I was working in the sports department of the London Times one day about a decade ago when we got a call from somebody in the news section. One of the editors had seen a photo of David Beckham and wondered if his hairline might be receding. Could we urgently investigate?
Clearly, had we managed to stand up the story, it would have been front-page news and we would have won many awards for our public-service journalism. But our crack investigative team determined that there was no evidence to suggest a looming Beckham follicle crisis.
Even now, nearly two years after his retirement, Beckham’s hair retains both its magnificent, thick, sensual luster and its capacity to make headlines. Because this stuff’s important, OK?
Taking time out from trying to convince the people of Miami to let him build a stadium anywhere within 50 miles of South Beach (just stick it in Grand Bahama and construct a big bridge, already), Beckham went on the BBC’s Graham Norton Show to recount a story about how his boss at Manchester United made him shave his head before a Community Shield match 15 years ago.
“I was in the dressing room with an hour to go before kick off when Sir Alex Ferguson saw it and made me shave it off,” Beckham said.
Here we see the attention to detail that made Ferguson such a managerial genius. The Community Shield’s just an exhibition game with pretensions, but even here, Fergie’s being a strict taskmaster. Although how come he didn’t notice his star player’s head until an hour before the game? Had Beckham been wearing a beanie hat to hide it? We should be told.
Of course, this hairy moment wasn’t without long-term significance. Gradually, Ferguson formed the opinion that Beckham was too much style, not enough substance, culminating in a breakdown in the relationship between the two that saw Beckham get hit in the face by a flying boot in the locker-room and then be sold to Real Madrid. A club where he could scrape his highlighted locks back in a rather greasy ponytail and no one would object.
Although there’s perhaps a faint whiff of hypocrisy about Ferguson’s stance on bad haircuts, since Cristiano Ronaldo seems to have been given a free pass by the Scotsman down the years.