OF

GQ (Australia) - - MEN OF STYLE -

all the men to ad­mire, only one proudly wears women’s un­der­wear, has stepped out in a sarong and (al­most) made Alice bands an ac­cept­able male ac­ces­sory. His name is David Beck­ham and it’s OK to ad­mit to mo­ments where you’ve seen him in a mag­a­zine – all cool, cut and cleft­chinned – and thought, ‘I want to be him.’ But the thing about Becks is not the way he can carry a suit, have his ev­ery­day essen­tials turned into an H&M col­lec­tion, set yet more global hair trends, or even have his own Beck­ham fra­grances, but that his fame now tran­scends the rea­son he frst came to at­ten­tion. Os­ten­si­bly, Beck­ham is, or was, a pro­fes­sional foot­baller. His right foot will for­ever be a Bri­tish na­tional trea­sure, but he was never the great­est player on Earth. (“He can’t kick with his left foot, he can’t head, he can’t tackle, and he doesn’t score many goals – apart from that, he’s al­right,” chimed leg­endary player/boozer Ge­orge Best). And a sig­nif­cant pro­por­tion of those who buy into Beck­ham are un­likely to have ever sat through a game of soc­cer. While the 40-year-old may have spruiked his tal­ent at three of the big­gest clubs (Manch­ester United, Real Madrid and AC Mi­lan), he’s be­come far more than the sum of his place on any team – an icon, a yard­stick of men’s fash­ion and beauty and a sta­ple on con­tem­po­rary so­ci­ety’s cul­tural bill­board. Ad­mit it, he’s a man to ad­mire. Be­cause, void of any ini­tial priv­i­lege, his tale is one of re­demp­tion through hard work and a ded­i­ca­tion that would drive most to tears, or, at least, back to bed. Beck­ham’s fa­ther, Ted, made foot­balls out of rolled-up socks for a young David, be­fore train­ing his four year-old charge for sev­eral hours, daily, at an East Lon­don park. “I must have taken tens of thou­sands, maybe hun­dreds of thou­sands [of free kicks]. I would go to the park, place the ball on the ground and aim at the wire mesh­ing over the win­dow of a small com­mu­nity hut,” Beck­ham’s re­called. “When Dad got home he would stand be­tween me and the goal, forc­ing me to bend the ball around him. Peo­ple must have thought we were mad. And I would carry on play­ing when I got home. I wasn’t al­lowed a football in the house so would prac­tise with Care Bears in my sis­ter’s bed­room. Mum thought it was funny but it showed how much I loved football. I couldn’t get enough of it.” Those many years of ef­fort, which frst led to Manch­ester United in the ’90s, went up in the smoke of a hot-headed mo­ment at the France ’98 World Cup – a just-flat­tened Beck­ham lash­ing out at Ar­gentina’s Diego Sime­one, earn­ing him a straight red for petu­lance and a sav­age help­ing of op­pro­brium back in the UK. Perched in a Lon­don pub, GQ wit­nessed, frst­hand, the feral, fe­ro­cious switch in public opin­ion over the tal­is­manic Eng­land mid­felder. Had Beck­ham walked into that pub that night, or any night for the next few months, no lie, he would have been spat upon and glassed. Only if you’ve seen an English­man watch a World Cup will you ap­pre­ci­ate this as truth. Ef­f­gies of Beck­ham were hung in the streets, he re­ceived death threats and was booed, ev­ery time he touched the ball, at ev­ery English ground for the en­tirety of the fol­low­ing sea­son. Rather than run and hide in another coun­try’s league, he put his ex­ceed­ingly hand­some head down and played with pas­sion and skill for club and coun­try – win­ning an un­prece­dented tre­ble with United within 12 months and go­ing on to be­come Eng­land’s most capped cap­tain – and, on sev­eral oc­ca­sions, their hero. The public for­gave him ev­ery­thing, even mar­ry­ing a Spice Girl with a voice like a, well, noth­ing com­pli­men­tary. And he had a sense of hu­mour about it, too. When Vic­to­ria was help­ing Range Rover de­velop a spe­cial ‘VB’ edi­tion of its Evoque, David im­plored the engi­neers to add one fea­ture for his sake – a loud stereo sys­tem to drown out his wife’s singing. Though the fus­ing of brand Beck­ham with that of Posh may have seemed chav-tastic at the time, she did in­spire him to push the style en­ve­lope to places no foot­baller had ever been. You can ar­gue the mer­its of wear­ing her thong (and pub­licly dis­cussing it), some of the more ques­tion­able hair­styles (the corn­rows were ter­ri­ble) and even the ob­ses­sion with body art, but you can’t deny they’ve de­liv­ered a ma­ture David who to­day stands as a con­sum­mate icon of style – that suited combo for the Royal Box, Wim­ble­don 2014; the abil­ity to wear leather with­out sug­gest­ing sex­ual fetish; the ca­sual swag­ger of lit­tle more than T-shirt and chi­nos. But a true gent is more than a vis­ual mo­tif – and it’s in fam­ily and char­i­ta­ble in­stinct that Beck­ham’s sub­stance speaks loud­est. He may have cursed his four kids with silly, celebrity names, but, no ar­gu­ments, he’s an at­ten­tive and lov­ing fa­ther. To­day, when not ig­nit­ing red-car­pet flash­bulbs, Becks can be found on the side­lines proudly cheer­ing on his boys. Or, just as likely, he’ll be in­spir­ing vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren in the poor­est coun­tries around the world in his role as a UNICEF good­will am­bas­sador. Yes, David was born blessed, with a face that would have been carved on urns in a dif­fer­ent era. But he’s also proved him­self fear­less, re­silient and car­ing. A true gen­tle­man, sarong and all. n

IT’S IN FAM­ILY AND CHAR­I­TA­BLE IN­STINCT THAT BECK­HAM’S SUB­STANCE SPEAKS LOUD­EST.

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