The true story of the “Sharp Visors”: how much really happened


Warning: there are big spoilers ahead for season 6 of “Sharp Visors”

Created by Stephen Knight, the film “Peaky Blinders” is technically based on real events, but was also heavily fictionalized for dramatic purposes. The BBC-Netflix crime drama is mainly about the Shelby family, a gang of criminals who infiltrated the high society of Birmingham in the 1920s, England. But the real Peaky Blinders roamed Birmingham at a completely different time.

In “Peaky Blinders,” Cillian Murphy plays Thomas Shelby, a war hero who uses his outsider status and intelligence to organize the actions of large forces in Birmingham and beyond. Like the fictional crime boss from The Godfather, Michael Corleone, Tommy is stylish and calculating; he is ready to kill enemies for revenge or power. Tommy is driven by obsessive memories of both the First World War and the death of his wife Grace (Annabel Wallis). Tommy is the face of the Sharp Visors, he embodies the appearance and basic principles of a real gang of Sharp Visors. Nevertheless, it is the paranoia and vulnerability of the character that drive the fictional narrative and endow the members of his gang with more depth and world experience than the real gang.

Once upon a time, real Peaky Blinders really made headlines in Birmingham and were known for their unique style. In fact, Knight told History Extra that he created the series based on his father’s stories about men who were “immaculately dressed, wearing caps and with guns in their pockets.” Here is the real story of the “Sharp Visors” that inspired the TV series.

Explanation of the real gang of “Sharp Visors”

Unlike the TV show, “Peaky Blinders” in real life began in the 1890s. The subculture originated in Birmingham as a result of the economic downturn. Abroad, various groups of disadvantaged people have turned to organized crime in New York, and the same concept applies to the hometown of real Sharp Visors. In this case, the perpetrators were mostly young people who gambled and robbed in order to survive, while using violence to secure a certain power. The real history of the “Sharp Visors” dates back to the 1870s. According to historian Barbara Weinberger, the gang first arose because anti-Irish sentiments “became the center and target for the frustrations of urban youth, who … became institutionalized in gang warfare.” By the 1890s, the subculture began to be associated with a certain style: felt hats in the style of a bowler hat, pointed and pulled over the forehead, from which the term “Sharp visors” originated. Some locals were apparently blinded by the criminals’ charisma, while some claimed the gang had poor vision due to their closed eyes. Be that as it may, the real Peaky Blinders made an impression; a concept that translates into Knight’s series.

“Sharp Visors” are based on real events

Since the Peaked Visors were known in real life as working-class gentlemen from the lower class, their particular style betrays what they were supposed to wear, at least in theory. In addition, the real Peaky Blinders consisted of various gangs and were anything but one family of criminals. Criminals like Thomas Gilbert worked with a certain team, which made the name “Peaky Blinders” more prominent in Birmingham culture. They were a criminal family by association, not by blood or a single code of “omertà”, like the gangsters in “The Sopranos Clan” or “The Godfather”.

According to Birmingham manufacturer Arthur Mattison, over time, the real Sharp Visors began to call themselves “hard workers”, a product of “poverty, misery and slums”. appearance and a criminal lifestyle, but mostly because of necessity, not a grand plan to gain enormous power in Birmingham. The real gangs of “Sharp Visors” gradually dispersed due to sports, movies and other activities that occupied young people. In short, life has become easier. for some, they didn’t have to rely on petty crimes to make ends meet. The real Sharp Visors have grown and disappeared. And that’s when Peaky Blinders, the original BBC/Netflix series, begins.

Who were the real Sharp Visors

As mentioned earlier, in real life, the Peaky Blinders represented several gangs, not the Shelby family and their various cohorts. At the same time, there are several gang members who have achieved easy fame in Birmingham for their criminal exploits. Tommy Shelby is most likely based on Kevin Mooney, also known as Thomas Gilbert, although he was known for changing his last name several times. At the height of the real gang’s power, Thomas Gilbert was the ringleader. The true story of the crimes of the Sharp Visors is not as sensational as the series.