A Look At Peaky Hat Heritage

by Richard Parker

With filming for Season Six of Peaky Blinders underway – tragically without the late great Helen McCrory – the popularity of iconic hats, sans razor-blades, will likely peak once again.

In a recent article we outlined the differences between newsboys –the peaky cap of choice – and flat caps. The main difference being the design of the hat: flat caps use fewer strips of material which are sewn together at the back, while newsboys use around eight strips of material which are connected by a button at the top of the hat.

There is some debate as to whether the cast wear newsboy or baker boy hats, however this could be little more than a discrepancy in semantics as the two names are often used interchangeably.

Both hats originally had working-class origins; the baker boy moniker was founded in the UK while the US laid claim to the original newsboy. The prime distinguishing feature is the hatband found in the baker boy is often missing from the newsboy, and the baker boy can have a smaller brim.

The signature woolen tweed worn by the Shelby family often varies in tone – favourites include black and white, navy, and brown tweed – as well as size and angle of wear.

Did you know… Cillian Murphy, the actor responsible for portraying the iconic lead character Tommy Shelby, sent his cap from the first series to David Bowie, who was a huge Peaky Blinders fan, as a Christmas present?

Other popular hats from the era include flat caps and fedoras which can be seen throughout the series. Iconic matriarch ‘Our Pol’, Polly Gray – played by the wonderful Helen McCrory – was often seen wearing androgynous items or male accessories to visually cement her role as a powerhouse in the family.

The fedora was traditionally worn by women up until the 1920s when Prince Edward, Prince of Wales, began to wear them. It is no wonder, then, that the fedora also appears in the series, frequently worn by women – including Polly Gray, whose hat collection also included coloured felt cloche hats.

Bringing Back Old Favourites

Another hat which makes an appearance in a unique style is the wide-brimmed black felt pork pie hat, belonging to temperamental frenemy of the Shelby family, Alfie Solomons, played by Tom Hardy. The pork pie hat originated from the 1830s when it was designed with a narrow brim, usually worn with feathers. This style fell out of favour in the 1860s, however was repopularised by silent film actor Buster Keaton in the 1920s, and his preference for a flat top and brim became fashionable. This is the design modelled by Alfie Solomons throughout his time on the show.

Inspector Campbell, however, chooses the traditional bowler hat. A stiff brimmed black hat with a domed crown, this hat was designed in the mid-19th century to address the issue of farm labourers’ top hats being knocked off or damaged during the working day. By the early 20th century, the hat had been adopted by London ‘City Gents’ while the working class chose to wear caps, and the bowler hat got a reputation for snobbishness.

With the new season currently under-development, keep an eye out for any new hats and fashion trends introduced through the Shelby family and extended cast.