FEW ATHLETES HAVE captured the world’s attention quite like David Beckham. If it wasn’t his performance on the field, it was his romance with Victoria off of it. If it wasn’t his ‘pretty boy’ good looks, it was his experimental personal style. And, With such immense exposure to the public eye, everything Beckham does has always been put under the microscope. That includes the unpredictable journey his hair has taken over the years.
Most guys’ hairstyle journey follows a similar trajectory. There’s the simple childhood staple which becomes cause for embarrassment when revisiting old photos. Then there’s the coming-of-age, “mum I’m a teenager now” cut, the one you envision drawing interested glances from high school sweethearts. Early adulthood then brings about an obligatory period of experimentation, where two or three new styles are trialled, before you finally settle on a single cut that will stay with you until either the day you die—or until your hairline starts to recede. Beckham seems to have decided on an end product now, but he spent a little longer in the experimentation stage than most.
From the barber shop stalwarts to the potentially problematic, let’s revisit the most iconic hairstyles of Beckham’s career. A warning: the inevitable crawl of time and shifting tastes means that some of these cuts are best left in the past. So, don’t expect every example to serve as inspiration for your next chop.
The slick and simple
Before he broke into Manchester United’s first team and garnered an international following in the process, Beckham had a haircut that did anything but stand out. This was obviously before his experimental phase, as the slightly slicked back look sported by a teenaged Beckham was extremely common at the time, and made it seem like his style was still governed by his school’s strict, plain-and-simple haircut policy.
Perhaps the most iconic hairstyle of Beckham’s career, the curtains he rocked in his early days gave rise to his reputation as a pampered pretty boy, and inspired young men across the world to give the style a try. Going to a hairdresser, showing a picture of a young Beckham and saying “like this please,” remains a rite of passage for the men of today looking to shake up their style.
After establishing himself as something of a bad boy after his infamous red card at the 1998 FIFA World Cup, Beckham got a haircut to match. Beckham’s shaved head was shocking at the time and might be the only time a haircut has made headlines. In an episode of his eponymous Netflix docuseries, Beckham explained, “I never did it to create attention, I’m not that person.” Victoria Beckham says the change was indicative of Beckham “going from a boy to a man.” We’d have to agree. After the change, Beckham lost his pretty boy reputation and homed in on what he really wanted to focus on: being a world class footballer.
Not long after the buzzcut, Beckham again made waves when he met Prince—now King—Charles wearing a sleeveless top and a durag. We’re not sure if Becks would opt for a similar outfit if he were to meet the King today, but the incident is one of those things that just gets funnier with time.
We’re deep into Beckham’s experimental era here. The mohawk, while short-lived, was hugely influential. Previously, wearers of mohawks were usually associated with a slightly unhinged mental state—think Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver—but Beckham’s brief adoption of the style helped it enter the mainstream.
Beckham has been opening up on some of his more adventurous styling choices in his docuseries, and his flirtation with cornrows certainly qualifies. In a recent interview, he recalled the infamous hairstyle. “People ask if I have any regrets about my hairstyles and while I don’t regret any of them, I do sort of regret the cornrows.” What’s worse, Beckham originally opted for cornrows because he was meeting with former South African President Nelson Mandela, as if that necessitated the ill-advised switch.
The one you erased from your memory
Seriously, what do we even call this? Beckham’s ‘nothing on the sides, a little on the top with nothing on the front left’ look didn’t last long, but it was the pinnacle of avant-garde. Thankfully, this particular haircut never quite resonated with the youth, sparking very few copy-cats like some of Beckham’s other notable looks.
When Beckham departed his dearest Manchester United for greener pastures with Spanish giants Real Madrid—at the height of their Los Galacticos era—he made a similarly daring hairstyling move. Beckham’s flowing blonde ponytail is now synonymous with his time at Real Madrid, and it lasted a lot longer than his preceding cuts as he approached the end of his experimental phase.
The end product
After almost 20 years of frequent changes and experiments, Beckham seems to have finally settled on an end product. Considering the eccentric styles he’s utilised throughout his time in the limelight, the haircut he’s most commonly brandished in recent years is remarkably tame. Nevertheless, Beckham continues to set the benchmark in men’s styling. Beckham’s sophisticated, neat and tidy haircut has been a staple since the 2010’s, but he’s shown he’s still not afraid to shake things up after shaving his head again for the premiere of the Beckham docuseries.