David Beckham has outgrown the need for introductions. He simply doesn’t need them anymore — and hasn’t for quite some time. But as for exactly when this shift in stardom happened? That’s anyone’s guess.
Was it in 1996, when he famously made his debut for England at the tender age of 21? Potentially. Or was it three years later, when his marriage to Victoria Adams formed one of the most prominent power couples of modern times? Perhaps. Or could it have been two years after even that, in 2001, when he knelt — globally renowned and nationally revered — before the Queen to accept an OBE?
We can’t be sure. But what we do know is this; from the world of sport to those of fashion, business and philanthropy, the Beckham of today has a reach and a reputation rivalled by only a few other people on the planet. He’s become a brand in of himself; known and admired around the world. And the one exceptional, commendable thing the talented Mr. Beckham can do better than anybody else? Get a ball rolling.
But not in the bicycle-kicking, Ballon d’Or-eyeing, ‘bend-it-like’ sense of the phrase (although he’s got half a dozen Premier League medals hanging from his mantelpiece that would beg to differ). Rather that, if Beckham wants to kick-start a project — whether it be a fledgling fragrance or a sunglasses start-up — he won’t settle until those plans are put in motion.
As a result, Beckham has brought many ventures to life over the years. This January, he was announced as the co-designer for a smattering of ‘Suites by David Beckham’ at a hotel in Macao. He’s also been an ambassador for Swiss watch brand Tudor for over half a decade, an investor in electrifying car restoration company Lunaz and even masterminded the bold, blue-bottled rebrand of Haig Club whisky.
But British style is where Beckham has made perhaps his most enduring mark. In 2015, the sportsman announced a partnership with heritage outfitters Kent & Curwen. In 2018, he founded House 99 grooming products in collaboration with L’Oreal. And, in 2020, Beckham launched his first signature eyewear collection. Today, we join him at the launch of Tudor’s latest wristwatch — where the sportsman is sharply suited and attempting to explain why British style is always a cut above…
“The word ‘unique’, I think, is exactly what makes us different,” says Beckham. “That’s what makes us classic. And I think there’s an elegance in what we do. We obviously had the Platinum Jubilee lately, and every single thing we did that weekend, the whole world was watching. But they’re watching us for a reason. They’re watching us because we do it in a way that no-one else does it.
“So British style,” he continues, “for me, at least, is elegant. It’s unique. It’s classic. And that’s everything that I love. I love walking, when I can, around London, and just seeing what people are wearing. We British obviously wear suits in a way that only we can. But then you’ve got the young kids walking around in Soho, looking like they do, and you can get inspired by that, too”.
It’s odd to hear Beckham talk about ‘young kids’. Though he’s nudging 50-years-old, the sportsman’s superstar image has always seemed to be ageless; the same almost mythic presence in modern culture. But he’s come a long way since sporting the sarongs and centre-partings of his youth. He’s a father, for one — and even looks to his children for style inspiration these days.
“I’ve got four kids,” nods Beckham. “Three boys. 23, 19 and 17. And they’ve all got their own sense of style. And so has my daughter. And I think that’s very British. Because, with the British, we all have our own classic, unique sense of style”.
Beckham’s own fashion sense has been harnessed by countless brands during recent decades. He may not helm a haute couture, high fashion empire like his wife, but the sportsman has fronted campaigns for H&M, Armani and Belstaff during his post-playing career. He’s also worked with Maserati, Samsung and, here today, Tudor. But he’s always keen to do more than simply pop up in adverts or bless billboards. A figurehead, Beckham is not — and never wants to be.
“To be honest, the creative side is really important to me,” says Beckham of his intimate involvement with many different, disparate brands. “I’ve always enjoyed it. And I’ve always wanted to be involved, you know? With every single detail. Even down to the point where, sometimes, some of the partners have said: ‘Really? Do you want to be involved that much?’. And I’m like: ‘Absolutely’. Because, actually, that’s what I’m passionate about.
“Whether it’s with the eyewear, or the team in Miami [since 2018, Beckham has co-owned the Floridian Major League Soccer (MLS) team Inter Miami CF], I’m always across every single detail — because I think that’s important.
“And I think that people notice those things,” he adds. “When I started the partnership with Tudor, I really wanted to be involved in what straps went on what, and what I personally liked and personally didn’t liked. I think those things are so important because I personally notice the details. So that’s why the creative side has always interested me, and that’s why I’ve always liked to be involved. It’s so important”.
But it’s also an education. Beckham may have a natural eye for detail, but he also appreciates that the perfumiers at Coty may be able to find a more fragrant solution to any problems with his aftershave line — or that the automotive artisans at Lunaz Design, where he is also shareholder, may be able to steer a restored classic car in a sleeker direction.
“And that’s the great thing,” says Beckham. “And the Tudor team, especially, is such a great team to work with. There’s not one occasion where we’ve really disagreed on something. We always work it out. But I think they like having me involved as well. Because they’re all so passionate about what they do, they love that I am too. I’m passionate about these timepieces — and everything that goes into them.
“So, when I come along and I really want to be involved in certain things,” he continues, “whether it’s engraving the watches in a way that makes them unique or something else, I always want to be involved. That’s why the partnership works perfectly — because I say what I like, or what I don’t like, and the team says exactly the same”.
One of Beckham’s most dash-cutting collaborations with the Swiss watch manufacturer is a Tudor Pelagos; one with the Inter Miami CF logo emblazoned on the sporty black dial. It’s a bit of customised kit that came about on a trip to Miami itself, when Beckham was challenged by the watch brand to go freediving with the world-beating, depth-plunging Morgan Bourc’his.
To tool himself up for the dive — a challenge set by Tudor for the ‘Born To Dare’ campaign — Beckham was given a blue-hued Pelagos. “The blue of that particular Pelagos was amazing”, he says. And, so taken was he with the model that he put the Inter Miami CF logo on his own black Pelagos.
But the bespoke timepiece isn’t the best thing to come from Beckham and Bourc’his’ trip to Miami. The sparkling, subaquatic footage is truly something to behold, and charts the sportsman’s journey from amateur to aficionado; all flippers and introspection. It’s also one of the rare instances that Beckham seems, both figuratively and literally, out of his depth.
"I’m always across every single detail..."
“You know what?” Beckham admits. “I’m not a passionate diver — but I’ve always wanted to be. When we did the freediving in Miami, I suppose that’s the one thing that completely took me out of my comfort zone. I love to snowboard, I love to ride bikes, but diving? I love the ocean, I love bobbing around in there, but I’ve never really been into freediving. It’s so…”
He tails off and grimaces. But, despite feeling uneasy about the open ocean, Beckham says that Bourc’his — a former swimmer and three-time freediving world champion — took him through everything step by lung-maximising step. And, similar to the way in which designers and developers have helped hone Beckham’s creative process over the years, Bourc’his brought out the best in the sportsman.
“And I was fine in the swimming pool,” laughs Beckham. “I had a great time in the swimming pool! But then we went out into the middle of the ocean, in Miami, and there are a lot of sharks in Miami. So I was slightly nervous. And it was rough. So, by the time we got there, all the crew were throwing up. But, thankfully, I was okay.
“In the end, I actually loved doing it. I loved the challenge. Because I’ve spent time with my kids in the pool, trying to hold our breath as long as possible. So when Morgan turned around to me and said: ‘We’re going to try to get you to hold your breath for as long as you can’, I told him: ‘Be prepared, it’s not going to be that long’. But I got to just under three minutes — and I was quite proud of myself once I’d done it. The footage we got was incredible.
“And there were no sharks,” he adds.
Beckham first joined forces with Tudor in 2017, when the watchmaker established its pioneering, unflinching ’Born To Dare’ campaign. Since then, he has also strapped on his snowboard and followed Norwegian Olympic medallist Kjersti Buaas into the Alps for a frosty adventure. “I actually was snowboarding before we did the campaign,” notes Beckham. “But I’d never done that sort of extreme snowboarding. So again, for me, that was another challenge. I loved it”.
There’s an adventurous spirit to Beckham — but it’s a spark that seems to burn brighter when others fan it into flames. And Tudor has given this to the sportsman; facilitating Beckham to push himself both creatively and through these various expeditions and challenges. But, if there’s one pursuit he’ll never need to be persuaded of, it’s getting into the saddle of his motorcycle.
A common sight in cities from London to Los Angeles, Beckham bikes whenever he can — and has an enviable garage including a custom Triumph 850 Street Scrambler, a Harley-Davidson Knucklehead and even an incredible Confederate F131 Hellcat Combat. In 2014, Beckham fired up a Triumph Bonneville T100 and made his way, with a group of friends, through the dense Amazon rainforest, for documentary Into The Unknown.
“I love to go bike riding,” he nods. “It’s one of my big passions. So, at some point, there’ll be another one of those Into The Unknown things I did. The Amazon was incredible. Hard, but incredible.
“And I suppose I always like to go to new places,” he continues. “There are actually many places that I haven’t been yet. I haven’t been to India. And I actually can’t believe that I’ve never been to India, because it’s one of my biggest fan bases — which is incredible. I’ve done so many different trips, even to the Antarctic — where I went during a documentary, which was pretty amazing. But India, that would be the place that I haven’t been to yet that I’m really looking forward to going to”.
The Antarctica trip was another challenge for Beckham — but this one was set not by Tudor, but by UNICEF. Since his days at Manchester United, the sportsman has been an ardent supporter of the charitable agency, starting out with a focus on sports development, but soon moving into areas tackling violence against children and poverty. And, in 2015, to celebrate a decade of working with UNICEF, Beckham set out on a global journey to raise awareness and vital funds for protection against preventable disease — one that took him to the southernmost tip of the world.
“It was the first ever football match played on Antarctica,” he explains. “And that was pretty amazing. We tried to do seven games in seven days on seven continents. I think we ended up doing it in about nine days in the end, which was still pretty good going!”
It’s a frosty feat that draws parallels to Tudor’s new ‘Ranger’; the wristwatch that Beckham has today come to Wapping’s Tobacco Dock to launch. A reimagining of a classic model, this new release from the Swiss brand takes its sturdy style cues from the watches buckled up on 1952’s British North Greenland Expedition. 70 years after that scientific mission, the sportsman has been learning about the tenacity, resourcefulness and courage of the 30 men involved. But does he think he shares their adventurous spirit?
“I’d like to believe so,” Beckham considers. “I mean, 70 years ago, to go on an expedition like that? They were pretty hardcore. I do like to explore, I do like to go to new places. And, you know? Being on a motorbike, like we have been, you can actually get to those places.
“As I said,” he adds, “for the Amazon trip, we decided to do it on the bikes, but it wasn’t easy. Whether it be the roads themselves or getting the bikes onto boats, and then off boats again. It was a real mission. But I’d like to think that I explore in the way that those guys did, and I really want to explore more — to keep going to places I’ve never been”.
Want more interviews with great Brits? Catch up with our latest cover star, Tom Hiddleston, here…
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