Magnum, P.I.: Cream V-Neck Cable-Knit Sweater
Tom Selleck as Thomas Magnum, private investigator and former Navy SEAL
Hawaii, Summer 1981
Series: Magnum, P.I.
– “No Need to Know” (Episode 1.05, dir. Lawrence Doheny, aired 1/8/1981)
– “The Ugliest Dog in Hawaii” (Episode 1.08, dir. Lawrence Doheny, aired 1/29/1981)
– “Adelaide” (Episode 1.14, dir. Lawrence Doheny, aired 3/19/1981)
– “Beauty Knows No Pain” (Episode 1.18, dir. Ray Austin, aired 4/16/1981)
– “Tropical Madness” (Episode 2.07, dir. Lawrence Doheny, aired 11/12/1981)
Creator: Donald P. Bellisario & Glen Larson
Costume Designer: Charles Waldo (credited with first season only)
Costume Supervisor: James Gilmore
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
We all love Magnum, P.I., don’t we, folks? I’ll be transparent, I was hoping that I would have had enough of the series screencapped so that I could gift BAMF Style readers on the national observance of Selleck’s Birthday with a rundown of that iconic red “jungle bird” shirt that, if I’m not mistaken, was the most frequently worn—and prominently featured—of Tom’s tropical-printed Aloha shirts.
Though armed with the entire series on Blu-ray, my digital rewatch was stalled in the middle of the third season (blame the untimely death of my computer-friendly Blu-ray player and Amazon Prime for removing the show last summer), but the good news is that Tom sported enough stylish looks by that point that I should have plenty of Magnum fodder on hand to tide us over until I’m able to complete the series. (The bad news? Still nothing for those fans of Magnum’s Pepsi bezel Rolex.)
I considered the half-measure of featuring his black-and-neon version of the “jungle bird” shirt, but—given that Selleck’s January 29 birthday falls during #SweaterWeather for many of us in the Northern Hemisphere—it felt like the right time to divert from those famous Aloha shirts and summer-weight polos to focus on Magnum’s more winter-friendly knitwear.
What’d He Wear?
That said… Magnum isn’t exactly kicking back in bulky wool sweaters. For the first few seasons, TM’s knitwear of choice would be light-weight cable-knit jumpers worn sans undershirt, often pulled on as a warm cover-up layer after coming in from a refreshing ocean swim. Rather than warmer-wearing wool, which could be itchy when worn directly against the skin, Magnum’s sweaters appear to be made from synthetic fibers like acrylic, possibly blended with cotton. We see a variety of colors including a night-ready navy and a tactical taupe, but the focus of this post will be the cream-colored sweater shaded to resemble a classic Aran-style fisherman’s jumper.
Magnum’s sweater is knitted in alternating strips of a six-wide shaker-rib stitch and a twisted rope stitch which lines up directly with the center of the sweater, extending from the corner of the ribbed V-neck down to the long-ribbed hem, which coordinates with the ribbed cuffs at the ends of each set-in sleeve. Selleck always wore this sweater sans undershirt to allow the V-neck to illustrate that his virile hirsuteness wasn’t limited to his upper lip.
Magnum debuts the sweater in “No Need to Know” (Episode 1.05) after a security team protecting Robin Masters’ latest houseguest, Brigadier Ffolkes, kills an assassin that infiltrated the property. The following morning, an impatient Magnum prepares for a swim by wearing the cream cable-knit sweater over his navy swimming trunks.
The same outfit reappears at the end of “The Ugliest Dog in Hawaii” (Episode 1.08), also with a pair of aquatic-friendly dark blue flip flops detailed with a white band around the soles.
The short-inseam swim trunks in question are navy blue polyester with an elastic waistband, a small pocket on the right side that closes with a single-button flap, a patch pocket on the back left, and a deep vent on each side seam that allows more athletic movement while in the waves.
Magnum begins incorporating the cream sweater into his day-to-day wear in “Adelaide” (Episode 1.14), starting with a scene at Robin’s Nest where Higgins finds droll glee in mocking his permanent houseguest for “that overly aggressive mustache of yours… you look a bit like Rhett Butler.” The more productive aspects of the conversation reveal that Magnum’s eponymous new client may have had her horse Norman abducted by her own uncle, who was hoping to collect on Norman’s sterility insurance.
Dressed for the action ahead, Magnum now wears the medium-wash blue denim Levi’s jeans that were his staple for much of Magnum, P.I.‘s first season, as well as his signature military-style khaki cotton web belt with the plain brass sliding buckle (before it would be replaced with his personalized USN Surface Warfare-badged buckle for the second season onward.)
“Adelaide” also features Magnum’s go-to sneakers, a pair of white nylon Puma Easy Rider running shoes with off-white suede overlays on the T-toes, lacing, and heel counters as well as dark blue side stripes, dark blue “wedge” midsoles, and raised black rubber outsoles with leather studs for traction. San Jose State University running coach Don Riggs touted the comfort, durability, and overall quality of the Easy Rider in contemporary advertisements published by Puma at the time of the shoe’s introduction in 1977. Puma has introduced several reissues of this model over the years, though the retro-inspired “Easy Rider 78” arguably comes closest to what Selleck wore on screen.
Curiously, there’s a brief continuity error when Magnum and Adelaide are confronted by gunmen at the stables. He’s asked to drop his .45 to the ground, and we see it land next to his white sneakers, which are now a pair of Nike All Courts. With their white canvas uppers and Nike’s signature side “swoosh” marks in dark blue, these low-top tennis shoes are at least a consistent colorway with his regular Pumas, but it’s still a curious swap. The Nikes have seven sets of eyelets with flat white laces like the Pumas, and the toes are reinforced with white rubber bumpers.
The sweater appears twice more, albeit briefly, first while Magnum convalesces after completing the grueling Iron Man marathon at the conclusion of the first season finale “Beauty Knows No Pain” (Episode 1.18) and finally making its swan song in “Tropical Madness” (Episode 2.07), appropriately worn for the episode’s conclusion.
Magnum again wears his Levi’s jeans, though this is a richer denim in a darker wash and curiously worn without TM’s usual web belt. His brown leather boat shoes are another Magnum staple and are likely genuine Sperry Top-Siders, the preppy staple that originated on the decks of a yacht off New England when Paul A. Sperry took inspiration from his dog’s paws to develop the Top-Sider’s signature “non-slip” siped sole.
Since this sweater made the majority of its appearances throughout the first season, Magnum has yet to be outfitted with his silver POW/MIA bracelet and the “Pepsi bezel” Rolex GMT Master he would wear from the fourth season onward. Instead, he’s still wearing the stainless Chronosport Sea Quartz 30 dive watch on a black tropic rubber strap. These episodes aired in 1981, a year before the full “Sea Quartz 30” designation was printed on the dial, so the black dial simply reads “Quartz” among the luminous hour markers (with numerals at 12, 6, and 9 o’clock) and the black day-date window at 3:00.
In all but the first episode of the first season, Magnum wore his gold team ring on the left hand rather than the right. This chunky gold ring has a black enamel-filled oval face with a French Croix de Lorraine (“Cross of Lorraine”) embossed to possibly represent the spirit of the French resistance that powered Magnum, Rick, and T.C. during their time in Vietnam that resulted in the trio sporting their matching rings. (If you want to look like one of the guys, plenty of replicas are available like this relatively well-reviewed ring on Amazon.)
As his investigations take a more dangerous turn, Magnum often turns to his trusty Colt Government Model pistol, a civilian variant of the .45-caliber M1911A1 he would have carried in the Navy. The ubiquity of the 1911 as a widely issued military sidearm and popular civilian weapon has made it a mainstay of the movies since their introduction in the early 20th century, though this presented a unique challenge to filmmakers as blank .45 ACP ammunition became notorious for failing to cycle through 1911 pistols.
When it no longer became feasible to merely arm characters with revolvers or other pistols, prop masters sought alternative solutions such as the Star Model B, a Spanish-made clone introduced in 1928 chambered in 9x19mm Parabellum (a far more reliable round for blank ammunition at the time) and cosmetically similar to the 1911 in nearly every way, save for a prominent brass-finished external extractor on the right side of the slide. The Star Model B became a star during the New Hollywood era with muscular movies like The Wild Bunch (1969), The Getaway (1972), Dillinger (1973), Three Days of the Condor (1975), and The Untouchables (1987) that called for gunfights galore.
Magnum, P.I. would be no exception—at least in some earlier episodes—though the prop masters were eventually able to arm Selleck with a genuine Colt-made Government Model 1911, albeit chambered in 9mm Parabellum. The series took a few curious steps to get to this point, particularly during the first season when Magnum drew a Star Model B in “China Doll” (Episode 1.03) or, most curiously, a smaller-framed Star Model BM in “Adelaide” (Episode 1.14).
Spanish firearms firm Star Bonifacio Echeverria, S.A. introduced the Star Model BM in 1972 as a smaller-framed alternative to the Star Model B, with a four-inch barrel that would mimic the purpose—if not the appearance—of the Colt Commander to the full-size M1911A1. The 9x19mm Parabellum fed from an eight-round magazine.
More than 215,000 would be manufactured over the pistol’s nearly twenty-year production run, which also saw the introductions of alloy-framed variants like the Model BKM and the .45-caliber Model PD. At first, I had considered that the pistol might be a Star Model PD, but the more prominent hump in front of the base of each grip better resembled the Model BM in my opinion. The Model BM was available in blued and chrome-plated steel, though Magnum’s is blued to resemble his more frequently seen full-size Colt 1911 pistol.
Magnum’s untucked sweater allows him to comfortably carry the pistol in his waistband, though Charles Cathcart (Cameron Mitchell) still recognizes that Magnum is packing and asks him to disarm himself. Adelaide (Christine Belford) picks up the pistol herself, though Magnum has to step in after suggesting that she “take the safety off!” in order to be a more intimidating threat to her villainous uncle Charlie.
How to Get the Look
Who says you need bold tropical prints to dress like Thomas Magnum? Selleck often pulled on this Aran-inspired cable-knit sweater as a comfortably warm cover-up after a refreshing swim, but he also wore it just as effectively with jeans and sneakers over the course of his dangerous work.
- Cream cable-knit acrylic V-neck sweater with ribbed cuffs and hem
- Levi’s blue denim jeans
- Khaki web belt with gold-finished buckle
- Puma Easy Rider sneakers with white nylon uppers, off-white suede overlays, dark blue side stripes and midsoles, and raised black studded rubber outsoles
- Chronosport Sea Quartz 30 stainless steel dive watch with black rotating bezel, black dial (with luminescent hour markers and 3:00 day-date window), on black tropic leather strap
- Gold Croix de Lorraine team ring
Slazenger makes an almost identical all-cream cricket sweater made from 100% acrylic fiber, available via Amazon as of January 2021. Unlike the famous wine-hued Slazenger sweater that Sean Connery would wear for 007’s round of golf in Goldfinger, this Slazenger sweater has no discernible brand marks.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the entire series. I also recommend the extensively researched Magnum Mania!, a marvelous online resource maintained by passionate fans of Magnum, P.I.
Fans should also be sure to follow my friend @magnum_pi_super_fan_ on Instagram!
I love “cricket sweaters” and v-neck knitwear in general, but not to be worn next to the skin!
Definitely needs a shirt beneath to look less like he’s dressed in haste.
The continuity error may have been from that shot being a pick-up shot by the second unit after they were already done with the stables and didn’t have ready access to the exact props and costumes.