Wear It Like Beckham: How David Changed The Way You Dress
From footballer to Fashion Week darling, David Beckham has influenced how men dress more than you might think, says Stephen Doig
The year 1998 was a very different time: In Britain, New Labour was in power, a strange new worldwide web concept called Google was founded, and a footballer married to a Spice Girl caused shockwaves by wearing a sarong on holiday.
In today’s #woke era, where gender — in some circles — is as fluid as melted butter, it seems absurd that there would be an outcry about David Beckham wearing a fairly innocuous beach purchase in the south of France. Yet, at a time when menswear to most people meant inaccessible catwalk outfits or shiny suits, Beckham became the aesthetic encapsulation of the metrosexual age, sporting a series of front-page-grabbing experimental outfits (and haircuts).
People may have sniggered at first, but slowly and surely Becks’ enjoyment of fashion and peacockery educated British men in how to dress.
Twenty-plus years later, the 43-year-old former footballer is still raising (slightly more manicured) eyebrows; he appeared on the latest cover of Love magazine wearing green eyeshadow. But there was no makeup on display when he greeted guests at the fashion show for his heritage brand Kent & Curwen (part of London Fashion Week Men’s), which he has revived from slumber with the help of its creative director, Daniel Kearns.
Beckham looked rather like an East End publican — albeit a handsome one — in a grey tweed coat, grandad-collar shirt and waistcoat. The boyish blond locks are cropped and flecked with grey, the eyes a tad more wrinkled, but there’s a distinct sense that, like a British George Clooney, Beckham is improving with age.
And while he’s looking backwards in terms of his style and approach to dressing, it isn’t to the Nineties (maybe he wasn’t so fussed about sarongs after all) but to the style of his grandfather.
“The flat cap is something that comes from my granddad, so there’s a family connection with it,” he said of the hats, carrot-leg trousers and tweeds that informed the label’s collection in collaboration with Peaky Blinders (yes, the television show).
“I’ve always been a fan. Brooklyn [his 19-year-old son] loves the show, too, so it feels authentic to be able to work with them,” he said of the collection, which has matched his own style for a while now. It might be described as “Guy Ritchie movie extra gone rogue”.
From plush velvet tuxedo jackets to serious Savile Row tailoring, it’s a style that he looks at home in (which perhaps wasn’t always the case with the Versace leathers of the Nineties). And it’s an indicator of just how expansive the men’s style industry has become — it is expected to grow by 11 per cent between 2018 and 2022, with the gap narrowing between sales of women’s fashion and sales of men’s.
“I think men are a lot more aware and curious about fashion today,” says Beckham. “Time changes, fashion changes, but it’s encouraging to see the reaction from men who respond to style.”
And it’s that word — style, rather than fashion - that resonates more with men today. It is the idea of a considered wardrobe that nods to trends but doesn’t slavishly follow them.“Men are much more sophisticated these days,” says Dylan Jones, who, in his role as editor of GQ for 20 years, has seen a marked shift in how the British man approaches how he dresses.
“The guys today are almost as sophisticated as women, and they have been encouraged to be as demanding in a retail environment. One of the great things about the success of London Fashion Week Men’s is working with so many young designers who really understand that the consumer comes first.”
It is indicative that some of the most relevant shows at London Fashion Week Men’s — which tends to veer wildly between conceptual tomfoolery (thank you, the septuagenarian model in Victorian mourning dress who flicked Guinness at me as part of an interactive “experience” in a pub) and gritty urban streetwear — featured clothes that were seasonless and could fit fluidly into any man’s wardrobe. Kent & Curwen, Oliver Spencer and E. Tautz presented well-made clothes — many crafted in the UK — that spliced casualwear with more upright tailoring.
Ultimately, that is essentially how the modern man dresses in 2019. The boundary between his formal suit during the working week and an off-duty casual ensemble is crumbling. A perfectly cut suit is a thing of beauty, but today the full regalia that accompanies it — collar stays, silk ties, pocket squares, etc — is far more likely to be relaxed and blended with, say, a polo shirt or a collarless shirt. Suits also come in more dynamic fabrics that allow movement and breathability, crafted for an active millennial’s lifestyle, as opposed to a captain of industry who sits static at a desk.
We are now much more judicious about how we shop, affirms designer Oliver Spencer. “Men tend to be curious about provenance and geeky about their clothes, they want to know how something is made, where it’s made, they research online now and are keen to educate themselves.”
Today, down the pub, men are as likely to discuss the mill which their jacket’s cloth came from as they are to talk about football scores, or at least be unembarrassed to do so. So mock Becks and his embellished eyelids all you want; who knows what men will be wearing in 20 years’ time thanks to him.
— The Daily Telegraph