An Open Letter to the Hair on Peaky Blinders

Gosh, open letters seem to be the weapon of choice these days, don’t they?

And I have something to get off my chest. So today, we interrupt normal booky programming to bring you this message.

Dear BBC Productions,

Sometimes, when I’m watching your work, I have an irresistable urge to hunt down some of the crew, and shoot you point blank. In the face.

Crew hairdressers (known in industry shorthand, I’m reliably informed, as “Hair”) are the current targets for my wrath. Particularly on Peaky Blinders, BBC’s 1920s Birmingham gangster drama. What is it about costume drama on television, that you have this need to make actresses look modern rather than contemporary to the period they’re supposed to bloody be in? Would the programme fall apart if the women looked as authentic as the men? Of course not. What the hell is wrong with you?

You have 3 female leads in Peaky Blinders, all pirouetting prettily around the central character, Thomas Shelby (Cillian Murphy). One of them is Thomas Shelby’s Aunt Polly. The other is Thomas Shelby’s sister, Ada. And the third is Grace Burgess, Thomas’ Irish (my eye) love interest.

Grace Burgess from Peaky Blinders, via bbc.co.uk

Grace Burgess from Peaky Blinders, brought to you by bbc.co.uk… and L’Oreal

All 3 of them walked out of a Pantene ad c. 2004. Grace’s hair is so shiny you can practically smell the shampoo. In Manchester. Uniformly smooth waves tumble gently about her face, just the way mine would – if I put rollers and setting lotion in it for 3 hours, before having it brushed gently, 100 times, by a whimpering Victorian orphan.

Ada’s hair was shaved off Davina McCall’s skull ten years ago and hand-sewn into a wig, before being cut into a short, pert bob which was the height of Bright Young Thing fashion in London, approximately 5 years after the setting of Peaky Blinders. And Aunt Polly never has a bouncy curl out of place, which is no mean feat for a hard-nosed woman living in a house with more thieves and murderers than there are ashtrays.

Peaky Blinder's Ada and that hair, via bbc.co.uk

Peaky Blinder’s Ada and that hair, via bbc.co.uk

I’m no hair expert, but I would think living in a place where the sun never pierces through the smoke and soot choking an entire English city Up North in a post-WWI depression reminiscent of the 19th century industrial revolution, might result in frizzy, filthy, lank locks which get washed once a fortnight and styled once in a lifetime. Staring at these overdone tresses just makes me wonder whether I emptied the washing machine.

Place a peaky blind-fold on your hairdressers, please. Tell them to keep a tight grip on their hairdryers and place their backs to the wall.

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  29 comments for “An Open Letter to the Hair on Peaky Blinders

  1. October 11, 2013 at 6:18 pm

    I wonder whether it’s the programme makers or the actors to blame. Perhaps women actors refuse to look manky, no matter the part. They might see it as being detrimental to future parts. Perhaps there is a belief that women viewers (or men viewers) might switch over at the look of unsightly females with dated hairstyles. No matter the period or situation, women actors strive to look beautiful. They must think it’s good for their professional image.

    Like

    • October 11, 2013 at 9:09 pm

      I don’t know… from what I hear from people who work in film and TV, actors and actresses pretty much have to do what they’re told. You have to be very famous and/or powerful before you can start calling the shots. So perhaps blame lies with the director because they’re the ultimate boss on set. Maybe it is down to some misguided belief that viewers require screen actresses to look perfect. Or maybe nobody thinks it matters, because nobody notices these things. I BEG TO DIFFER!!

      Like

  2. Kimber
    January 28, 2015 at 4:28 am

    Greeting from the Portland, OR, USA!
    I definitely noticed Grace’s hair, and it has made me shoot-me-in-the-face crazy!!! Crazy enough to pause while watching the series to Google this: “is Grace’s hair in Peaky Blinders authentic to the time period” which neatly led me to your fabulous open letter on the topic! Every time I see Grace, I want to run into my bathroom and try out my new curling wand which produces the same wavy locks! Why would the director, or whomever, make such a glaring error?!? To me, there is no excuse! I thank you very much for making it possible for me to know that I’m not the only one who found the character’s hairstyle disturbing!

    Like

    • January 28, 2015 at 9:07 am

      This is great, Kimber. Misery loves company, and I am always immensely cheered by someone being as annoyed as I am about something as important as this. BBC haven’t replied to my open letter, sadly, but we are the many, and the revolution will no doubt, one day, be televised. 😉

      Like

  3. Pascale Plänk Steig
    September 4, 2015 at 2:47 pm

    Here is another comment from Portland, Oregon.

    We recently started watching Peaky Blinders and, while I enjoy the mix of contemporary music with a historical era-set story, every scene in which the Grace character appears in drives me CRAZY!!!

    Put simply, in days with no access to daily showers and shampoo, it was important to keep a hairstyle looking good as long as manageable and to limit its exposure to the elements. So this meant a trip to the hairdresser once a month, the use of hairnets to keep unruly hair in place, etc,
    Another strategy would have been to set one’s hair in “curls” by wrapping and twisting slightly wet strips of thin fabric around strands of hair, or possibly the use of a curling iron that woul have been heated over a heat source (such as one of the openings of a period stove), set on paper first to reduce its heat, then on strands of hair, to produce ringlets in long hair or horizontal “waves” in shorter hair.

    With mid-shoulder length hair, Grace’s could have been a flattened bun set a bit above the back of the neck, held in place with a hair net, or riolled at the back of the neck (hairnet, again), to loosely imitate Ada’s and other young women’s increasingly shorter hairstyles of the time.

    In any case, this style inaccuracy is so glaring, it is almost suggestive of sloppiness in an otherwise excellent production.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. September 5, 2015 at 10:10 am

    You Oregonians definitely know your hair, Pascale! And yes, yes, and yes again to what you said there. I wish programme makers realised how much these details matter. It’s like they think we expect looks to be perfect, little realising that it makes the whole show imperfect, and their viewers distracted. I didn’t want to go into Grace’s Irish accent, either, but with so many wonderful Irish actresses out there I don’t see why they hired someone for this part who had difficulty with the accent – her whole part drove me nuts. Anyway. If I ruled the world, etc., etc. 😉

    Like

    • September 6, 2015 at 8:11 am

      Thanks for answering back.

      Portland is a gathering place for misfits from all over. I am originally from Belgium (and believe that I have thus obligatorily been exposed to a good range of ideas of what was fashionable in the past…)

      Interestingly enough, I do appreciate that an actress without the usual perfect face was chosen for Grace’s role. She has scars on her face and, better yet, a quite lovely profile. Were this show US-produced, her beautiful nose would have been straightened up in no time by a cosmetic surgeon.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. SMW
    October 12, 2015 at 3:57 pm

    Absolutely, Tara and Kimber.
    Her hair really gives me the shits, as they say here in Australia. Plus she walks through the streets hatless!!!! I don’t thinks so.

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 12, 2015 at 10:35 pm

      No indeed, SMW. Historical accuracy discarded in favour of a shampoo sponsor, maybe! I might stop washing my hair altogether in protest.

      Like

  6. October 13, 2015 at 5:00 am

    Just started watching the show and, yes, her hair is driving me NUTS with how absolutely anachronistic it is! This is quite unfortunate because it distracts from the character. They might as well show her texting and chatting on a cell phone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 13, 2015 at 6:22 pm

      It’s funny how this post has reawakened lately! Has the show started on network TV somewhere? Because I may as well tell you now, the 2nd series is no better! (Actually, the storyline was superb. Just the hair was worse)

      Like

  7. Polly Gillespie
    October 14, 2015 at 8:20 am

    I frantically googled ‘Peaky Blinders hair and make up anachronisms and was thrilled someone else was so pissed at the ludicrous hair and make up styling of the women. I can concentrate on nothing else!!! So frustrating that they’d f*ck it up so badly!! ‘

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 14, 2015 at 8:50 am

      I’m starting to think I should get a petition together…

      Like

  8. November 17, 2015 at 8:29 am

    I’m just popping in to say, thank GOD I’m not the only one with the trembling rages over Grace’s hair (and character! She pisses me off no end)

    But also, Aunt Polly is the best thing since sliced bread. I cannot get enough of her storyline.

    Liked by 1 person

    • November 17, 2015 at 9:37 am

      How about Grace’s accent, Celine? Magnificent, isn’t it? Thank goodness they were able to get a non-Irish actress to do that part. After all, an actual Irishwoman would have made a right balls of it.
      And thumbs up on Aunt Polly. Aunt Polly for President.

      Liked by 1 person

      • November 17, 2015 at 9:52 am

        Her accent is almost as wogeous as Sam Neill’s frothing Ian Paisley impersonation. It’s a wonder there was any scenery left for season two after he chewed his way through it.

        Speaking of Grace STUPID SET PIECES THAT SHOULD NEVER HAPPEN BUT KEEP RECURRING ON TV : A wistful (Oirish) female brings a drunken rabble to awed silence by singing a sad (Oirish) toooon (these scenes fall particularly flat when said female has all the tone deaf musicality of my cat)

        AUNT POLLY FOR PRESIDENT

        Liked by 1 person

        • November 17, 2015 at 10:19 am

          Yes, there were several reasons why season 2 was better than season 1, and [insert massive spoilers here] were just two of them. But that Irish colleen thing made my eyes roll back so far in my head I got to see my grey roots from the other side.

          Liked by 1 person

          • November 17, 2015 at 10:23 am

            When Polly (…)yer man right in the (…) at the (…), I cheered for many many reasons

            Liked by 1 person

  9. November 17, 2015 at 10:03 am

    I’ve never watched the programme so can’t comment on the hair dos. Enjoyed the post tho’ and the responses make me want to watch just so I can join in. I love an aul rant 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • November 17, 2015 at 10:19 am

      Just resign yourself to having the excellent story paused every twenty minutes for a lengthy sex scene (because TV shows can no longer hold the viewers’ attention without copious rumpypumpy apparently!)

      Liked by 2 people

      • November 17, 2015 at 10:25 am

        I blame The Tudors for all that crap. The ‘FIGHT – (boobs) – FIGHT – (boobs) – FIGHT’ school of period drama. Boobs, more boobs, and long 21st century contextualised scenes about men saying unfeasibly enlightened stuff. It’s literally all the rage.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Scottish mom
    May 17, 2016 at 4:21 pm

    I once again reapproched Peaky Blinders today on Netflix. Now I remember why I stopped at watching it in first place. Grace’s hair. Her accent as well. Great story. Great actors. All stuck in a production where the directors didn’t Google hairstyles and accents of this period. Budget problems??? It is obvious not just to me. We need answers! Answers I say!

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 17, 2016 at 5:25 pm

      Yeah, Grace is the woefully weak link in that show, sorry to say. Her accent is actually illegal in several Irish jurisdictions. I think you should provide the answers, Scottish mom. They’ll be better than the real ones.

      As a matter of interest, the hair is much better in the 3rd series. Messier. Less conditioned. I like to tell myself it’s because they read this post. It’s obviously not true, but I like to tell myself lots of things, so it’s okay.

      Like

  11. Rick S.
    June 27, 2016 at 12:30 am

    Very accurate in your observance!!! I have designed hair and wigs for numerous theatrical productions and have exactly the same bloody complaints about the womens hair on Peaky Blinders. Ada’s hair is okay as many women were just beginning to cut length off at that time and with her being of an actual working class she may have felt rebelious. Aunt Polly would certainly have worn her hair causually up around her neck in the back whilst having some soft waves around her face. Now Grace…..UGH Grace. She is an “Operative,” bar maid it would have been pulled back but more causual anything more than that would have signified in the bar environment that she was “For use,” so to speak. Her hair would have been a tough, durable look. She wouldn’t have had the time being a “working girl” to putz with it much.
    Thanks for your opinions. Thought I was the only one

    Liked by 1 person

    • June 27, 2016 at 3:06 pm

      Thanks, Rick. It’s funny, this post is still popular, even after all this time. Apart from you, me, and the other commenters, there’s obviously far more people who had enough of a problem with Peaky Blinders hair to google it!

      Like

  12. Claire
    July 3, 2016 at 7:33 am

    I, like everyone else, had to pause the first episode of Peaky Blinders to see if anyone else had serious problems with Grace’s hair. Between your article and all the comments, I think a support group might be in order.

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 4, 2016 at 11:11 am

      I agree, Claire. I have found it very traumatic, actually, and I may need counselling. Or a blow dry.

      Like

  13. vivlingkelly
    November 23, 2016 at 8:34 pm

    The women’s hair has been a sticking point for me too! But I have to say series 3 hair didn’t make me much happier – it was pretty obvious to me that Grace was wearing peculiarly unflattering and (seeing as the actress is already blonde and has good hair) unnecessary wigs. I have a hard time believing that this is some kind of oversight in a show that tends to be meticulous in every other respect when it comes to period accuracy IMO.

    Liked by 1 person

    • November 24, 2016 at 11:41 pm

      Grace was still wearing that unflatteringly poor Irish accent too, vivlingkelly, so I for one wasn’t sorry to see her go. I wonder what happened too. Maybe the marketing department went wild with power. I can see the boardroom scene now. “No, no, NO! Make the hair BIGGER! The focus group were very keen on the connection between Disney princesses and the Peaky Blinders!”

      Like

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