Jack Lord and Steve McGarrett, Hawaii state police “Five-O” task force commander
Honolulu, Fall 1967
Series: Hawaii Five-O
Episode: “Cocoon” (Episode 1.01)
Air Date: September 20, 1968
Director: Paul Wendkos
Creator: Leonard Freeman
Costume Designer: Richard Egan
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Book ’em, Danno! Today is the 55th anniversary of when the original Hawaii Five-O series premiered with the TV movie “Cocoon” on Friday, September 20, 1968. Conceptualized by creator Leonard Freeman, Hawaii Five-O set new records for TV longevity by lasting twelve seasons, all of which were almost entirely set and filmed in the Hawaiian islands.
The series centers around the Five-O Task Force, a fictional state police agency commanded by Detective Captain Steve McGarrett, who reports directly to the governor. Despite the pivotal role, McGarrett wasn’t cast until less than a week before filming began when Freeman called on Jack Lord.
From the start, Lord was interested in controlling the series as much as he could, a degree that only grew after Freeman’s death in 1974. While this control meant an overall focus on his performance as McGarrett, Lord’s perfectionism also presented as extreme attention to detail and an insistence on casting Hawaiian locals (rather than “mainland” actors), both adding verisimilitude and boosting the Hawaiian production industry. (You can read more about Lord and Hawaii Five-O in this excellent tribute from Vintage Leisure by SoulRide.)
As with most pilot episodes, “Cocoon” features a few unfamiliar elements and cast members as Hawaii Five-O workshopped what would becoming its winning formula, but an essential piece that was there from the start is the iconic Morton Stevens-composed surf rock theme.
Five-O, go ahead!
We meet McGarrett as he responds to an urgent call from dispatch that directs him to Hanauma Bay, where he discovers the corpse of a dead intelligence agent named Hennessy, whom McGarrett would later describe to Det. Kono Kalakaua (Zulu) as “one of those redheads who got sunburned walking to the grocery store… it’s why he never learned to swim.” McGarrett searches for clues in the dead man’s apartment, where he’s attacked by an assassin (Bill Saito) wielding a trench knife but ducks out of the way, simultaneously shooting his would-be killer.
McGarrett is dismayed when intelligence agents (Andrew Duggan and Leslie Nielsen) take over, telling him that “everyone knows that Steve McGarrett only takes orders from the governor… and God. Occasionally, even they have trouble.”
What’d He Wear?
The credited costume designer on Hawaii Five-O was Richard Egan (not the contemporary actor of the same name), though—given Jack Lord’s controlling involvement with the series’ creative decisions, it’s hardly likely that he would have allowed anyone else to inform how he dressed as Steve McGarrett. Through the entire series, McGarrett maintained a consistent pattern of dressing: single-breasted suits (typically in shades of blue and tropical tan), white and light-blue shirts, and coordinated solid ties—it wasn’t until later in the series run that McGarrett began regularly incorporating odd jackets and patterned ties.
“Cocoon” introduces McGarrett in a well-tailored two-piece suit made from a soft slate-blue gabardine. This suit may have appeared in subsequent episodes, but the most frequently seen suit from McGarrett’s wardrobe in the early seasons was more of a marine blue-colored fabric, lacking the gray cast present in this suit’s fabric. (I don’t know who made this specific suit, but a BAMF Style follower commented on Instagram that Lord mentioned Brioni as his regular tailor around this time.)
The cut is typical of Lord’s screen-worn suits, with a single-breasted, three-button jacket that he often wears in “Cocoon” with the top two buttons done. The narrow lapels have shallow notches, consistent with fashions of the mid-’60s and considerably smaller than the more dramatic notch lapels he would wear later in the 1970s. The ventless jacket also has wide, soft shoulders, a straight welted breast pocket, straight jetted hip pockets, and three-button cuffs.
The suit’s matching darted-front trousers also follow the typical Lord cut, with a long rise to the 6-foot-tall actor’s natural waist. Rather than belt loops, the waistband has three-button “Daks top” adjuster tabs on each side and an extended squared tab over the front that closes through a hidden hook-and-eye closure. The trousers have full-top “frogmouth”-style front pockets and no back pockets. The trousers are tapered through the leg down to the plain-hemmed bottoms that break above his insteps.
McGarrett often removes his jacket and tie and unbuttons the top of his shirt while commanding his detectives from his office. The removed jacket in turn reveals McGarrett’s shoulder rig, comprised of a light-brown leather holster under his left armpit, connected to a tan leather strap over his left shoulder and a longer cream vinyl that loops around his right shoulder to keep the rig in place.
His shirts are always conventional colors, typically white, cream, or light-blue, like this pale-blue cotton shirt he wears with his slate suit in “Cocoon”. The shirt has a semi-spread collar, plain front (no placket), two breast pockets, and rounded button cuffs.
McGarrett wears a dark navy satin silk tie, knotted in a four-in-hand and tucked into his trouser waistband, secured just a few inches above it by a straight gold tie bar.
McGarrett wears black leather ankle boots, styled with an apron-toe and a unique long-vamped V-shaped opening with only a single set of lace eyelets. He wears dark navy dress socks.
Likely Jack Lord’s own timepiece, McGarrett’s yellow-gold dress watch has a round off-white dial, detailed with gold hands and gold numeric hour indices at 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock. The watch is secured to Lord’s left wrist on a dark brown leather strap.
McGarrett and his team of Five-O detectives regularly carry the blued Smith & Wesson Model 36 double-action police revolver. Although some were produced with three-inch barrels, the classic Model 36 configuration featured a two-inch “snub-nose” barrel.
Built on Smith & Wesson’s small J-frame, this .38 Special revolver was dubbed the “Chiefs Special” upon its introduction at the 1950 convention for the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) but was redesignated the Model 36 when S&W moved to a numerical naming system later that decade. The Model 36’s five-round capacity allowed it to be somewhat lighter and more concealable than six-shot contemporaries like the Colt Detective Special or Smith & Wesson’s own Model 10.
It was evidently at Jack Lord’s insistence that Ford vehicles be featured on Hawaii Five-O, including the trio of black Mercury hardtops that Steve McGarrett drives over the course of the series. In the two-part pilot “Cocoon”, McGarrett drives a black 1967 Mercury Marquis two-door with a black vinyl roof and red interior.
1967 was the first model year for the Marquis, introduced by Mercury as a two-door-only hardtop trim positioned above the Park Lane, equivalent to the Ford LTD. The standard ’67 Marquis was powered by a 410 cubic-inch Marauder V8 that generated 330 horsepower, mated to either a standard four-speed manual transmission or the three-speed “Merc-O-Matic” automatic as featured in McGarrett’s Merc.
Beginning with the first episode after the pilot, McGarrett updates to a 1968 Mercury Park Lane Brougham four-door hardtop. Midway through the seventh season, he again updated his ride to a 1974 Mercury Marquis Brougham four-door hardtop that he would drive through the end of the series. You can read more about McGarrett’s Mercurys at the Hawaii Five-O homepage.
The Marquis model name would outlive Hawaii Five-O, with the last Mercury Marquis produced for the 1986 model year, though it had by this time shifted from the full-size body to the mid-size Ford Fox platform.
How to Get the Look
The lapel widths and pockets may change with the decade, but Steve McGarrett typically restrained his office-wear to an infallibly classic template: smartly tailored single-breasted suits, white or light-blue cotton shirts, and coordinated solid-colored ties—rotating between warm tropical tones with his tan suits or cooler-hued business-wear in shades of blue and gray. When we first meet McGarrett, he’s sporting the latter.
- Slate-blue gabardine suit:
- Single-breasted 3-button jacket with narrow notch lapels, welted breast pocket, straight jetted hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and ventless back
- Darted-front trousers with three-button “Daks top” side adjuster tabs, frogmouth-style front pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Pale-blue cotton shirt with semi-spread collar, plain front, two breast pockets, and button cuffs
- Navy satin silk tie
- Black leather apron-toe 1-eyelet derby-laced ankle boots
- Dark-navy dress socks
- Gold dress watch with round off-white dial on dark brown leather strap
- Light-brown leather shoulder holster on tan leather-and-cream vinyl loop system
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Nobody backs me off a homicide on my beat.