Tom Selleck’s Kelly Green Rugby Shirt on Magnum, P.I.
Tom Selleck as Thomas Magnum, private investigator and former Navy SEAL
Hawaii, Summer 1981
Series: Magnum, P.I.
Episode: “All Roads Lead to Floyd” (Episode 1.13)
Air Date: March 12, 1981
Director: Ron Satlof
Creator: Donald P. Bellisario & Glen Larson
Costume Designer: Charles Waldo
Costume Supervisor: James Gilmore
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
It’s been about six months since I last posted about Thomas Magnum, and some renewed interest in the style of Magnum, P.I. (at least according to a few Instagram DMs I’ve received!) inspired me to check back in with Tom Selleck as the paradise-dwelling private eye—er, private investigator.
With St. Patrick’s Day at the end of this week, it feels appropriate on this #MagnumMonday—which isn’t as much of an established thing as I’d like it to be—to find Magnum wearing some Irish green. Fans of the series know he wore rugby shirts and polos with almost as much frequency as his famous aloha shirts, including a Kelly green short-sleeved rugger that made its sole appearance in the first-season episode “All Roads Lead to Floyd”, which originally aired 42 years ago yesterday on March 12, 1981.
The eponymous Floyd Llewelyn (Noah Beery) is a small-time con artist, whose estranged daughter Cindy (Anne Bloom) hires Magnum to track him down after a fender-bender where her car damaged Magnum’s iconic borrowed Ferrari. A comedy of errors results in Magnum behind the wheel of Floyd’s own miniature Honda 600 as he navigates Floyd’s unfortunate position as a target of both Klansmen and the Japanese mob led by debonair crime boss Mizamura (Seth Sakai).
What’d He Wear?
Rugby shirts are primarily differentiated from similar polo shirts by their stiffer contrasting collars and plackets—usually white—with rubber buttons designed to become easily undone (rather than popping off) if a shirt is tugged during a rugby match. Shirts intended for gameplay were often banded with bold horizontal stripes and made from a durable polyester or poly-cotton blend, though the shirts grew increasingly fashionable off the pitch to become a preppy casual staple by the early ’80s. By this time, rugby shirts were available in a variety of colors, cuts, and cloth, varying between simple short-sleeved shirts and heavier long-sleeved shirts with “kangaroo”-style pockets… all of which would end up in Thomas Magnum’s closet.
In “All Roads Lead to Floyd”, Magnum wears a trim-fitting bright Kelly green polyester rugby shirt, characterized by its stiff collar and placket made from a woven cotton that’s more cream than white. The relatively long placket extends down to mid-chest with three white rubber 4-hole buttons, all worn undone. The short set-in sleeves extend about midway down his biceps, where they’re finished with a narrow self-band.
What is Kelly green? This brilliant shade of mid-green took its name from the common Irish surname “Kelly” and, through its similarities to the lush Irish landscape, has come to be closely associated with St. Patrick’s Day.
Before the four-pocket dungarees would be rotated into Magnum’s wardrobe three episodes later, he exclusively wore Levi’s jeans through the first season, specifically those with the unique “orange tab” (rather than the brand’s familiar red tab), which Levi’s used to denote non-basic cuts like bell-bottoms and boot-cuts from the 1960s through the ’90s. These light blue denim jeans otherwise follow the now-conventional jeans configuration with belt loops and the five-pocket layout of two curved-entry front pockets, right-side watch pocket, and patch-style back pockets.
A holdover from his Navy service, Magnum almost exclusively wears khaki cotton web belts. 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.
When not wearing boat shoes, Magnum typically favors his white nylon PUMA Easy Rider sneakers, detailed with blue-striped leather side trim, blue wedge-style midsoles, leather-studded rubber outsoles, and off-white suede overlays on the T-toes, lacing, and heel counters.
Introduced in 1977, just three years before Magnum, P.I. debuted, the Easy Rider was revolutionary as PUMA’s first jogging shoe. Features like stable uppers and shock-absorbing soles to aid distance runners made it popular among pros, including San Jose State University running coach Don Riggs, who publicly endorsed the Easy Rider’s comfort, durability, and overall quality in contemporary advertisements.
Through the first three seasons of Magnum, P.I., 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 Arabic numeral indices for 12, 6, and 9 o’clock with a black day-date window at the 3 o’clock position. The dial is simply marked “Quartz” as the full “Sea Quartz 30” designation wasn’t added until after 1982. Flashbacks depict this watch on Magnum’s wrist during his service in Vietnam, a choice that reportedly carries historical provenance as some Navy SEAL teams evidently did wear Chronosport watches during the early ’70s.
Beginning at the top of the fourth season, Magnum’s watch was retconned to be his aviator father’s prized “Pepsi bezel” Rolex GMT Master, and the Chronosport all but disappeared from the series.
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.
What to Imbibe
Also appropriate for the week of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, Thomas Magnum is a beer drinker… but not just any beer! Why, our beloved TV private investigator simply can’t get enough of the beloved brew Coops.
No, that’s not a misprint on the Bubble Boy’s Trivial Pursuit card—the Magnum, P.I. production team, aware of the potential liabilities of featuring actual alcohol brands on the show, mocked up a golden label with a black-scripted “Coops”, just close enough to the real-life yellow-labeled Coors Banquet beer that the Bandit had driven eastbound and down, loaded up and truckin’, just a few years prior.
How to Get the Look
Looking for a more tasteful approach for that upcoming St. Patrick’s Day party? Maybe this is the year you leave that “Kiss Me I’m Irish” T-shirt behind and opt for a green rugger, with a touch of Thomas Magnum via dive watch, web belt, and PUMA trainers.
- Kelly green polyester short-sleeved rugby shirt with cream woven collar and three-button placket
- 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
- 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 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
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the entire series and the extensively researched fan site Magnum Mania!
Let’s talk Tom Selleck in Her Alibi when he’s wearing a white polo with knit tie!!!
I believe TS wears a polo and tie at least once as Magnum.
I will forever be grateful to Magnum for introducing me to the movie “Gunga Din” many years ago. Even though I am a certified old film buff I had somehow never seen this one.
You should try Carry On Up The Khyber.