a significant role for a few episodes, others are inseparable from the course of the series. So let's take a quick look at the main characters.


Thomas 'Tommy' Shelby

Tommy Shelby is the main character of the series and is played by Irish actor Cillian Murphy. He heads the Shelby family and he is the leader of the Peaky Blinders. Tommy is cool, calculating and ruthless, but also charming and loyal. He does everything he can to improve his own position and his family's power. Along with his brothers, he served during the war. This traumatic experience changed him forever. In the series, we see how he brings power, money and enemies to the Peaky Blinders.

Thomas 'Tommy' Shelby is the protagonist of the popular TV series Peaky Blinders.

Arthur Shelby

The character of Arthur Shelby is played by Paul Anderson. Although Tommy holds the reins, Arthur is the eldest of the Shelby brothers. Like his brothers, Arthur has suffered trauma from his time in the army. Arthur struggles with his inner demons and often loses himself in drink, drugs and temper tantrums. Arthur is a broken man who is always searching for himself and his place within the family. He is violent, ruthless and unpredictable. In contrast, he always tries to live up to his family's expectations and is extremely loyal to the Peaky Blinders.


John Shelby

As the younger brother of Arthur and Tommy, John is always trying to live up to his brothers' reputation. He is extremely loyal to his family and the gang and he proves himself time and again by acting in the best interests of the family. Of the three brothers, he is the most gentle in terms of personality, but this does not mean he does not stand his ground. In a fight, John is always at the forefront to land a few big blows. John, played by Joe Cole, is father to a total of six children, but his first priority is always the Peaky Blinders.

Brothers Arthur and John do not shy away from a fight 'in order of the Peaky Blinders'.

Polly Gray

Every family needs a strong matriarch and for the Shelby's that Aunt Polly. She is the sister of the Shelby children's father. While the men were fighting in World War I, she headed the Peaky Blinders. Although she is very loyal to the family and the gang, she regularly comes into conflict with Tommy Shelby. She thinks Tommy has too much power and does not take the opinions of other family members into account enough. Especially when her son Michael and Tommy increasingly clash, she is forced to make choices. Polly can best be described as a lioness looking after her cubs. For her family, she will go overboard. Actress Helen McCrory died between seasons 5 and 6. Her death was respectfully included in the final season.


Michael Gray

The character Michael Gray makes his appearance in the series in season 2. He is Aunt Polly's long-lost son, who is reunited with his biological mother by none other than Tommy. This is the beginning of a turbulent career within the criminal circuit. As he grows older, Michael increasingly clashes with Tommy and Arthur. His ambition to compete with the great Tommy Shelby causes a lot of tension within the family. Eventually, he grows into a formidable rival to Tommy.

Michael Gray, an ambitious young man, eager to compete with the head of the Peaky Blinders.

Grace Shelby

The charming and lovely Grace is the first and only woman who manages to thaw Tommy's cold heart. Originally lodged with the Shelby's to spy for the police, she falls hopelessly for Tommy's charms. After a difficult start full of lies and heartbreak, the two find each other and their love grows into a strong bond of trust. Although Grace is completely loyal to Tommy, she is distrusted by Polly and Arthur. His love for Grace makes Tommy stronger, but also more vulnerable. She is the only thing he still truly cares about and enemies can hurt him.


Alfie Solomons

No character is more eccentric than Jewish mob boss Alfie Solomons. He is the leader of a mainly Jewish gang and his role is played by actor Tom Hardy. Alfie is an extraordinary character. He is unpredictable, eccentric and violent, but also intelligent and tactically strong. Alfie is loyal only to himself and his unpredictable nature makes him difficult to trust. Over the course of the series, he evolves from enemy to partner of the Peaky Blinders. However, this is not without controversy and their personal relationship is marked by conflict and betrayal.

Thomas Shelby with Alfie Solomons in the TV series Peaky Blinders.

The criminality of the Peaky Blinders

The Peaky Blinders begin as a criminal gang engaged in theft, extortion and illegal gambling. As the series progresses, the Peaky Blinders' various practices increase. Eventually, they grow into a powerful organisation that makes money in various legal and less legal ways. At the end of season 1, for instance, the Peaky Blinders gain full control over legal betting shops in horse racing. This turns out to be the first step towards a more legal way of operating for the Shelby's. Trading horses and horse racing is more than a revenue model for Tommy. Besides Grace, he has two other great loves: horses and cars.

In the search for legal ways to make money, Tommy sets up the family business Shelby Company Limited. This company engages in various practices throughout the series. These include distilling and exporting gin and other alcoholic drinks, manufacturing cars and car parts, and transporting various goods for the British government. So although Shelby Company Limited is a legal and profitable business, it is also used to launder money obtained illegally. In this way, the Peaky Blinders manage to build a prosperous business empire through which they gain international prestige.

Among other things, the Peaky Blinders make money by producing cars and car parts.

The many enemies of the Peaky Blinders

The series has many notorious enemies. Although some enemies pose a greater threat to the Peaky Blinders than others, they all have one common goal: the death of Thomas Shelby and the end of the Peaky Blinders. In season 1, for instance, we are introduced to Billy Kimber. A rock-hard mob boss who has complete control over horse racing betting shops. He makes gold money manipulating races. When the Peaky Blinders are caught match-fixing, he sets out to eliminate the gang. With dire consequences.

In season 4, Tommy and his family must take on Italian-American mafia boss Luca Changretta. Seeking revenge for the deaths of his father and brother, Luca begins a personal vendetta with one goal: the end of the Peaky Blinders. Luca Changretta is a cunning and ruthless enemy who divides the Shelby family to the bone and almost succeeds in killing Tommy Shelby. However, his blind hatred forms the basis for his own downfall and he too must lose out to the Peaky Blinders. Unlike many other characters, Luca Changretta is a made-up mafioso.

Of all the enemies featured in the series, none is as dangerous as Oswald Mosley. He is the foreman of the British faction of fascists and his goal is to lead all of Britain as a fascist leader. His great examples are Benito Mussolini, leader of fascist Italy in the 1930s, and Adolf Hitler, leader of Nazi Germany. Mosley is cunning, tactical and incredibly intelligent. He constantly seems to be two steps ahead of all his political opponents. Tommy and the Peaky Blinders team up closely with Mosley and the fascists in the hope of stopping them. Unfortunately, Oswald Mosley proves to be a worthy adversary.


The origins of the series

The series was conceived and written by British screenwriter and director Steven Knight. Besides being the creator of Peaky Blinders, he is also one of the creators of the programme 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire'. This programme has been broadcast worldwide in various forms since 1998. The programme was also on television in the Netherlands for a long time. Steven Knight found inspiration for writing Peaky Blinders within his own family history. Growing up as a child, his parents told many stories about their childhood in Small Heath, Birmingham. His family lived in the same area and time in which the series is set. The experiences of family members formed the basis for the series. It was not difficult for Knight to link his own family history to the Peaky Blinders. After all, this name was notorious in Birmingham.


The history of Britain as a thread

History and Peaky Blinders are inextricably linked. Many historical developments from the early 20th century influence the course of the series and the actions of the Birmingham gang. A little prior knowledge of this period is therefore useful if you want to fully understand the storylines. For anyone who wants to know more about the historical events and developments affecting the series, dive deeper into the history of Britain between 1919 and 1934, the period in which the series is set.

Peaky Blinders, the TV series, is set in old Birmingham in the 1920s.

The post-war Birmingham

The entire first season of Peaky Blinders is set in the year 1919. World War I has just ended and peace has returned to Europe. Unfortunately, that does not apply to the streets of Birmingham. Traumatised by their experiences in the war, Tommy, Arthur and John return to a sad city where men and women work long hours in factories and where drinking, gambling and sex seem the only way out of all misery. The government is corrupt and uses the police to oppress the common people. This is the picture we get of post-war Birmingham. These miserable conditions prove to be fertile ground for various groups. Think criminal gangs, such as the Peaky Blinders, but also various political groups, such as the IRA, Communists and Fascists. All pass by in this series.


The moveable 1920s

In addition to poverty and political strife, the series also features the wild 1920s. The period 1920 - 1929 has entered the history books as a turbulent time when prosperity and happiness alternated with economic setbacks and poverty. There was joy at the end of the war and hope for a better future. Joy that results in wild parties full of booze, drugs and sex. This party culture originated in the United States but spilled over to Britain. The members of the Peaky Blinders also prove susceptible to these temptations and Arthur in particular loses himself in this world. Unfortunately, everything comes to an end and so does the 'roaring twenties'. In 1929, total stock trading suddenly collapsed in America. The result? A global economic crisis that also hit Birmingham hard. This tough period underpinned the rise of Oswald Mosley and his fascists. The greatest enemy Tommy ever had.


Polly, Grace, Lizzie & Ada; the strong women of the Peaky Blinders

The 1920s were also a tipping point for women's rights. While men were fighting in France and Belgium, British women like Aunt Polly kept the British economy going. After the war, women continued to play an active role in public and political life. World War I forever changed the position of women in Britain. Women were no longer the obedient housewife looking after children at home, but took an active part in society. The series shows well how women gained increasing power and stood up for themselves. Even the all-powerful Tommy Shelby could not do without the women of the Peaky Blinders.


The Real Peaky Blinders

Most die-hard fans already know this, of course, but did you know that the Peaky Blinders really existed? Steven Knight based the eponymous series on a notorious Birmingham gang that was active between 1880 and 1910. During this period, they were guilty of threats, assault, theft, illegal trade, bribery and extortion, among other things. The gang consisted mainly of young men from the lower classes of society. As in the series, this gang was characterised by their style of dress. Members of the real Peaky Blinders dressed stylishly in three-piece suits topped off with the typical flatcap. The gang held Birmingham in its grip for years. Eventually, they had to lose out to a rival gang: the Birmingham Boys led by none other than Billy Kimber. Although the Shelby brothers are the work of fiction, the Peaky Blinders really did exist.


The success and influence of the series

The series has proved to be an unprecedented success in recent years, becoming one of the most loved television series of all time. Not only fans are full of praise for the series, critics are also short of latives to describe it. For instance, the series scores an 8.8 on International Movie Database (IMDB), 93/100 on Rotten Tomatoes and a 77/100 at Metascore. In particular, Cillian Murphy's excellent acting has been widely praised by fans and critics. In addition, the series stands out with beautiful sets that capture the zeitgeist of early 20th-century Birmingham. Viewers of the series almost imagine themselves on the streets of Small Heath, smelling the combination of smoke, fire, iron and booze. Another unique element that characterises the series is the unique clothing style of the Peaky Blinders. This is entirely in line with the fashion of the 1920s and the fashion of the 1930s.

Since the series was released in 2013, Peaky Blinders has become a true cultural phenomenon. Elements derived from the series can be found everywhere in our modern society. Not only the 20s clothing from the series is more popular today than ever, the hair and lifestyle of the Peaky Blinders have also become cultural phenomena. For instance, you can find the Peaky Blinders in various brands of whiskies and gin, grooming products, pubs, escape rooms and even an official Peaky Blinders festival! The series has built up a large, loyal fan base. For them, Peaky Blinders is more than a series. It is a way of life.


The unmistakable Peaky Blinders style

Of all the characteristic elements of the series, none is more distinctive than the style of clothing. Tommy, Arthur, John and all the other members of the Peaky Blinders dress in classic tailor-made suits, completely in the style of the 1920s. An outfit of a true Peaky Blinder consists of a three-piece suit made of the finest British tweed. Tweed is a coarse, woollen fabric native to Britain. This fabric gets its name from the region where it was first produced, namely along the River Tweed. Tommy and his brothers complete the combination of trousers, jacket and waistcoat with a long woollen coat. Perfect for concealing guns and other weapons.

Besides luxury three-piece suits, a Peaky Blinder is instantly recognisable by the distinctive flat caps. This headgear was widely worn by workers and men from the lower and middle classes of society in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The real-life Peaky Blinders could also be recognised by their flat caps. In the series, the caps have a practical function as well as a fashionable one. Members of the Peaky Blinders sew razor-sharp razor blades into the brim of their caps. This way, they give their caps a sharp edge, with which they can wound enemies. The practice was also said to be used by the historical gang of the same name, but historians have their doubts about this. Today, the flat cap with the razor is synonymous with the Peaky Blinders.

The Peaky Blinders' outifit is only complete with a razor flat cap.

The Peaky Blinders on the big screen?

Even before the sixth and final season of the series was released on Netflix, creator and writer of the series Steven Knight announced that he was working on a film. The film would tell the story of Tommy and the Peaky Blinders after the events of season one. Although the latest season has been available to watch on Netflix for quite some time now, it remains surprisingly quiet around the development of the film. As a result, fans are left guessing when they will be able to enjoy their favourite gang again. Recently, actor Cillian Murphy also had bad news for fans. After being busy for his new film "Oppenheimer", he does not expect a Peaky Blinders film to be released anytime soon. While Murphy's statements do not immediately mean that there will be no film at all, it remains to wait for good news.


What is the Peaky Blinders film about?

Until more news about the film comes out, there can be massive speculation about the story of a potential Peaky Blinders film. Judging from developments in the last season, we can almost assume that Tommy wants revenge on everyone involved in his near-successful suicide attempt. We already saw briefly at the end of the last episode how he confronts Dr Holford about his deception. Once Thomas Shelby has it in for you, no one is safe. Besides Tommy's personal vendetta, a future film will also deal with the political developments of the 1930s. In seasons 5 and 6, we already saw the rise of the British fascists led by Mosley. This powerful enemy and his twisted ideologies will certainly be central to the film again too. Not even the Peaky Blinders can escape World War II.


The best series of all time?

Many fans of the series will no doubt say yes when asked if Peaky Blinders is the best television series of all time. While this depends entirely on personal taste, it can be said with certainty that the series is widely loved by viewers and critics worldwide. The series' impressive acting, raw style and complete setting are behind this popularity. Few modern television series have had such an indelible impact on modern pop culture as Peaky Blinders has. The series has created a veritable revival of 1920s fashion. Men and women worldwide are copying the style of Tommy, Arthur, Polly and Grace in their daily lives. Indeed, the Peaky Blinders have never been more alive than now!


By order of the Peaky Blinders

Can you still not get enough of the Peaky Blinders after reading this blog, but can't wait for a possible film to be released? Then it's a good idea to watch the series again! Now that you have extensive background information, you might enjoy the series even more. Of course, you can also enjoy the Peaky Blinders in many more ways. With Shelby Brothers' range, you are just a few steps away from creating your own unique Peaky Blinders clothing style. Fully tailored to the fashion of the 1920s as seen in the series. Show your true nature with the range from Shelby Brothers. "By order of the Peaky Blinders!"