The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Beckham tests fashion frontier on birthday

London, May 11: Not many men could get away with wearing the ensemble David Beckham chose for his 30th birthday party in Madrid this week. His black silk shirt was unbuttoned almost to the stomach, revealing a diamond pendant necklace, while his diamond-encrusted, '15,000 wristwatch (a birthday present from his wife, Victoria) peeped out from a deep cuff. His tuxedo trousers were paired with what looked suspiciously like flamenco shoes with block heels.

But all of that was overshadowed by the most jaw-dropping part of Beckham’s outfit: his satin cummerbund. The sarong was bad enough, but had he gone too far this time'

A sash worn around the waist, traditionally with a dinner suit, a cummerbund doesn’t have a specific function, but helps to elongate the legs, making the wearer look taller and sleeker. For years, it has seemed about as modern as Noel Coward.

Yet, just recently, it has enjoyed a renaissance on the menswear catwalks. It has long been a part of the decadent Gucci menswear look (and is frequently worn by Gucci’s former creative director, Tom Ford). This season’s show featured models wearing cummerbunds with frill-front silk shirts and gold lam' jackets.

John Galliano also included cummerbunds in his spring menswear collection, alongside extravagant, tasselled silk sash belts.

“There is a real sense of dressing up and dandyism that we haven’t seen since the 1980s, and if anyone can pull it off, David Beckham can," says Richard Gray, of Harvey Nichols.

In fashion circles, where menswear trends bear very little relation to what most of the population would consider normal, Beckham’s look is applauded. “People like David Beckham are known for breaking the rules in fashion,” says Gray. “The cummerbund is associated with dressing up for formal occasions but he has brought it up to date and made it sexy by wearing it with an open-necked shirt. It’s not for everybody, but for people like him, it’s expected.”

Others are less convinced.

“It was OK for James Bond to wear a cummerbund in 1970; they were part of a particular style at the time, but I think these days they look old-fashioned. There’s nothing modern or elegant about the cummerbund now,” says Carlo Brandelli, creative director of Savile Row tailors Kilgour, who counts stylish dressers such as Jude Law among his clients.

On close inspection, Beckham’s birthday suit appears more like the kind of stage outfit an ageing Lothario would squeeze himself into, rather than a party outfit for a man at the end of his twenties.

Of course, with his well-toned body, bronzed good looks and celebrity status, Beckham at least has a fighting chance of looking good in clothes that would make most men his age look utterly ridiculous. And compared to some of the footballer’s previous fashion “statements” ' kaftans, pink nail polish and an ill-advised fling with hip-hop style ' this latest look is tame.

But there are signs that the public has grown tired of his eccentric tastes. The fashion-obsessed star was recently voted worst dressed man by readers of GQ magazine. Beckham, who had been at the top of the best dressed list for two years running, was criticised for his nouveau riche style and “chav” tendencies.

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