Illustration by Kyle Hilton for GQ magazine

Illustration by Kyle Hilton for GQ magazine

David Beckham, the son of a hairdresser has the most famous mane in the sports world, here's a WHOLE 20 long year history. 

21 years ago, David Beckham with his ever-changing appearance made his first full appearance for Manchester United, and yet he's STILL, after two years of retirement, is one of the most recognisable sports personalities in the world. It's Beckham we remember for his power couple status with Victoria Beckham aka. Posh Spice. 

Beckham's legacy is all the more apparent on the heads of the players who have since followed in his footsteps - his famous hair is even credited with creating more hype and love of the game. "Before Beckham, soccer players were liked by 40-year-old men who also liked greyhound-racing and Rugby League," says Roger Bennett, co-host of the popular English Premier League football show Men in Blazers. "He timed his career unbelievably well. In the '80s, English football was kind of like a troglodyte, medieval, hooligan culture based on parochial rivalries. In the 1990s, it started to rise with the birth of the Premier League, and it became a global juggernaut. The league needed a face, and that face had to be English. [David] was one of a number of stars. He was not the best out of them, but the best-looking star."

So how the bloody hell did a 19-year-old with a greasy centre parting becoming a global grooming inspiration for an ENTIRE generation? Let's check out his hair story. 

David Beckham training with England in 1997, shortly before meeting Victoria "Posh" Adams. Getty Images

David Beckham training with England in 1997, shortly before meeting Victoria "Posh" Adams.
Getty Images

^ APRIL 1995

After spending five games on loan at third-division club Preston North End, London-born David Beckham, the son of a hairdresser, makes his debut in the Premier League for Manchester United. At this point, his hair was just a standard-issue English-football haircut. It was curtains, not much to comment on at this point. Charlie Porter, menswear writer and fashion critic told GQ Magazine: "It was the haircut before he started playing with it. That was just what men's hair looked like at the time. It didn't necessarily follow that if you play football that you have a sense of style. In fact, it was probably the opposite."

Beckham attends the Walt Disney Channel “Children Awards” in June 1998. Getty Images

Beckham attends the Walt Disney Channel “Children Awards” in June 1998.
Getty Images

JULY 1997 >

More boy-band heartthrob than a footballer and a newly dyed blonde head of hair, David Beckham signs an endorsement deal with struggling British pomade company Brylcreem which is attempting to rebrand its image and appeal to a younger audience. 

Alamy Stock Photo

Alamy Stock Photo

 

MARCH 2000 >

By March 2000, Beckham's career seems like it's bouncing back from the upset at the 1998 World Cup. He received plaudits for his performance during the 1999 Champions League Final, and in November he will be named captain of the England national team. Before a Carling Cup match against Leicester City, however, Beckham reveals he has shaved off his trademark blonde locks. 

 
Beckham sports a second Mohawk in May 2001 after being forced to shave the first one. Getty Images

Beckham sports a second Mohawk in May 2001 after being forced to shave the first one.
Getty Images

 
Beckham sports his trademark shaved head and asymmetrical forehead slit, August 2001. Getty Images

Beckham sports his trademark shaved head and asymmetrical forehead slit, August 2001.
Getty Images

FEBRUARY 2002 >

In the lead-up to the 2002 World Cup, Beckham stars appearing in more ads for his endorsements. He also hires a new hairdresser, Leeds-based Adee Phelan, who is still struggling to establish himself.

ADEE PHELAN (Beckham’s former hairdresser): When I first met David and Victoria I was living in Leeds. I was earning £70 a week. I met Victoria’s best friend and makeup artist at a hairdressing event. She said she loved my pictures and that Dave was looking for a hairdresser. My first job was a massive campaign for Adidas and the World Cup. As a hairdresser you have to do something different or you won’t get rebooked, so I did the haircut where it was sort of shaved around the front with tramlines. He said, “I absolutely love it,” and then Victoria said, “I absolutely love it,” and they both said, “Get your diary out.”

 

< MAY 1997

At 22, David Beckham is known for two fabulous things: being the new boyfriend of Victoria "Posh" Adams from the Spice Girls, and his 1996 wondergoal against Wimbledon, which he scored from inside Manchester United's own half. 

Roger Bennett, co-host of the Men in Blazers podcast and TV show on NBCSN also told GQ magazine: "Through their relationship they both kind of transcended to become much, much bigger. She became more than just a candy pop star, and he became more than just a footballer. His hair, until he met her, wasn't very special. She introduced him to blonde streaks, and endorsements soon followed."

 
A still from David Beckham's first fashion shoot in Sky Magazine, 1997. ©Peter Marlow / Magnum Photos

A still from David Beckham's first fashion shoot in Sky Magazine, 1997.
©Peter Marlow / Magnum Photos

 

< JUNE 1998

While playing for England in the quarter final of the World Cup in France, Beckham is fouled by Argentina's captain, Diego Simeone. In a moment of frustration, he kicks Simeone in retaliation and is red-carded straight away. England goes on to lose the game 4-3 on penalties, and Beckham is instantly vilified

The Daily Mirror, one of England's largest tabloids, runs a dartboard (left) with Beckham's face at the centre and invites readers to "hurl away" at Beckham, who they say "earns £8 million a year, dates Posh Spice, wears sarongs and dyes his hair." Suddenly Beckham's hair, the thing that had won him endorsement deals and made him the most recognisable sportsman in the country, was being used to paint him as a pretty boy.

Getty Images

Getty Images

< AUGUST 2000

Beckham arrives for Manchester United's Charity Shield game against Chelsea - with a Mohawk. It was branded as "controversial" by a lot of the press, and rumours spread that Man U manager Sir Alex Ferguson is not happy with the look, as Beckham himself confirms (speaking in 2015 on The Graham Norton Show): When I first did it, I was [sitting] in the changing room and I had a hat on at the time because Sir Alex Ferguson hadn't seen it. Obviously that was interesting when I took my hat off. We had an hour before the kickoff, and he said, "Go and shave it off." I said no at first, and then I saw his face change very quickly, so I went and shaved it off in the toilet. 

< OCTOBER 2001 

Beckham sports his now trademark shaved head and asymmetrical forehead slit at a qualifying game for England against Greece, and Beckham scores with seconds to spare, securing the team a place in the 2002 World Cup.

 
 
From left: Phelan’s first time working with Beckham in a commercial for Adidas; Beckham launches the new line of Police sunglasses in another commercial from around the same time. Getty Images

From left: Phelan’s first time working with Beckham in a commercial for Adidas; Beckham launches the new line of Police sunglasses in another commercial from around the same time.
Getty Images

MAY 2002

As the country continues to hold its breath for news of Beckham's broken foot, he appears on the cover of a special World Cup issue of British GQ. In an unprecedented move, British GQ runs two cover images, both of which feature Beckham shirtless and with a short, spiked faux-hawk by Phelan that is pushed up in the middle with a dyed-blonde streak down the centre. 

Getty Images

Getty Images

 

< JUNE 2002

With his foot healed, Beckham flies to Japan for the World Cup and scores the only goal in England's 1-0 win against Argentina. Although they are no longer working together, Beckham sports the same dyed faux-hawk Phelan helped create for the cover of British GQ.

OCTOBER 2002 > 

Beckham is photographed walking through the streets of Manchester in a zigzag headband/Alice band. The Sun reports that people "openly giggled as he walked past... Oops!

 
Beckham would later say the cornrows were “maybe a bad decision.” Getty Images

Beckham would later say the cornrows were “maybe a bad decision.”
Getty Images

 

JULY 2003 > 

Real Madrid's deal to buy Beckham for €35 million for Manchester United goes through, and he is paraded for the first time in front of the Spanish press with a style that's pretty damn popular these days... The topknot - his fifth hairstyle in just over eighteen months. 

AFP/Getty Images

AFP/Getty Images

MARCH 2007 >

With his contract at Real Madrid having come to an end, Beckham announces he will be joining Major League Soccer club the Los Angeles Galaxy in July on a five-year contract. But before he goes, he receives an away honouring his outstanding achievement in British sport at the 2007 Sports Industry Awards in London. He uses the opportunity to debut a new brushed-forward hairstyle. The cut, which The Express reports cost £1,000, lasts precisely one hour. At some point after the ceremony Beckham spikes it up and is seen later giving interviews with a more familiar faux-hawk. "Changing my hair is just something that I do," he jokes with reporters. 

 
From left: David and Victoria sport matching blond hair at David’s 32nd birthday party; David is seen with a shaved head a few weeks later. FilmMagic

From left: David and Victoria sport matching blond hair at David’s 32nd birthday party; David is seen with a shaved head a few weeks later.
FilmMagic

MARCH 2011 > 

Nine months before his contract is due to expire at the L.A. Galaxy, David Beckham appears on the cover of influential menswear journal Fantastic Man with a side parting styled by hairdresser Alain Pichon. It will be his go-to haircut for the foreseeable future and the longest he has kept one haircut since the beginning of his career.

Getty Images

Getty Images

< MAY 2003

As rumours circulate about his future at Manchester United, Beckham is seen at the Cannes Film Festival wearing cornrows.Later that week he flies to South Africa with the England team and is photographed meeting Nelson Mandela. When asked by reporters to comment on David Beckham's hair, the former president says, " I am too old to express an opinion." 

David and Victoria Beckham are photographed in New York, May 2003. Getty Images

David and Victoria Beckham are photographed in New York, May 2003.
Getty Images

< July 2005

Beckham sports a mullet while helping London secure its bid to host the 2012 Olympics. 

Getty Images

Getty Images

< MAY 2007

Ahead of their move to Los Angeles, David and Victoria Beckham both sport bright-blond peroxide hairdos. Two weeks after Beckham’s Real Madrid teammates are reportedly seen teasing him about his new hair during training, he is seen with a shaved head...again.

David Beckham with his mother, Sandra, at Wimbledon, June 2015. Karwai Tang / Getty Images

David Beckham with his mother, Sandra, at Wimbledon, June 2015.
Karwai Tang / Getty Images

It does change, but the changes are subtler now. Sometimes it’s shorter on the sides, sometimes it’s quiff-ier. So many men have it. You can joke about the rest, but they’re experimentations. This is the one that has had the most serious impact on the way that men have their hair. [It’s] what it means to be him post-football: Now he’s in control of what he does. He’s not in conflict with any manager, or any team, and he hadn’t got to prove himself. He’s done that. It’s a much steadier narrative, and I think the haircut suits that.
— PORTER (then deputy editor, Fantastic Man)

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