The Real Peaky Blinders: Who were the real Peaky Blinders that inspired the Peaky Blinders cast?

As Peaky Blinders comes to a close with Season 6, how close is the show to reality?

Season 6 will see the end of Tommy’s Peaky Blinders in some shape or form, as the BBC series comes to an end.

The show has followed the Birmingham gang through its ups and downs between the World Wars, as they take on local and international threats to the family business.

As their story comes to a close, how much of it has stayed close to the reality of the men who inspired it?

Cillian Murphy plays a fictional leader of a very real gang in BBC's Peaky Blinders. Photo: BBC/Caryn Mandabach Productions Ltd./Matt Squire.

Here’s who the real Peaky Blinders were and how close the cast is to the truth.

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Who were the real Peaky Blinders?

There was actually a real gang called the Peaky Blinders based in Birmingham around the same time.

The fashion and antics of the Peaky Blinders is relatively accurate to the real-life gang. Photo: BBC.

They operated from the 1880s until the 1910s, growing out of the harsh living and economic conditions in the city at the time.

It was made up of largely young men from lower to middle class backgrounds.

Their activities ranged from robbery, violence, and racketeering to illegal bookmaking and the control of gambling, as seen in the early seasons of the show.


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Members of this gang also wore the same signature outfits that Cillian Murphy and the rest also sport, including tailored jackets, lapel overcoats, button waistcoats, silk scarves, bell-bottom trousers, leather boots, and peaked flat caps.

The Blinders held control over Birmingham for nearly 20 years until 1910, when a larger gang, the Birmingham Boys led by Billy Kimber, another character in the show, overtook them.

Although they had disappeared by the 1920s, the name Peaky Blinders became synonymous slang for any street gang in Birmingham.

How realistic is the Peaky Blinders cast?

Unlike the fictional Peaky Blinders, the real gang was not run by one family of blood.

Instead, it was made up of various powerful members and their smaller circles.


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One of the most prominent members is Thomas Gilbert, also known as Kevin Mooney, who has been likened to a real-life Tommy Shelby.

One of the first Blinders to be arrested was Henry Lightfoot, who later went on to fight in World War One.

This could be the inspiration for Tommy’s own military service that forms a large part of his character throughout the show.

However, there are no signs of a real-life group of brothers who headed up the family, like in the BBC drama.

There are, of course, still references to real events in the show.

In Season 6, for example, Tommy faces down the rise of fascism in the UK and abroad, going head to head against MP Oswald Mosley, who actually existed in real life and is played by Hunger Games’ Sam Claflin.


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What’s more, the show follows themes of industrialisation, the rise of communism, and other real-life circumstances from the early- to mid-1900s.

The show does take some creative liberties. For example, Mosley didn’t actually participate in the fascist movement in the UK until 1932, whereas the show brings this timeline forward slightly to 1929.


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