David Beckham: Style Icon. Footballer. Father. Entrepreneur. And now FashionBeans’ first ‘Hair Hero’.
Beckham is a man of many firsts – who can forget that sarong, those matching leather his and hers outfits, and all the Alice bands? Yet he is an undisputed modern style icon; a man that continues to push the boundaries and set global trends, without ever dressing too young for his age. In fact, his style and hair has only matured with him over the years.
Beckham has long been an inspiration within the men’s hair industry – mainly because he was the first truly high profile male celebrity to experiment and have fun with his hair, regularly trying out new cuts and styles. Over time, he has played a major role in the shaping of the modern man’s attitude toward grooming.
So today, in the first edition of a new FashionBeans series, we pick three of Beckham’s most iconic hairstyles, break down why they were so important and show you how to bring the cut bang up to date…
The Buzz Cut
You may think this is an odd hairstyle to choose. Traditionally, a shaved head carries a lot of negative connotations – it can appear cold, harsh and almost ‘thuggish’, and is unfairly associated with some undesirable social groups. To this day, many still label the cut a ‘skinhead’ after the hairstyle was adopted prominently by the 1960s subculture.
Yet when Beckham shaved his hair off, he made the look cool, masculine and contemporary. It became socially acceptable for style-conscious men to have a closely shaved head, to the joy of receding hairlines everywhere.
Almost overnight, he single-handedly changed what the ‘skinhead’ label meant and stood for. When he started the craze, you would see young men with dramatic buzz cuts dressed in sharply tailored designer suits. These two conflicting aesthetics – a brutish cut mixed with gentlemanly attire – challenged each other and formed a new hybrid of chic, similar to what we are seeing now with the rise of the overgrown beard trend.
Beckham went on to sport a radical bleached blonde version of this hairstyle on the June 2002 cover of the UK’s leading gay magazine (another first for a Premiership footballer), Attitude, and it is still one of his most famous photo shoots to date.
As a hairstylist, what I personally loved about this ‘era’ was how Beckham managed to keep the cut looking fresh by changing the colour or adding a few tramlines to give it an edge.
Modernising The Look
We don’t see as many guys with the same length hair all over these days. The back and sides will generally be taken shorter than the top to create a squarer effect. If all the hair is left at the same length it is likely to make the face appear rounder in appearance.
To maintain a dramatic look it would be good to take the back and sides really short to expose the scalp; the length can vary through the top depending on how much hair you want to play around with.
If you are trying to grow your hair out after taking the plunge then I would suggest getting the back and sides clippered regularly, maintaining a sharp shape, until you have some length on top to manipulate.
Inspired By Beckham: Modern Buzz Cuts
Longer Hair & Colouring
Two things many people will automatically associate with femininity: long hair and highlights/colouring. Once again, Beckham went against the grain.
In terms of colour, he was using bleach to achieve a lighter sun-kissed effect, which was always very natural looking. This would have been easy to achieve as his hair is naturally a lighter shade of brown.
When he did colour his hair, it was no coincidence that there was a massive influx of guys who wanted highlights. At the time it was really good for the industry and provided a major boost to the male grooming market.
Previously taboo, Beckham gave the everyday male the confidence to do the same and, incidentally, it was also around the same time that men began experimenting with GHD hair straighteners – Becks again validating that it was OK for men to have longer hair, and to spend more time styling it.
This was another ground-breaking look when he first adopted the cut. Going forward, it would be nice to see what else he could do with colour because there’s still a huge market for it and so much can be achieved with simple highlights.
During this long hair period, Beckham certainly knew how to cause a stir: he took to wearing Alice bands on the pitch – much to the delight of Alex Ferguson – then went away on international duty with England with his hair braided in cornrows, a style commonly associated with Afro-Caribbean hair.
Although the media coverage he received from both these looks was phenomenal, if you want to maintain any sort of dignity we recommend you steer well clear of both. Beckham has since said that he’d “had a glass of wine or two” when he got his cornrows – a feeling of regret that most of us should be able to relate to.
Modernising The Look
Since this Beckham era, we have seen a sharp decline in men colouring their hair, which I personally find surprising. The Beckham effect was huge and many chose to go all out by bleaching their hair – which is what I think has put many men off.
But colouring doesn’t need to be so dramatic. There are so many products, colours and techniques that can be used to lighten/darken the hair or just add tone these days. The current major trend for women is the balayage effect, where the hair is coloured darker at the root area and gets progressively lighter towards the end. This can look great on male hair too, as Jared Leto has recently proven (see below).
Men could definitely experiment with colour more, even if it’s only slightly lightening the hair to give it a sun-kissed appearance or using highlights to add texture and definition to the cut at key areas.
If you do decide to colour your hair, it’s extremely important you look after it and maintain its condition. Many of the men that come into the salon don’t think carefully enough about their choice of shampoo/conditioner but in this case it’s important to use colour specific products to replace the moisture and protect the colour.
Inspired By Beckham: Modern Men’s Hairstyles With Subtle Colouring/Highlights
- Kevin Murphy Set Of 2 Angel.wash For Fined Coloured Hair 250ml & Kevin Murphy Angel.rinse For Fine Coloured Hair 250ml
- Loréal Professionnel Série Expert Silver 250ml
- Loreal Professionnel Serie Expert Chroma Care Colour Refreshing Conditioner – 13 Beige 150ml
- Korres Sunflower & Mountain Tea Shampoo For Coloured Hair 250ml
- Philip Kingsley Pure Silver Shampoo 250ml
- Wella Sp Men Silver Shampoo – 250ml
World Cup 2002 Mohawk
Flashback to the 2002 World Cup and Beckham’s infamous ‘mohawk’. Star of The Salon, Adee Phelan styled Beckham’s hair this way for a GQ magazine cover shoot; it became one of Beckham’s most notorious front page spreads of all time. It was an extremely dramatic cut and Phelan even picked up awards for the image created.
Adee did that haircut and consequently became a millionaire. The impact and power that one image carried, combined with a style icon not afraid to take risks and go where others dared not to, was dynamite.
What’s so special about it, you might ask? It’s the dramatic contrast between how short it is around the edges, exposing the scalp, with length through the middle – a juxtaposition that works because of the blending and seamless transition of the cut.
The colouring is also excellent, with the hair darker around the edges and then a striking bleached blonde stripe going through the middle, graduating into the scalp.
The final image single-handedly set a high street trend – it became THE haircut of THAT summer – the defining look that every man wanted. Who else would have the sway and star power to make the mohican a popular hairstyle these days?
Modernising The Look
The mohawk is an undeniably extreme hairstyle, what with its short/shaved elements and the length required through the top. Yet even though trends and tastes have changed in the past decade, many gents are still choosing to wear their hair in a visually similar way, albeit in more classic styles such as the quiff or pompadour.
What I love about this look is how crisp and sharp the haircuts look. A lot of men are also sporting a full beard with these styles, which creates yet another dramatic contrast and adds to the disjointed effect created by clippering the sides tight.
The lower the guard on the clippers, the shorter the sides and the more scalp exposed, so if you want a less dramatic look it’s important to let your stylist know beforehand.
Inspired By Beckham: Dramatic Cuts With Disconnected Sides & Length On Top
- American Crew Defining Paste 85g
- Soft Water Pomade Baxter Of California
- Kevin Murphy Undressed 100g
- American Crew Boost Powder 10g
- Loreal Tna Texture Dust 22g
- Silvikrin Maximum Hairspray 250ml
- Denman Vent Brush D200t
- Kent Tortoiseshell Effect Fine Pocket Comb – Small Fot
- Ghd Air™
Maturing With Age
Beckham, now thirty-eight, has not lost his edge – I always get really excited to see what he’s going to do next with his hair, and I know I’m not alone. Who would have ever thought that a man could have so many different hairstyles? And not ones necessarily pushed on him by his fashionista wife.
As he has matured, so has his style. He seems much more settled with his look these days, and that often comes with life experience and a deeper understanding of who you are and what you’re all about. Much like his current personal style, which is built around sharp tailoring and wardrobe basics, his recent hairstyles have been more traditional and grounded by timeless cuts such as the quiff and side-parting.
Yet note how he gives each of them a contemporary update, whether through choice of high-shine products or razored, disconnected sides – the definition of classic with a twist:
One thing that continues to surprise me is that Beckham has never launched his own haircare range. It would undoubtedly become one of the biggest brands within the market and he would even be able to provide his own visuals for the campaign imagery.
If he was sat in my salon chair? I’d love to colour his hair again – perhaps go lighter once more with a subtle dip-dye balayage effect.
So, what do you think of Beckham’s haircuts over the years and which one is your favourite? Who else would you like to see analysed in our Hair Heroes series?
Let us know in the comments section…