Tom Selleck as Thomas Magnum, private investigator and former Navy SEAL
Hawaii, Summer 1981
Series: Magnum, P.I.
– “Skin Deep” (Episode 1.06, dir. Lawrence Doheny, aired 1/15/1981)
– “The Curse of the King Kamehameha Club” (Episode 1.11, dir. Winrich Kolbe, aired 2/19/1981)
Creator: Donald P. Bellisario & Glen Larson
Costume Designer: Charles Waldo (credited with first season only)
Costume Supervisor: James Gilmore
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Happy Aloha Friday!
Even those who have never seen Magnum, P.I. are familiar with its title character’s image: the cherry-red Ferrari, a mustache to rival Burt Reynolds, and—very frequently—the Hawaiian shirts, contextually appropriate given the series’ Hawaiian setting. In fact, Tom Selleck’s characterization of the Oahu-based private investigator arguably established Thomas Magnum as the most iconic Hawaiian shirt-wearer of all time.
What’d He Wear?
The aloha shirt most frequently associated with Magnum featured a red “jungle bird” tropical print, one of several screen-worn shirts made by the appropriately named Hawaiian brand Paradise Found, a label of the Pacific Clothing Company where Selleck reportedly purchased shirts himself prior to the first season.
The red jungle bird shirt has become unofficially known as the quintessential Magnum shirt, due to its frequency on promotional photos as well as it being his most-worn Hawaiian shirt on screen, the only one to appear across all seven seasons. However, in addition to the vibrant red colorway, Magnum also twice wore a shirt in an identical print but a more “tropical electric” colorway in black and purple.
Likely made from 100% rayon with real wooden two-hole buttons, the shirt’s all-over pattern consists of red parrots (with gold beaks and feathers) perched on purple and green tropical leaves against a black ground, maintaining the same color palette as the red jungle bird shirt but in a dramatically different configuration. The shirt follows the traditional aloha shirt design with a relaxed fit, notched camp collar, and plain (French) front. The shirt also features a non-matching pocket over the left breast.
Following the renewed popularity of the original Magnum, P.I. and the CBS reboot series starring Jay Hernandez (who shares the ’80s Magnum’s fashion sense), Paradise Found remade many of its original designs as worn by Selleck, including both the red and black jungle bird prints… both of which have been purchased by yours truly.
Magnum typically cycled between blue Levi’s jeans and four-pocket dungarees throughout the series duration, though he only wears the former during this shirt’s duo of appearances. Unlike the dungarees, all of Magnum’s Levi’s jeans are designed in the classic five-pocket formation with two front pockets, a right-side coin pocket, and patch-style back pockets. Rather than the brand’s familiar red tab, the back-right pocket features a unique orange tab, which Levi’s had used to denote non-basic items like bellbottoms and boot-cuts from the 1960s through the ’90s.
Magnum almost exclusively wears a khaki cotton web belt, similar to what he would have worn with his khaki service uniforms in the Navy. From the second season onward, the box-frame buckle would be detailed with the Navy’s Surface Warfare insignia above his name “MAGNUM”, but the buckle was a plain gold-finished brass throughout the first season. These lightweight yet trusty belts are still made by contractors like Rothco.
Magnum’s footwear rotated between boat shoes and sneakers, both appropriately casual given the informality of his aloha style. Boat shoes were developed in the 1930s by outdoorsman Paul A. Sperry, whose dogs’ paws inspired the now-signature siped soles that give his signature Sperry Top-Siders better traction on slippery decks. The shoes are characterized by moc-toe uppers with two- or three-eyelet derby-style lacing integrated into the 360-degree lacing system. Lisa Birnbach’s tongue-in-cheek volume The Official Preppy Handbook had identified them as a “crucial element” of prep style in 1980, the same year that Magnum, P.I. debuted on CBS.
In “Skin Deep”, Magnum wore brown boat shoes with tan rawhide laces and taupe rubber outsoles with lugs, a more rugged alternative to the classic Top-Sider siped sole. When the same shirt reappears five episodes later, he now wears boat shoes with off-white canvas uppers, white laces, and white rubber outsoles.
Through the first three seasons of Magnum, P.I., Thomas Magnum wore a stainless steel Chronosport Sea Quartz 30 dive watch on a black tropic rubber strap. The watch has a slim black tick-marked rotating bezel, a black dial with luminous markers and numerals for 12, 6, and 9 o’clock with a black day-date window at the 3:00 position. The dial is simply marked “Quartz”, as the full “Sea Quartz 30” designation wasn’t added until after 1982. Flashbacks reveal that this was also on Magnum’s wrist during his service in Vietnam, which reportedly has some historical provenance as some Navy SEALs teams evidently did wear Chronosport watches during early ’70s service. (Beginning in the fourth season, Magnum would begin wearing his aviator father’s prized Rolex GMT Master, and the Chronosport would never be seen again.)
Magnum and his war buddies T.C. and Rick (Larry Manetti) each wear matching gold signet rings with the French Croix de Lorraine (“Cross of Lorraine”) in relief against a black enamel-filled oval face. After the first episode, Magnum would wear the ring on his left hand throughout the first season before reverting it back to his right hand for all episodes to follow.
Rather than his iconic Detroit Tigers baseball cap or any other headgear, Magnum chooses only to protect his eyes with a pair of gold-framed aviator sunglasses styled with a reinforced brow bar and center-positioned vanity “bullet hole”, a detail that originated on the Ray-Ban Shooter for wearers to place their cigarette in order to free their hands for shooting. These sunglasses only made sporadic appearances on Magnum, P.I. before Selleck transitioned to wearing his sportier tortoise-framed Vuarnets.
Who Else Wore It?
The ’80s ubiquity of Paradise Found shirts hardly limited their distinctive patterns to the Magnum, P.I. universe; for instance, Magnum’s black “Star Orchid” shirt was also worn by Gary Busey in Silver Bullet (1985) and by Tim Robbins in Bull Durham (1988).
In Robert Towne’s excellent 1982 sports drama Personal Best, Scott Glenn wears what is unmistakably the same black-and-purple “jungle bird” shirt with a pair of denim cutoffs as the hard-driving track coach Terry Tingloff.
Your humble author even found a Paradise Found aloha shirt in the same Magnum-approved black-and-purple “jungle bird” colorway, which my fiancee was gracious enough to welcome during a portion of our engagement photo shoot taken at the tiki-themed Hidden Harbor, one of our favorite bars here in Pittsburgh.
What to Imbibe
And speaking of watering holes… Magnum, P.I. made a habit of rarely featuring any real-life beer labels, even when our hero chose to imbibe. In “Skin Deep”, he drinks from a bottle labeled “Flagler Beer”, with the familiar gold-labeled “Coops” appearing five episodes later in “The Curse of the King Kamehameha Club”.
How to Get the Look
Thomas Magnum’s wardrobe rotated through a variety of casual ’80s fashion staples, including rugby shirts, work shirts, and polos, though aloha shirts like this distinctive “jungle bird”-printed shirt remain an enduring—and influential—aspect of his image.
- Black-and-purple “jungle bird” tropical-patterned rayon aloha shirt by Paradise Found with camp collar, plain front (with 6 wood buttons), breast pocket, and short sleeves
- Blue denim Levi’s “orange tab” five-pocket jeans
- Available via Secondhand Levi’s
- Khaki cotton web belt with gold-finished box-frame buckle
- Available via Amazon
- Brown leather two-eyelet moc-toe boat shoes
- Chronosport Sea Quartz 30 stainless steel dive watch with narrow black-finished rotating bezel, black dial with luminous markers and 3:00 day-date window, and black tropic rubber strap
- Gold team ring with black enamel-filled Croix de Lorraine
- Replicas available via Amazon
- Ray-Ban RB3138 Shooter gold-framed aviator-style sunglasses with reinforced brow bar and “bullet hole” center
Do Yourself a Favor and…
I did what every private investigator manual tells you on page one… investigate the scene of the crime.