Michael Fassbender as Erik Lehnsherr, relentless mutant Nazi hunter to be christened Magneto
Villa Gesell, Argentina, Fall 1962
Film: X-Men: First Class
Release Date: June 1, 2011
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Costume Designer: Sammy Sheldon
While I’m not traditionally a fan of superhero movies (at least as not as big a fan as some people!), I’ve appreciated how the recent stretch of Marvel movies have stretched across genres in its multi-billion-dollar appeal to varying audiences. For me, it’s been the entries rooted in history—like the MCU’s Captain America: The First Avenger and Fox’s X-Men: First Class, both released in 2011—that have had the most appeal of those I’ve seen. The latter, released ten years ago this summer, had been a subject of multiple requests since BAMF Style’s early years, so I hope I’m not too late in finally paying tribute to a briefly seen but timelessly stylish outfit from this Cold War-set adventure.
Yet to be officially dubbed “Magneto”, Erik Lehnsherr begins the events of X-Men: First Class as a teenage prisoner at Auschwitz, where the sinister Nazi scientist Klaus Schmidt (Kevin Bacon!) manipulates the young Erik into testing his mutant powers. It isn’t until Schmidt, who is actually a mutant supremacist named Sebastian Shaw, murders Erik’s mother that Erik’s magnetic power comes to fruition emerges from his grief and fury.
Eighteen years later, a matured and well-tailored Erik aims to avenge his mother’s death. A tip takes him to Argentina, where—true to history, under the auspices of Juan Perón’s administration—hundreds of former SS officers had escaped following World War II. At a remote tavern in the coastal resort town of Villa Gesell, Erik encounters, baits, and attacks two ex-Nazis:
Let’s just say I’m Frankenstein’s monster… and I’m looking for my creator.
What’d He Wear?
Set in 1962, the James Bond influence permeates through X-Men: First Class, particularly via the sophisticated style of Erik Lehnsherr, whom we meet clad in a shark gray three-piece suit, crisp white shirt, and dark knitted tie that may bring to mind Sean Connery’s characterization of the dapper 007.
Following his lead to northern Argentina, Erik dresses down for the subtropical climate in a neat white knitted short-sleeved polo and trousers, accessorizing with a classic white Panama hat and the same browline-framed sunglasses that he wears throughout the rest of his adventures, comprised of black square frames with gold rims under the dark lenses.
Erik has what appears to be a beige linen tailored jacket slung over his shoulder, which he hangs up with his hat before he strides to the bar. The room is empty, save for the bartender and two imbibing oafs whose advanced years and fondness for Bitburger have molded them into marked contrasts against Erik, whose fitness is made all the more apparent in the fitted white knit polo shirt he wears tucked into his trousers. The shirt’s banded short sleeves further flatter his athletic physique.
The shirt’s collar is a sporty open V-neck occasionally referred to as a “Johnny collar”. Typical of the world of menswear marketing, the “Johnny collar” appellation has been used to describe a variety of styles, always an open V-neck but ranging from shirts lacking plackets to more traditional polos with button-up plackets that cutaway toward the neck. Erik’s shirt has a short, open placket with a V-shaped neckline that overlaps at the bottom.
Erik tucks the shirt into a pair of light cream-colored trousers that offer just enough of a harmonious contrast, likely made from chino cloth, a summer-weight cotton twill that gained popularity during the late 19th century for uniforms of British, French, and American troops serving in warm locales. These slacks have on-seam side pockets, a button-through pocket on the back right, and turn-ups (cuffs) on the bottoms. He holds them up with a brown leather belt which coordinates with his dark brown suede derby shoes.
Sensing trouble among the confident newcomer and his loyal patrons, the bartender (Carlos Peres) draws his Luger P08. Developed at the start of the 20th century, the Luger grew to become one of the most recognizable pistols of all time, familiar by name even to many with little to no knowledge of firearms.
The fact that the bartender carries a sidearm so intrinsically associated with the German military across both world wars strengthens the suggestion that his connection to the two ex-Nazis in his bar may be deeper than just the standard barkeep/patron relationship… not that it matters once Erik deploys his powers to get the bartender to shoot one of the two men before taking the Luger for himself as he continues his mission of revenge.
Designed by Georg Luger in 1898, the Pistole Parabellum was first produced by the Imperial German weapons manufacturer Deutsche Waffen und Munitionsfabriken (DWM) alongside the new 7.65x21mm Parabellum (.30 Luger) cartridge, developed in collaboration between Luger and Hugo Borchardt. The .30 Luger remained in Swiss service for much of the first half of the 20th century, but the Germans wanted a little more power, resulting in the development of the now universal 9x19mm Parabellum that has made the 7.65mm all but obsolete.
Though the Luger pistol remains iconic more than a century after its introduction and heyday, original production ceased during World War II when it was generally replaced in service by the Walther P38.
What to Imbibe
Following his request for a beer, Erik is served a tall pilsner glass of Bitburger. “German beer,” Erik comments.
“Yes, it’s Bitburger. You like it?” calls one of the former SS officers seated behind him. “The best,” Erik laconically responds before moving over to their table to bait—and ultimately attack—the two men.
Given how not-so-subtly the brand is featured, I assume there must have been some sort of product placement agreement for Bitburger’s “cameo” in X-Men: First Class, not that the brewery needed much help. The brewery was founded two centuries ago in 1817 in the west German city of Bitburg (get it?) and was nearly destroyed during World War II, but it was rebuilt immediately following the war and swiftly recovered, using its new signature slogan “Bitte ein Bit.” The flagship 4.8% ABV pilsner has long been Germany’s best-selling draft beer.
How to Get the Look
Erik Lehnsherr may know he’s dressing for action, but his combination of a white Johnny-collar polo shirt with light slacks and brown belt and shoes provides a smart and sophisticated yet simple template for timeless summer weekend style.
- White knit short-sleeved “Johnny collar” polo shirt
- Cream cotton flat front trousers with belt loops, on-seam side pockets, button-through back-right pocket, and turn-ups/cuffs
- Dark brown leather belt with silver single-prong buckle
- Dark brown suede derby shoes
- Beige socks
- White Panama hat with pinched crown and black band
- Black-framed/gold-rimmed browline-style sunglasses
Johnny-collar polo shirts have undergone a recent renaissance thanks to the navy V-neck polo worn by Daniel Craig’s James Bond in Spectre (2015), and many can still be found from a range of retailers as of July 2021:
- Boutique Jacques, stretch pima cotton blend (Boutique Jacques, $62)
- Club Monaco, stretch cotton pique blend (Club Monaco, $79.50)
- Cubavera “Signature Polo”, cotton/linen blend (Amazon and Cubavera, $24.99)
- DKNY Jeans, 100% cotton (Amazon, starting at $16.20)
- Le 31 “Innovation Polo”, cotton blend (Simons, $29.95)
- Nordstrom “Johnny Collar Linen Polo”, 100% linen (Nordstrom, $69.50)
- Nordstrom “Paul 3463 Piqué”, cotton/modal blend (Nordstrom, $90)
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
“Blood and honor”… which would you care to shed first?