Netflix has a new most popular show. “Beckham,” which was released Oct. 4, is a splashy four-part documentary series about one of the most famous footballers of all time.
In the series, David Beckham now 48, charts his journey from working-class obscurity in south London to a young star at Manchester United, captain of the England squad and half of one of the biggest celebrity couples in contemporary pop culture. His wife of 24 years, Victoria Beckham — once known as Posh Spice — supports him from the sidelines. Viewers are treated to interviews with his tight-knit family and a constellation of teammates, celebrity friends and even some of the paparazzi who built careers on chasing the Beckhams’ every move.
The doc takes us from the 1990s and the duo’s matching leather catsuits through their flamboyant purple wedding outfits, his varied hairstyles as he moves to clubs like Real Madrid and LA Galaxy and her hair extensions and the microshorts that defined her WAG era through to complimentary cashmere and denim looks of the present day.
Vanessa Friedman There are many reasons to watch the Netflix Beckham documentary, but the sheer joy of going down that turn-of-the-millennium fashion hole has got to be one. It was like a mini history lesson in style (and style faux pas).
Guy Trebay It was a millennium fashion hole for sure — their purple wedding suits, for example. But I found it way more enjoyable as a snapshot of class. The period mostly covered in the first two episodes was an open time of flouting the class divide.
Elizabeth Paton Their engagement in 1998 could have been a royal one, there was so much delirium about it. It is hard to overestimate how obsessed the world — but particularly the British public — were with their his-and-hers fashion efforts. The double denim looks. Matching black leather catsuits from Gucci (at a Versace party). The fact her hair was shorter than his.
G.T. Bullingdon boys didn’t wear Mohawks.
Stella Bugbee His hair was an important subplot in this series — the many bleach jobs and half-ponytails dovetail with the changes in his career. The filmmakers seem to implicate his shaved his head as the catalyst for the rift that would send him packing from Manchester United. His buzz cut spawned a craze for young fans who shaved their heads to look like him. He appears to have enjoyed that relationship with his fans and used his hair as a tool for hype.
V.F. Sometimes his hair was apparently styled by Victoria! Even just after she gave birth, when he had to face the press, he asked her to fix his hair first. I was struck by how much she seemed to be shaping his image behind the scenes, but I appreciate a man who is willing to admit to his vanity. To pick up the wedding thread: Royal is the right word, Lizzie. Down to the matching purple outfits — which they laugh about now.
E.P. Soccer is a macho arena. And here is David Beckham, wearing a purple suit, or being photographed wearing a sarong. That was genuinely groundbreaking for a celebrity like him in 1998.
G.T. The sarong was important — and I return to class here — because lads and lager louts were not wearing skirts.
V.F. The sarong speaks to his — and her — ambition for careers beyond the original game of football and pop music. Victoria always understood image creation. It’s also telling that the first public sign of their relationship was he gave her a Cartier watch to match his own. In some ways, this is a love story told in clothes.
G.T. They are low key in the doc — his wool pullover, her jeans and tee.
E.P. It’s interesting to note the evolution from them wearing identical outfits to their gently complementary looks now. Their tendency to twin hasn’t gone away. Just matured.
V.F. The designer list from her WAG years was very flashy: Dolce & Gabbana, Roberto Cavalli, Antonio Berardi.
S.B. What she wore wasn’t a big part of this series, which seems like a deliberate choice — Vanessa pointed out that they don’t even mention her career as a serious designer. Obviously it’s a show that forefronts him, but it’s still a miss.
V.F. Victoria seems to be positioning herself in the background, as the less showy person. We don’t see her closet, but we get a glimpse of David’s, which is extraordinary.
S.B. His meticulous closet! The documentary doesn’t care about what’s in it as much as the way it shows his O.C.D. tendencies — which they hint at in other parts of the filming, too — the compulsive neatness in the kitchen, for example.
G.T. The most human part of him, the least managed — or manageable — is the O.C.D. There’s a moment where he adjusts a clothes hanger by a millimeter.
V.F. I was struck by his attention to detail for the Miami club — picking the pink, having a pink net, picking the team’s suits. He is still very attuned to image. In the documentary, you realize how much he changed the game when it comes to footballers and brands. Messi (the Messi store), Neymar and L.V. — Beckham really opened up those possibilities. Now he seems to be actively managing his own transition to owner.
E.P. I don’t know how it’s been received in the U.S., but in the U.K., people are feeling very nostalgic and fuzzy toward the couple, if probably slightly guilty about the hideous way in which celebrities in the 1990s and 2010s were treated. It’s a master class in keeping your personal brand positive.
Elizabeth Paton, Vanessa Friedman, Guy Trebay and Stella Bugbee contributed reporting.