Cillian Murphy as Thomas “Tommy” Shelby, cunning Peaky Blinders gang leader and jaded WWI veteran
Birmingham, England, Fall 1919
Series: Peaky Blinders
Air Dates: September 12, 2013 – October 17, 2013
Directors: Otto Bathurst (Episodes 1.01 – 1.03) & Tom Harper (Episode 1.04 & 1.06)
Creator: Steven Knight
Costume Designer: Stephanie Collie
Tailor: Keith Watson
The fourth season of BBC Two’s brutally entertaining Peaky Blinders premiered last month in the U.K. and should arrive on Netflix just in time for Christmas for American fans eager to see Birmingham’s favorite crime family boozing and bleeding its way through the 1920s.
Car Week thus begins with a flashback to the show’s first season as Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) and his brothers roll up to a rendezvous with the Lee family in their flivver, a beautiful black Ford Model T that coordinates with Tommy’s dark three-piece suit and overcoat.
What’d He Wear?
Tweed suits are a staple of Tommy Shelby’s wardrobe throughout the show’s run. He wears exclusively gray and charcoal suits in the show’s first season, later expanding into muted navy and brown tones before his most colorful suit to date, a vibrant blue three-piece suit for his wedding in the third season.
On the other end of that spectrum, one of the most subdued suits from Tommy’s closet is a charcoal herringbone tweed suit worn in all but one episode of the show’s first season. Like his other suits from that year, this three-piece suit was styled with self-covered buttons on the jacket and waistcoat.
Veteran tailor Keith Watson of Savile Row tailored Tommy Shelby’s suits to accentuate Cillian Murphy’s lean physique for a flattering fit that adds height to Murphy’s 5’9″ stature with strongly built shoulders and a suppressed waist.
All of Tommy’s suits in the first season have single-breasted jackets with notch lapels, although this is the sole jacket with a two-button front rather than the three buttons of his gray herringbone striped tweed, gray striped flannel, and charcoal pinstripe wool suits. The two widely spaced non-functioning buttons on each jacket cuff, however, are consistent with his other suits.
The ventless jacket has flapped hip pockets and a welted breast pocket where Tommy wears a neatly folded white pocket square.
The suit’s matching single-breasted waistcoat (vest) has a high-fastening six-button front with the lowest button left undone on the notched bottom. This waistcoat differs from his other suits with its lack of lapels. The back is lined in a navy satin finish that matches the lining of his suit jacket.
Tommy’s watch throughout the first season is a yellow gold Waltham open-faced railroad pocket watch, carried in the left welted pocket of his waistcoat and attached to a gold chain worn through the waistcoat’s third buttonhole.
When gearing up for a fight, Tommy slips a dark brown leather shoulder rig over his waistcoat with a holster slung low under his left armpit, just above his hip, for his trusty Webley revolver.
Trousers were worn short in 1919, but costume designer Stephanie Collie made the break even shorter on Tommy and his crew’s straight-leg suit trousers for a more contemporary look that remained consistent with the lean silhouettes of their suits.
The high-rise, flat front trousers have front pockets with frogmouth-style openings and no back pockets. The trousers waistband is split in the back with a fishmouth notch with a button on each side that connects to suspenders (braces) and a cinch strap a few inches below that to adjust the fit. Tommy wears a pair of black-and-gray striped fabric suspenders with brown leather connectors.
As hardened veterans, the Shelbys have a preference for the military footwear that guided them through the trenches of World War I.
“The great thing about the [boots] we wear is they’re quite heavy; they’re not dainty,” said cast member Paul Anderson in an interview with The Chap editor Gustav Temple for the magazine’s winter 2017 issue. “They’re almost like an oxford boot but with those fishhook laces. They’re really hard to find; I know because I’ve looked myself.”
Tommy’s black leather cap-toe half boots share many similarities with the “boondocker” combat boots issued by the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps during World War II, although Tommy’s boots appear to have closed lacing for its nine eyelets as opposed to the 8-eyelet open-laced boondockers. Tommy wears his boots with gray wool socks that rise high on his calf.
The subdued nature of a charcoal suit gives its wearer plenty of versatility when choosing shirts. Tommy takes advantage by cycling through four different shirts with this suit, all worn with brass link-style sleeve garters above his elbows, gold-toned oblong cuff links, and his stiff white narrow club collar, attached to the front and back of each shirt’s collar band with plain gold studs.
The first shirt that Tommy wears with this suit is pale blue cotton. It fastens up the plain front with large off-white 2-hole sew-through buttons, and its contrasting white single cuffs make it the most formal of his shirts. (Worn in episodes 1, 4, and 6)
The second episode opens with a clash between the Shelby and Lee families, for which Tommy wears the pale gray and white Bengal stripe shirt that he most frequently wears with his gray herringbone striped suit. As opposed to the previous shirt, this shirt has a front placket and self-shirted single cuffs. The large white buttons are sewn on through 4 holes. (Worn in episode 2 only)
Later in the episode, Tommy meets with the sinister Inspector Campbell (Sam Neill, 30 years after playing Sidney Reilly as featured in Sunday’s post) for lunch. With its bold purple stripes on a white ground, this is the most striking shirt that Tommy wears with this suit. It has a front placket with transparent 4-hole buttons and likely self-shirted single cuffs. (Worn in episode 2 only)
Tommy’s fourth shirt with this suit has alternating sets of double and single black stripes widely spaced on a white ground. Like his other striped shirts, it has self-shirted single cuffs and a front placket. The sew-through buttons appear to be mother-of-pearl. (Worn in episodes 3 and 4)
Invariably, Tommy wears a white cotton long-sleeve undershirt with a henley-style striped bib. The bib has rust-colored pinstripes and four large off-white 2-hole sew-through buttons, of which Tommy often undoes the top few for sleeping.
The term “peaky blinder” is derived from the gang’s chosen headgear, a flat cap with razors sewn above the peak. Tommy’s “peaky blinder” in particular is a barleycorn tweed newsboy cap in mixed taupe brown and gray wool with threads of red, gold, blue, and green.
For his early morning brawl with the Lees in the second episode and most subsequent episodes, Tommy wears his black herringbone wool topcoat, a knee-length affair with large notch lapels, heavily roped sleeveheads, and a three-button fly front that he wears open for easier access to his Webley as needed.
The coat’s sleeves are unadorned with buttons but fall a bit short on Tommy’s arms, revealing about an inch of his jacket cuff and more when he’s in action. The coat has straight pockets at the hips with flaps that are almost always tucked in, and the lining is black satin. There is a long vent in the back.
The final detail of Tommy Shelby’s ensemble? An ornate but unaffected gold pinky ring, worn on the smallest finger of his left hand.
For more about Peaky Blinders style, particularly in the newly released fourth season, check out the Winter 2017 issue of The Chap with its exclusive interviews with Paul Anderson (Arthur Shelby), show creator Steven Knight, hair and makeup artist Loz Schiavo, and more!
Go Big or Go Home
The Shelby family seemingly subsists on a steady diet of whiskey and cigarettes to such a degree unfathomable to even the vice-indulging partners of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.
The whiskey of choice? Old Bushmills, another Irish brand. The label itself has dropped the “Old” from its name although the Old Bushmills Distillery, located in Northern Ireland, is considered to be the oldest licensed distillery in the world with more than 400 years of continuous production and still going strong.
Tommy Shelby’s preferred cigarette brand is clearly shown to be Sweet Aftons, another Irish brand. Sweet Aftons were introduced in 1919 and thus new in the market for the setting of Peaky Blinders’ first season. P.J. Carroll & Co. (now a subsidiary of British American Tobacco) named the brand after the Robert Burns poem “Sweet Afton” in an attempt to appeal to the Scottish market.
“Cillian gets through a lot of those cigarettes,” Paul Anderson told The Chap. “I don’t know how he does it. They’re not real, they’re herbal things, but they’re still really strong and harsh on your throat.”
How to Get the Look
Tommy Shelby’s approach to dressing, particularly in the first season set immediately after the war, echoes the uniforms of his service: similarly styled dark gray tailored three-piece suits, shirts buttoned up to the neck with a stiff white club collar in place, and a tweed flat cap with the stitched-in razor that gives the gang its name.
- Charcoal herringbone tweed three-piece tailored suit (with covered buttons):
- Single-breasted 2-button jacket with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, 2-button cuffs, and ventless back
- Single-breasted 6-button waistcoat with notched bottom, welted hip pockets, and navy satin lining with adjustable strap
- Flat front high-rise trousers with frogmouth front pockets, straight leg, and plain-hemmed short break bottoms
- Striped cotton collarless shirt with front placket, white collar band, and single cuffs
- White detachable stiff and narrow club collar
- Gold collar stud
- Brass oblong cuff links
- Brass chain-link arm garters
- Black-and-gray striped suspenders
- Black leather 9-eyelet cap-toe “boondocker” half-boots
- Gray long-rise socks
- White cotton long-sleeve henley-style undershirt with rust-striped bib and 4-button front
- White cotton boxer shorts
- Taupe brown-and-gray mixed barleycorn tweed newsboy cap
- Black herringbone wool single-breasted topcoat with large notch lapels, 3-button front, flapped hip pockets, and long single vent
- Waltham gold railroad pocketwatch, worn on gold chain with fob
- Gold pinky ring
The Shelby family’s ride is a 1921 Ford Model T tourer in black. Although the show is set in England, the Model T is recalled to be the “first global car” in automotive history due to Ford’s groundbreaking practice of establishing plants in multiple countries to produce the same car simultaneously. One of these plants was established in Manchester, England, in 1911, and it was likely this plant that produced the right-hand-drive model operated by the Shelbys.
The Ford Model T needs little introduction. Arguably one of the most famous and influential cars in the world, Henry Ford perfected his technology with the introduction of the mass production-friendly Model T in 1908, launching a transportation revolution. More than 16 million Model T cars were produced in two decades of production before the final Model T rolled off the production line in 1927. Throughout its production, the Model T’s price never rose above a few hundred dollars, ensuring that automotive transportation would be accessible for all.
The car’s gas-powered, four-cylinder engine – considered one of the ten best of the 20th century by Ward’s – was a technological breakthrough that produced 20 horsepower for a top speed of 45 mph and could be serviced by the side of the road, if needed. The built-in engine unit included the Model T’s innovative “planetary” transmission marketed as a “three-speed” (two forward gears, one reverse), and the engine remained in production for decades beyond the car itself with various applications.
Although the Model T was a runaway success from the time it was launched in August 1908, Ford never stopped innovating. The assembly line in 1913 standardized the manufacturing process for cars and most machinery, and the electric starter in 1919 eliminated the need for the manual hand crank.
Body Style: 4-door touring car
Layout: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive (RWD)
Engine: 177 cid (2.9 L) Ford Model T I4
Power: 20 hp (15 kW; 20 PS) @ 1600 rpm
Torque: 83 lb·ft (113 N·m) @ 900 rpm
Transmission: 2-speed planetary
Wheelbase: 100 inches (2540 mm)
Length: 134 inches (3404 mm)
Width: 66 inches (1676.4 mm)
The Shelbys’ 1921 model car would be technically anachronistic for the first season’s 1919 setting, but all Model T cars from 1917 to 1923 shared the same body with its tapered, curved-top “low hood”. The exact 1921 model year was identified by IMCDB.
As a British war veteran of World War I, Tommy Shelby would be quite familiar with the Webley Mk VI revolver, his chosen sidearm through much of the series.
The revolver was adopted into British military service on May 24, 1915 as the sixth and final variant of the Webley break-top revolver originally developed in the 1880s. It retains the same top-break auto-extracting mechanism, double-action trigger, and large .455 cartridge as the original but with a long 6″ barrel and squared target grips.
The Webley Mk VI would eventually be phased out of production in favor of the smaller-caliber Enfield No. 2 .38-caliber revolver in the early 1930s, but the Webley would remain popular for British service members for its reliability and stopping power.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the show on Netflix or DVD.
You don’t parlay when you’re on the back foot. We’ll strike a blow back first.