Is David Beckham the best soccer player who has ever lived? That’s an excellent question I am wholly unprepared to answer—but I think he’s pretty good, on account of his being very famous? Cristiano Ronaldo might be better. But is David Beckham the most classically handsome man who has ever lived? Oh, yes, absolutely. And this is not because of his muscles, which other guys have, nor his tattoos, which many other guys have. It’s because of his David Beckham haircuts, which evolve so quickly, nobody else is able to replicate them. Cristiano Ronaldo only has that one hair style (faded on sides, inexplicably wet always) but Beckham has tons. Some hair trends take men down, but Beckham adopts them first, mutates, and grows stronger, like a virus circumventing a vaccine.
He has tried everything and he looks good in all of it. Blonde? We love it. Greasy center-part at the Sun Military Awards? Incredible, against all odds. Conjure the worst ensemble of hair-related trends in your head and type it into your Google search bar followed by David Beckham, and marvel at how he has done it, and done it incredibly well. (I am referring to the frosted-tip faux-hawk of 2009). This is due to some alchemy of muscles, tattoos, square-jawlines and Greco-Roman proportion, but each Beckham haircut is a case study in the perfect way to pull off every hair trend of the last three decades. Should they come back, and they will, we would do well to emulate him. Let’s review:
The year: 1990
The look: A kind of undercut, with Beckham’s signature blonde highlights. One of the earliest Beckham cuts on record. A healthy dose of hair oil (and a deft barber with a flair for the nostalgic) is all that you need.
The brief: Once your hair is long enough on the top that it tickles your earlobes, ask a hairstylist to undercut the everything else. Bring this photo for reference.
The year: 2000
The look: Does he buzz it every single day? This is so close to the scalp as to suggest baldness, but is much more high-maintenance than it looks. The good news is: No product necessary!
The brief: Ask your barber for a number 0 clipper and a weekly recurring appointment.
The year: 2002
The look: Our boy loves a hair accessory. Behold the headband comb of the early aughts, the levy bracing itself against the golden deluge of Beckham’s mane. It is tough for me to recommend to you unless you are David Beckham.
The brief: Headband combs are available in packs of 5 for $2.99 at Bed Bath and Beyond. Recklessly growing out your hair is free.
The year: 2005
The look: Kind of mullet-y. Becks has never been the kind of guy to judiciously maintain his color—it’s always kind of yellowing, and his natural color is always peeking through in strange, choppy bits, which makes me think he is asking his colorist for highlights instead of all-over color.
The brief: Ask your colorist for highlights instead of all-over color.
The year: 2008
The look: Again! This is my favorite Beckham which is why I included it twice, but I’d like to take a moment here for his facial hair, which he sometimes grows out but usually keeps close to the jaw. Here is my observation: His moustache rarely meets the sides of his beard, which slope down to his chin rather severely instead of joining forces at the lip. This is either peak beard contouring, engineered to augment his cheekbones, or it is just his natural hair pattern. I will figure it out and report back.
The brief: Suck in your cheeks, like you’re imitating a fish. See that line that slopes underneath your cheekbones into your lips? That is your new beard line.
The year: 2009
The look: I mean!
The brief: Buzz the sides, frost the rest.
The year: 2010
The look: Very regal and also a rare peek at Beckham’s actual hair color, which can only be described as “excruciatingly brown.” I don’t hate it!
The year: 2014
The look: Do you remember when everybody was going to their barber, asking for a rockabilly fade? This was (is) the platonic ideal: Sides short but not showing skin, top loaflike and perfect but not crunchy or product-laden. There’s a little matte pomade or blow-dry cream in there, but not too much as to reveal itself.
The brief: Go to any barbershop anywhere and ask for a pompadour and fade. They will know what to do.
The year: 2018
The look: This is not a messy bun. Product was used here—to matt down the hair as it’s pulled back into the tightest, most conservative man bun you have ever seen. It rejects your jokes about Williamsburg, proudly sitting at the crown of David Beckham, who is pulling it off very nicely. Also: What color is his hair at this point? I am asking because I have no idea.
The brief: Use more hair oil than you think is necessary and then use more. Crank your hair back until your eyebrows are where your hairline once was. Tie in a neat bun.
The year: Today
The look: Our boy is aging beautifully. His hair color looks a bit more pallid, with grays poking through. His beard is the same it’s always been, but his hair is a grown-out buzz, somewhere between the semi-baldness of his youth and the pompadour of earlier in the decade. You know that thing that I said about how Beckham is the first to try cool new haircuts? This is the one of tomorrow: Not long enough to require maintenance, but not short enough to cost 15 bucks at your barber. As everything Becks, it is fussy without looking like it. You would do well to adopt it now.
The brief: 2 on the sides, 4 on the top, or just be David Beckham.
This article was originally posted on GQ.
Minor changes have been made by the Quiet Curator editors.