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Health, Beauty & Fashion

Style it like Beckham

Thanks to him, men can aspire to look good without raising eyebrows
The Straits Times - January 13, 2012
By: Ong Soh Chin
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Style it like Beckham -- PHOTO: H&M

Amidst all the overhyped marketing campaigns and banal, slicked-up advertising visuals, there is one media image that can still cause both women and men to stop and catch their breath.

That image is David Beckham in his underwear. Heck, David Beckham in just about anything, really.

I was happily reminded of this last week when I came across the campaign visuals for Beckham's upcoming Bodywear collection with H&M, which will be available in Singapore and the rest of the world early next month.

Obviously riffing on the huge success of his 2007 Emporio Armani underwear campaign where he appeared, among other memorable poses, in boxer briefs with only a giant rope and baby oil for company, Beckham proves that he still has the goods to deliver the right package.

The black-and-white H&M Bodywear pictures show Beckham, now 36, glowering sexily in boxer briefs. While the abs may seem a little rounder with age, his body is still in very fine fettle indeed.

Think of how much more boring and divided the world would be without David Beckham.

He is a gifted football player who has given sports fans much joy since he signed with Manchester United in 1992.

He is also a savvy and profitable self-promoter. But there are many other sportsmen who have turned themselves into lucrative brands, lending their names to both commerce and causes.

Where Beckham stands apart is through his contribution to the world of men's fashion; he has single-handedly torn down stereotypes and broken the wall between straight and none-of-your-business.

This is the man who, after he wore a sarong in 1998, inspired Topman to quickly put out a range of man skirts in 1999.

I am perhaps guilty of oversimplifying the sociological spectrum, but there is nothing more straight than sports. And there is nothing less so than fashion. Before Beckham, never the twain shall meet, and a man who flaunted his naked torso on a 10-storey-high billboard would be cut a wide berth down at the local pub.

But because of Beckham, men can now go for manicures and facials, and shop for nice clothes without feeling dirty. They may even buy some H&M boxer briefs because they want to be like Beckham.

Beckham said of his H&M line: 'The push to do something of my own really came as a result of my collaboration with Armani. They told me that their gross turnover in 2007 was around 16million euros and after the campaign in 2008, it went up to 31 million euros. It proved to me that there is a real market for good-looking, well-made men's bodywear.'

It is thanks to him that we have less reason now to nag our men to look stylish. They may even welcome our input. After all, even tennis great Roger Federer goes to American Vogue editor Anna Wintour for style advice.

Plus, those of us who have long suffered ads of scantily clad females can chortle with delight, now that the fruit is of the other loom.

Beckham, however, was not the first footballer to cross the fashion divide and explode male gender dynamics.

That accolade goes to former Liverpool goalkeeper David James, who not only fronted the Emporio Armani underwear and Armani Jeans campaigns in 1996, but also walked the runway for Giorgio Armani.

The Italian designer, an avid sports fan, was the first to welcome footballers into the world of fashion, changing the world's perception of well-dressed men forever. He also designed the off-field wardrobes for the England football team in 2003 and 2010 and is the go-to designer for footballers Thierry Henry, Luis Figo, Fabio Cannavaro, Andriy Shevchenko and Kaka. In 2010, Portuguese boy wonder Cristiano Ronaldo also flashed his rippled torso for Emporio Armani underwear.

Like Beckham, these football icons are also known for cutting a dash off the field, leading to a growth in popularity of menswear as well as the men's accessories market.

It is a winning combination, so much so that other sportsmen are now being tapped by designers and showing up in the front row of fashion shows. Most notably, apart from football, ice hockey seems to be the fashion world's new happy hunting ground for photogenic, body-beautiful sportsmen.

At the Tommy Hilfiger spring/summer 2012 menswear show at New York Fashion Week last September, the boyband-handsome Canadian hockey star Brad Richards rubbed shoulders with actors Ed Westwick and James Marsden in the front row.

Richards' New York Rangers teammates, Brian Boyle, Steve Eminger, Brandon Prust and Wojtek Wolski, also made appearances during the week, as did the controversially mouthy Sean Avery, who is probably the new Beckham, only in terms of his trailblazing attitude towards fashion.

The self-confessed clothes-horse, who is known to sport black nail polish, allegedly gives his girlfriends fashion advice and admits to having more of an interest in women's fashion than menswear. In summer 2008, he even interned at American Vogue, having previously expressed an interest in becoming a fashion editor after his ice hockey days are over.

It used to be a long and unnatural journey from the locker room to the atelier.

But not anymore, if you can bend it, beautifully, like Beckham.

 

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