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Critics hope
Beckham fills U.S. sport fashion void

Critics hope
Beckham fills U.S. sport fashion void

U.S. soccer might be hoping for a surge in popularity with the arrival of English star David Beckham, but some fashion critics are also hoping he can teach U.S. sports stars a thing or two about clothes.

"Hopefully it will inspire them to lift their game," said Adam Rapoport, style editor at men's fashion magazine GQ. "I think athletes respond to competition well. If someone's looking better than them they want to get on par with them."

Beckham, 31, has signed a $250 million five-year deal to moved to the United States later this year and play for the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer, but even before he has arrived, he has graced the covers of U.S. fashion magazines.

So is the U.S. sports scene in need of a style icon?

"Desperately. And they're in need of a tailor," said Wendell Brown, senior fashion editor at Esquire magazine. "I hope Beckham has a major impact."

Rapoport agreed, saying there had been a fashion void on the U.S. sports scene since the 2003 retirement of basketball star Michael Jordan, who is now one of the world's wealthiest former athletes, with endorsement contracts and business interests.

"I don't think anyone's stepped up to the plate since Jordan retired, and I think they could use one. It's going to be interesting to see if Beckham can be that guy," he said.

But Beckham's iconic style status doesn't appear to have U.S. sports stars shaking in their boots.

"It's not going to put pressure on me. I'm not competing with him," said Jevon Kearse of the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles with a laugh, while attending the launch of Jared M, a clothing line designed especially for big, tall sports stars.

But he did add that Beckham's popularity could pressure other athletes to lift their fashion game.

Former Los Angeles Lakers basketball player Jim Jackson said that while he believed Beckham would likely have an impact on U.S. sports stars fashion, most NBA players were already "dressing the part."

"They made it mandatory for NBA players to dress up," Jackson said. "I think guys really accepted that and really took it as a challenge to step up their game."

In October 2005 the NBA implemented a dress code for its players, requiring them to wear "business casual" when off the court and taking part in team or league activities. Sleeveless shirts, shorts, T-shirts, wearing sunglasses indoors, headphones, and chains and pendants over clothing were all banned.

In defense of U.S. football and basketball stars, Esquire's Brown said that for many of them size impeded their style.

"One of the things that nobody really mentions about David Beckham is that the clothing is so geared to his shape," Brown said. "He is the perfect size to wear Dolce & Gabbana and Versace and Prada and Gucci." (Michelle Nichols, Reuters)

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