Peaky Blinders

What Tommy Shelby’s Chest Tattoo Means In Peaky Blinders

Tommy Shelby has sun rays over his left breast, and the absence of religious faith in his character may explain why he chose to get them tattooed.

Peaky Blinders‘ main character Tommy Shelby has a tattoo on his breast that resembles sun rays, but what does it mean? Tommy had many tattoos, each of which holds a range of important meanings. The meaning of this particular Peaky Blinders tattoo, however, may extend beyond what the design is actually based on.

Thomas Shelby leads the Peaky Blinders – a powerful Birmingham-based gang – following World War I. He jumpstarted the business out of a desire to move his family up in the world so they would always be able to defend themselves and become untouchable. Throughout the series, he is shown to be an independent, stoic, and ruthless boss. However, audiences are also presented with the other, easier-to-empathize-with side of the character, which commonly emerges in the relationships he shares with his romantic interests, namely Grace Shelby (played by Star Trek actress Annabelle Wallis), who proves his heart is as vast as his merciless nature.

The dual sides of Tommy Shelby are expressed through his chest tattoo. The sun rays designed in an array over his left breast are inspired by a real-life tattoo that usually would have Jesus in the middle of the rays. Jesus is left out of Shelby’s Peaky Blinders tattoo, which is a choice that speaks to Tommy’s views on religion and faith, as well as potentially alluding to his life of crime. The design is also thought by some to be similar to that of the Roma wheel, which can be seen to represent Tommy’s Romani heritage and his desire to live a free life.

How Tommy’s Tattoo Is Linked To His Relationships

The breast tattoo holds meaning that may explain why Tommy Shelby’s Peaky Blinders relationships, both platonic and romantic, often end poorly. By holding his freedom closest to his heart in the form of a permanent tattoo, it implies that he will not be bound by anything, even by marriage and love. The overarching meaning of it does end up clashing with his marriage to Lizzy, to whom he is tethered against his wishes. However, Tommy also showcases his freedom from his wife by informing her he does not intend to remain loyal to her, only that he will remain as such under the roof of the same house.

Tommy’s chest tattoo represents the loyalty he harbors to himself and the life he chooses to lead. It also serves as a reminder of the aspects of his life he holds closest to his heart. Thomas Shelby has always held true to these beliefs – potentially, in part, because his chest tattoo has always been there to remind him.

What Tommy’s Other Tattoos Mean

Tommy Shelby on the street turning to his left in Peaky Blinders

The rays on his chest aren’t the only Peaky Blinders tattoo Tommy sports, either. He has three others, and each comes with its own unique meaning. On his right bicep, there’s a star with the word “Forrard” which references his service during World War I (“Forrard” being an interpretation of the command “Forward”). Tommy’s left bicep tattoo of a rose and a horseshoe is explained in the show itself, commemorating his win in the betting license battle. Finally, the initials TGC on his right arm stand for Tommy, Grace, and Charlie: himself, his first wife, and his son, respectively. This last one is particularly poignant since Grace’s death in Peaky Blinders season 3 and is one more way in which Tommy’s body underscores how he now cares for nothing but his cause. While tattoos are often used to cultivate a particular aesthetic for a character, they almost always carry a significance as well, and this is certainly the case in Peaky Blinders.

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