Where Did The Peaky Blinders Get Their Name?

The BBC TV series Peaky Blindersnow streaming on Netflix, is one of those period pieces that makes history fascinating. While it's based on a real gang of organized criminals that hailed from Birmingham, England, the actual Peaky Blinders were most prominent during the 1890s, and not during the 1920s and 1930s as portrayed in the series, per the Birmingham Mail

And that's not the only discrepancy.Where the real Peaky Blinders got their name is also up for debate. 

The fun version that lends itself to the tough guy persona put forth in the show claims that the name came from the weaponized hats the gang members wore. According to Metro, the flat peaked caps were called "Peakys." The story goes that the men would sew razor blades into the cap brims. In a fight, they could head-butt their adversary, slicing his forehead open causing blood to drip into his eyes, effectively blinding him and thereby getting the upper hand. Definitely a boss gangster move. 

Some historians say real Peaky Blinders did not sew razor blades into their caps

Historian Carl Chinn told the Birmingham Mail that the story is unlikely. Razors were a luxury item in the late 1890s and would've been too expensive for the working class crew of the Peaky Blinders. Plus, Chinn says, it's not realistic that the razors sewn into hat caps would even be effective.

"... (A)ny hard man would tell you it would be very difficult to get direction and power with a razor blade sewn into the soft part of a cap," Chinn said. "It was a romantic notion brought about in John Douglas's novel, A Walk Down Summer Lane."

Another theory is that the word "blinders" was slang for a what we may today call a hottie, or as it's reported in the Smithsonian, someone who was "particularly striking," since the Peaky Blinders took pride in their appearance. History Extra throws out yet another theory. According to that website, the Peaky Blinders' nickname is derived from the way they wore their headgrear, molding the brims of their caps into a point, then pulled the cap down over one eye.

Regardless of the theories of exactly why the real gang called themselves the Peaky Blinders, Chinn told the Birmingham Mail, "I can understand why the series producers used the name, because it's infused with gangsterdom."