“You have to get what you want your own way.” It’s words like these that cause sigma males to identify with Thomas Shelby. And yet even still, since the show Peaky Blinders first debuted in 2013, a fierce debate has surrounded how we should think of Thomas Shelby. There are those that argue that he is a classic example of an alpha male, as he naturally takes command of his environment, and heads the Shelby clan.

However, if we take a step back and look beyond his outwardly alpha appearance, there is a lot more to his character that would suggest he is in fact more of a sigma male than an alpha male. Keep reading, because here we’re going to take a look at the character of Thomas Shelby, and identify what it is that makes him a sigma male. Spoiler warning for those who have yet to watch Peaky Blinders, as we will discuss some major plot points along the way.

Sense of responsibility

One of Thomas Shelby’s most noteworthy qualities is his sense of responsibility. Throughout the show’s run, a large proportion of his actions are driven by this sense of responsibility. Whether it be responsibility to his family, their legacy, or even towards himself – Thomas knows he is a capable man and that if he wants something protected he ought to take care of it himself. Even when it is through no fault of his own, and it puts him at personal risk, Thomas always lets his sense of personal responsibility push him to act. At times, possessing this great sense of responsibility can be a detriment to his own sense of wellbeing, as when plans fail or those he loves get hurt, he tends to take a lot of the blame upon himself. Sigma males are known for possessing a deep sense of responsibility and willingness to hold themselves accountable, and it is this very trait that causes Thomas to be haunted by losses such as that of Grace, for which he feels personally responsible.

Willingness to take risks

Although he possesses a cool, calculated exterior, Thomas Shelby is by no means averse to taking risks. Potentially owing to his time as a soldier, Thomas does not shy away from danger. In fact, more often than not, he is more than happy to stare down the barrel of the gun into danger if he feels there is a chance of it paying off. There are countless times throughout the run of Peaky Blinders at which Thomas pretty much offers to sacrifice himself for the greater good, or to protect his family and the Shelby name. Risk taking is a trait commonly associated with sigma males, as they are adept at calculating all the possible outcomes of a risk and weighing them up against one another. At pretty much every make or break moment throughout Peaky Blinders, Thomas demonstrates this willingness to go out on a limb with confidence.

Loyal to those close to him

Sigma males are not known for maintaining wide social circles, and are pretty much the opposite of social butterflies. They prefer to stick to themselves, and it can take a truly long time for them to open up to someone for long enough to let them in. Once they do do this, however, they become incredibly loyal friends and partners. This is precisely the case with Thomas Shelby, as he is generally not particularly warm or trusting towards those he has just met. Over time, however, with continued exposure and a foundation of trust, Thomas can be seen to truly warm up to those around him, at which point he develops a fierce sense of loyalty. Even with his great love, Grace, a good deal of time was needed getting to know her before he showed her any warmth. Once that warmth and loyalty was established, however, there’s nothing he wouldn’t do for her.

He means what he says

Sigma males are men of their word – and Thomas Shelby’s word is most certainly his bond. A man with strong clan values, Thomas sticks to a code of honour and likes to make good on his word. He wins the respect of those he works with by always honouring his deals and trying to do right by those who have put their trust in him. This is a very typical trait of a sigma male, as prefer to get ahead using honesty and integrity, as opposed to manipulation or cheating tactics.


Just as he is a man of his word, Thomas Shelby is no liar. Throughout Peaky Blinders, he is shown to be an honest man who does not beat around the bush. He tends to be clear about his intentions, and will rarely hold back from telling the truth even if it puts him at risk of hurting someone’s feelings. This sometimes has the effect of making him appear blunt or insensitive to those around him, a problem that many sigma males tend to face in social interactions with those who don’t know them well, but deep down Thomas Shelby knows that being honest with others is in their best interest as well as his.

Quiet authority

Thomas Shelby is a commanding presence, to be sure. In every room he enters, he tends to bring with him a striking air of authority. For many people, this is what leads them to think of Thomas as an alpha male. However, upon closer inspection this is more of a case of a sigma male rising to the role of alpha. The difference lies in the methods through which Thomas commands authority. He never uses force or aggression to make those around him heed his words. Instead, he uses tactical thinking, and his reputation for cunning and quick wit. Thomas Shelby is a perfect example of why many people refer to sigma males as “introverted alphas.” 


Despite the fact that he is quiet, Thomas Shelby is undeniably ambitious in some sense. Throughout Peaky Blinders, we see him come up with ingenious ways to further the family business, and worm their way out of trouble. As the series progresses, the scale of Thomas’ responsibilities (and in turn, his enemies) only continues to grow, as a result of Thomas’ ambitious mindset. Quiet ambition is a driving force of the sigma male mindset, and is part of the reason why sigma males are so often seen to excel in their fields.

A keen observer

Part of what makes Thomas Shelby such a force to be reckoned with is his ability to sit back and observe. Rather than hastily jumping into action, Thomas observes those he works with and truly tries to get to the bottom of what makes them tick. He knows that by understanding what it is that drives them, he can concoct plans that play specifically to his enemies’ character traits and weaknesses. A keen sense of observation, and the ability to analyse his environment, is a key sigma male trait that Thomas Shelby utilises to his advantage through the twists and turns of Peaky Blinders.

Slow & steady

When it comes to getting his way in life, Thomas Shelby understands the value of the mantra “slow and steady wins the race.” He knows that building a true empire requires time and patience. Bit by bit, Thomas Shelby extends his influence, and reaffirms the powerful legacy of the Shelby clan. He is not afraid to bide his time and wait for the perfect conditions to fall into place that will allow him to manifest his ultimate ambitions. This is classic sigma male behaviour – taking the time to analyse, and reaching his goals at his own pace.

Takes the time to reflect

Sigma males are known for being lone wolves. This is in part because they prefer to spend a lot of their time alone, away from the prying of other people. Sigma males use this time alone to recharge, and reflect on the world around them. Sigmas have a high degree of intellectual curiosity, and hate to leave any stone unturned. Thomas Shelby is a prime example of this behaviour, and we often see him sitting alone having a smoke and a drink, thinking back over things and planning his next moves for the future. Always taking this time to reflect and analyse is part of what makes Thomas Shelby, and the sigma males like him, such a force to be reckoned with.

Above the judgements of others

One major difference between sigma males and alpha males is where they get their sense of validation from. Alpha males are deeply embedded in the social structure they inhabit, and get their status by commanding others. Sigma males, on the other hand, choose to live outside of the traditional hierarchy of society, and does not derive his status from his relationship with other people. As a result, sigma males care little for the expectations and norms held by others, and don’t let the judgements of others guide their actions. Thomas Shelby is a perfect example of such behaviour in action. He does as he sees fit, without regard for what others will say of him. He is not afraid to go against society’s expectations, and go out on a limb to do as he sees fit.

He is, above all else, independent

Perhaps the most recognisable characteristic of a sigma male is his total independence. Sigma males like to feel that they are free to make their own decisions in life and handle things as they see fit. They can often be seen to go out of their way to avoid situations of dependency with others. Thomas, although loyal to his family and the Shelby legacy, can be seen to avoid forming any unnecessary attachments beyond these core relationships. He keeps others at arm’s length for as long as possible, protecting his independence above all else. 

With these points in mind, the argument that Thomas Shelby is a sigma male quickly becomes hard to deny. His quiet, calculated nature, and ability to take risks and lead himself to success make him a powerful friend, and a frightening enemy.