With binge-watch performances from the likes of Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy, razor-sharp suits, and bloody good haircuts across the board, BBC’s popular crime drama Peaky Blinders had us gripped from the very start. It follows the story of a gangster family running a crime racket in Birmingham just after the First World War. It’s been one of the most stylish things on TV since 2013 but apparently, not everyone was on board with the look that hair and makeup designer, Laura Schiavo, had in mind.
It took about a week to convince the cast to chop off their hair for the now-iconic, period-style Peaky Blinders haircut. Iddo Goldberg (who plays Freddie Thorne) claims he went under the razor first – which encouraged the ‘Peakies’ to copy him. One of the main points of reference for the look came from the book Crooks Like Us by Peter Doyle: a compilation of portraits of criminals by the Sydney police from the 1920s, but the style is also partly inspired by military haircuts and nods to earlier historical eras.
Peaky Blinders outfits – all herringbone coats and baker boy hats – have understandably become popular off-screen, Schiavo is still baffled by the popularity of the men’s haircuts : “It’s strange, when I first did it, the boys wanted to wear hats to hide it, but now they don’t need to as everyone is wearing it.”
Off-screen, the appeal lies in the fact that the harsh back and sides show off your bone structure (or beard) and the high contrast between the style on top of your head is a guaranteed head-turner. Plus, undercut hairstyles and fade cuts of various kinds have been a barbershop favorite since before Peaky Blinders started.
What Is The Peaky Blinders Haircut?
When we first meet mob boss, Thomas Shelby (Cillian Murphy), he’s returned to Birmingham from the hell of the trenches. His hair is worn in a “disconnected, unblended style that is very short and sharp” says Schiavo. It also draws on the styles worn by the ‘sloggers’ or hooligans from the late 1890s.
While most of the characters have harshly shaved sides and a sharp undercut hairstyle, the style on top varies. Some wear the Peaky Blinders haircut with a simple side parting , some with a textured French crop, some with a quiff and some with slicked-back hair. This versatility is probably the other reason it became popular IRL.
The gang mentality was important to get across too, as Schiavo, explains: “In the post-war era when ‘Peaky world’ is set, they used to shave their heads because of lice.” Yes, this hipster-friendly haircut had a very practical, rather grim function of helping prevent the spread of lice between troops and within the poverty-stricken population at home.
“But the look I was after when I designed the cut for the series, was so you only saw skin when the boys were wearing hats,” she says. “This is so you only really see the individual character when he removes his hat.” This effect presumably would also have made it harder for witnesses to identify a gangster if he got caught in the act.
The Best Peaky Blinders Haircuts
1. Thomas Shelby
The Thomas Shelby haircut is one of the most iconic haircuts in the entire show. Gang leader and criminal businessman, Tommy, sports a short back and sides with a cropped top that’s several inches long. Similar to a French crop, the top is layered to create texture, with a longer part at the front.
This is then brushed forward to create an asymmetrical fringe that rests on one side of Tommy’s forehead. Meanwhile, the sides are shaved to between a grade 1 and 3 (depending on the series), making this a great choice for men with elongated faces and chiseled jawlines. A high fade can also be added for a more wearable look.
2. Arthur Shelby
The brawn of the gang, Arthur, is the eldest of the Shelby brothers and the most volatile. As a result, his hairstyle features the most severe contrast out of all of the characters. The sides are considerably shorter than Tommy’s at around a grade 0 – 1 and the long top is slicked back to create Arthur’s signature look.
This style is a great example of the disconnected undercut we mentioned earlier. The two layers are left deliberately unblended for a sharp finish that feels masculine, edgy, and well suited to the character’s cut-throat nature.
3. John Shelby
As the younger brother of Tommy and Arthur, John idolizes his siblings and his desire to be taken seriously as a gang member is reflected in his trademark Peaky haircut. Like Arthur, John has the sides of his head shaved almost down to the skin, at around a grade 0, but the top is much shorter than his brother’s.
John’s short, textured crop is just long enough to be styled to the side and largely stays in place on its own, making it much less maintenance. Because of this, it’s one of the best Peaky Blinders haircuts for men short on time.
4. Michael Gray
A former accountant and the cousin of the Shelby brothers, Michael is a bit of an outsider with a more refined look. Unlike other gang members, his hairstyle is longer and more typical of the 1920s.
Characterized by a deep side-part and natural wave, this traditional cut is created with scissors instead of clippers and is partly inspired by the character’s stint in America. The sides are trimmed to taper naturally into the longer top section for a neat and tidy finish – ideal for men who prefer a classic look.
5. Alfie Solomons
Best known for his bushy beard and unpredictability, Alfie is a Jewish gang leader who has several dealings with the Shelby’s throughout the series. His full and impressive lumberjack-style beard has inspired many fans to grow their own, although groomed versions are more on-trend right now.
Alfie also sports a messy Ivy League haircut, with trimmed back and sides and a longer top that can be combed over – though we think that’d be pretty unlikely. As the longer length blends well with facial hair, this haircut is perfect for men with all beard styles .
Asking Your Barber for a Peaky Blinders Haircut
Observing the cast members should give you an indication of which look will work best for your own hair type . The series is so popular, your barber will probably be familiar with the look, but in essence, you need to ask for a disconnected undercut with no fade, or bring in your favorite Thomas Shelby haircut picture for reference.
“You need to be confident about going really short on the back and sides ,” says Joshua Gibson, principal at the Sassoon Academy in London. “Decide whether you want to wear the hair away from the face or closer to the head in length and worn forwards.”
Arthur Shelby (Paul Anderson), often the most violent character, has the most extreme undercut to match. Ideally you need straight, fine hair to do this, with a long section left at the top that he wears slicked back . Trying to be the respectable face of a ‘legitimate’ enterprise, Tommy himself wears it in a slightly softer crop pushed forward over his face and swept to one side. Younger brother John Shelby (Joe Cole) wears his parted straight into short, slick curtains .
Assuming you won’t be hiding it under a flat cap, Gibson says the best way to style it for your hair type: “If you have a straighter hair texture you might be better to dress the hair away from the face using a pomade or wax and use a Tangle Teezer to avoid comb marks for extra sleekness.” Frizzy hair types will benefit from a light oil such as Illuminating Oil by Sassoon Professional to keep the textured crop sleek.
Gibson also recommends a textured product like a paste to bulk up blonde, fine or receding hair . With a styled look such as this, he also recommends using Nioxin Cleanser 2 to prevent build-up from using heavier products. The ‘Arthur’ and the ‘John’ require a styling pomade that adds both high sheen and hold and the ‘Tommy’ requires texture with a matte finish.
Recommended Products for a Peaky Blinders Haircut
To achieve the ideal Peaky Blinders or Tommy Shelby haircut, here are the main styling products you’ll want to have on hand.
Want to style your new Peaky Blinders haircut using the official Peaky Blinders kit? Schiavo used Tancho High-Grade Tique, an obscure hair styling wax that smells of lavender, for most of the series. It comes in a push-up stick and helps deal with flyaway hairs without adding too much sheen.
On set, Schiavo mixed the Tancho pomade with a hair serum to get the wet look sported by Arthur and John. We like Sachajuan’s Shine Serum which gives the hair a high sheen and protects it at the same time.
For series five, Schiavo has shaken it up by switching to Reuzel pomade which comes in a handful of formulas that cover heavy hold and high shine to a matt finish, depending on your preference.
4. Kent Comb
To get a really sharp parting as per John, you need to style the hair when wet, with a precise comb such as this handmade example from Kent.
Once you’ve got the parting, use a Tangle Teezer to smooth out any comb marks, as suggested by Joshua Gibson.
Peaky Blinders Haircut FAQ
How to get the Peaky Blinders haircut
To get the Peaky Blinders haircut, you need to trim the back and sides short and grow out the top so it can be swept forward or slicked back. Ask your barber for a disconnected undercut with little to no fade to create the Shelby’s signature high-contrast look.
Why do Peaky Blinders have that haircut?
According to historians, shaved hairstyles were common among criminals during the early 20 th century. Longer hair had the potential to get in the way during fights and shorter styles made gangsters look tougher. Plus, the cut made them harder to identify when wearing hats.
How popular is the Peaky Blinders haircut?
Once a top choice for working-class men and criminals, shaved undercuts and textured crops have made a comeback in recent years. Following the success of the series, the style has become an increasingly popular haircut for men and the Peaky Cut is now iconic.