Credit: Justin Goff/UK Press/Getty Images
Remember when the Beckhams went everywhere in matching outfits?
Delving into the archives of pop culture history, "Remember When?" is a CNN Style series offering a nostalgic look at the celebrity outfits that defined their eras.
London's first digital fashion week kicks off today, offering an ideal opportunity to reflect on where British fashion is going -- and how far it has come.
And as we look back at the country's recent style history, there's one pair that embodies sartorial evolution: David and Victoria Beckham.
Today, Victoria's fashion label is a credible fashion week fixture, and David is a dapper style icon, but it wasn't always that way. For one thing, who can forget when they went everywhere in matching outfits?
Around the turn of the millennium, you couldn't open a newspaper in Britain without seeing Posh and Becks' color-coordinated approach to what we now know as #couplegoals.
At a screening of cult movie "Withnail and I" in 2001, they opted for head-to-toe brown, with David in an ill-advised Matrix-style trench coat.
Two years later, at the MTV Movie Awards, they went for subtle jewel-encrusted white ensembles (later immortalized by Madame Tussauds). Then, of course, there was the couple's 1999 nuptials, where they wed in cream before changing into purple to cut their cake with an unnecessarily large sabre.
But, just weeks earlier, there had been an even more iconic coordinated fashion moment.
It was the height of Beckham-mania when the supercouple stepped out in head-to-toe leather at a Versace party in London. Victoria was about to start recording a third Spice Girls album, and David had just helped Manchester United claim English and European championships. Their first son, Brooklyn, was newly born, and the pair had recently purchased a cozy family mansion dubbed "Beckingham Palace" by the media.
In a nod to the evening's host, the matching outfits were made by Versace. The jacket and pant combo -- shiny enough to reflect the paparazzi's flashes, and tighter than one might expect in the baggy '90s -- stole the limelight and was splashed across the papers the next day.
It's often overlooked that the garments were wildly inappropriate for the season. It was, after all, the middle of June (though British summers are often so mild that you can wear all-leather without so much as breaking a sweat). Perhaps that explains why both David and Victoria chose to lower the zippers from their fastened collars, leaving the tiniest flashes of skin peeking through what effectively became keyhole necklines.
Yet, for a look so bold, it was almost entirely void of attitude. They looked like a pair of affable bikers stopping off at an English village pub for orange juice. Then-floppy-haired David -- who completed the outfit with a pair of flat-toed loafers -- didn't even look convinced by the idea to begin with.
There was a certain sheepishness in his eyes that night, as if he knew he'd one day come to regret the decision. And indeed, he did.
"Wow we really did this," he wrote on Instagram, posting the iconic image to mark his wedding anniversary in 2017. He elaborated in H&M's magazine shortly after: "They were Versace. But that's one when I look back and am like, 'What were we thinking?' We laugh about that one. I remember that it's really good until you do it as a couple."
Victoria, however, has been less willing to disavow the past. "I never look back and cringe at anything," she told Grazia in 2018.
And why should she? For one, as the proprietor of a respected -- albeit consistently unprofitable -- fashion label, Posh now has enough repute as a designer to dodge questions about previous wardrobe choices.
But perhaps more importantly: The outfits did exactly what they were supposed to.
The UK's obsession with the Beckhams' fashion may have been partly fueled by tabloid sneering at the idea of nouveau riche extravagance, but the publicity served their cause. Even the most questionable outfits contributed to one of modern entertainment's most successful brand-building exercises.
Coordinated style helped the pair transform themselves from the singular Victoria Adams and David Beckham, to the collective "Posh and Becks," a nickname so pervasive that it was added to the Collins Concise English Dictionary. Their ability to create a unified identity far surpassed that of predecessors like Hugh Grant and Liz Hurley, while laying the foundations for super-couples to come (and, unlike Bennifer, TomKat and Brangelina, their relationship went the distance too).
These days, the Beckhams take a far more refined approach to twinning. Their collective style has evolved from copying to complementing. Take the fetching navy they wore to Buckingham Palace in 2017, or the white-tie outfits worn to the Met Gala, where they didn't look out of place on high fashion's biggest stage.
And sure, the leather was bad, but at least it wasn't Britney and Justin in all-denim bad.