At the turn of the twentieth century, there was one gang that ruled the streets of Birmingham – mugging, assaulting and robbing whoever they saw fit. They were known as the ‘Peaky Blinders’ and were renowned for their great dress sense and, well, the muggings, really. Most interestingly, they were rumoured to use an unconventional weapon – flat caps with razor blades sewn into their peaks.
In the 1890s, Birmingham was under the control of the Peaky Blinders, a gang that was as feared as they were well-dressed. The gang were often outside pubs and on street corners, ready to bludgeon passers-by and take their cash. They were also notorious for the impeccable dress sense. Most members wore button waistcoats, tailored jackets, leather boots and stiff-peaked flat cap which was unusual for a gang of the era.
You can probably see where they got their name. The Peaky Blinders, with their stiff-peaked flat caps, were rumoured to use the fashion accessories as weapons. Though it seems this was a slight exaggeration by author John Douglas in the late 1970s, the myth that the group sewed razor blades into their peaks and then attacked citizens (and law enforcement) with them has persisted.
Noted Birmingham historian Carl Chinn suggests a much simpler reason for the gang name: They wore peaked flat caps. He even suggests that razors were still a luxury item in the time of the Peaky Blinders and that the poor Brummies wouldn’t have been forking out their illegal earnings for them.
I’ll level with you Lifehacker readers – I was well aware of the Peaky Blinders before today. A fictionalised version of Peaky Blinder history currently streams on Netflix under the imaginative title of ‘Peaky Blinders’. Written and created by Steven Knight, a Birmingham native, the show follows Tommy Shelby and his family in the 1920s, a few decades removed from the real Peaky Blinders, as they slowly take over the canals and streets of the working class British town. I truly believe it’s one of the most underrated TV shows and more people need to watch it.
So do that. That can be your discovery today, if you’re not already watching.
Bonus Fact: Steven Knight is one of the three co-creators of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?. What can’t this guy do?
Today I Discovered is a daily dose of facts for Lifehacker readers – the weird, wonderful and sometimes worrying. Most of the time, it’s just mind-blowing. This week, I’m travelling through the UK to bring you some of my new knowledge. As always, let us know if you discovered anything that blew your mind in the comments!