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)
– “All Roads Lead to Floyd” (Episode 1.13, dir. Ron Satlof, aired 3/12/1980)
– “J. ‘Digger’ Doyle” (Episode 1.17, dir. Winrich Kolbe, aired 4/9/1981)
Creator: Donald P. Bellisario & Glen Larson
Costume Designer: Charles Waldo (credited with first season only)
Costume Supervisor: James Gilmore
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Today is the end of Hawaiian History Month as well as one week before my first-ever trip to the Aloha State, so let’s return to the Paradise of the Pacific via the aloha style frequently worn by Tom Selleck in Magnum, P.I.
As established from the beginning of the series, Magnum is a private investigator and former Navy SEAL who exchanges his security expertise for his cushy dwellings in the guesthouse of enigmatic author Robin Masters’ lush Oahu estate. Taking cases as they suit him, speeding around the island in Masters’ red Ferrari, and working with old war pals T.C. (Roger E. Mosley) and Rick (Larry Manetti), the only drawback to Magnum’s lifestyle are the limitations imposed by Masters’ strict majordomo Jonathan Quayle Higgins III (John Hillerman)… though even Magnum can often work his charm and trade favors for Higgins to earn a few extra perks—like access to Masters’ wine cellar.
Magnum’s wardrobe blends preppy staples of the ’80s, military-inspired garb, and the floral shirts associated with the Hawaiian islands—a contrast to the previous major Hawaiian-set series, Hawaii Five-O, where Jack Lord’s cop character Steve McGarrett regularly wore conservative suits and ties. On the other hand, Magnum embraces dressing casually at every opportunity, even wearing jeans when he’s forced to borrow a dinner jacket for the evening in “No Need to Know” (Episode 1.05).
This episode is the first to feature the black colorway of Magnum’s “Star Orchid”-printed aloha shirt, a variation of the green Star Orchid shirt that appears multiple times throughout the first three seasons.
What’d He Wear?
Thomas Magnum cycles through around two dozen different aloha shirts over the eight seasons of Magnum, P.I., wearing some only once while others—like the iconic red “jungle bird” shirt—would appear in many episodes. As stated above, he wore two different variations of this classic “Star Orchid” print from the Hawaiian label Paradise Found, owned by Pacific Clothing Company.
Magnum sported the green colorway in a half-dozen episodes (including the first), and would debut the black version in the fifth episode, “No Need to Know” (Episode 1.05), wearing it twice more across the first season, including the episodes “All Roads Lead to Floyd” (Episode 1.13), and “J. ‘Digger’ Doyle” (Episode 1.17), the latter intended to be a backdoor pilot for the “cold-as-an-iceberg” eponymous character’s spinoff series that never formulated.
Made from a soft, silky rayon, this shirt follows the traditional aloha shirt design with its flat, camp collar, six natural wood buttons up the plain front, roomy fit, and short sleeves that end above the elbow. The shirt also has a breast pocket.
The all-over print consists of off-white five-petal orchids with pink centers against a solid-colored ground, in this case black though Aloha FunWear president Scott Murakami informed me that there had originally been 13 colorways of the Star Orchid shirt produced at the time the Magnum, P.I. wardrobe team sourced theirs in 1980. “Initially, the flowers were a little closer together but Paradise Found tweaked the layout to make the flowers a little bit further apart,” Scott explained to me. “Those two versions co-existed in the market for a while, but the more spaced-apart version sold much better so Paradise Found discontinued to the old one and has kept the current one ever since.”
Before Magnum would begin rotating retro naval-style four-pocket dungarees into his wardrobe, he almost exclusively wore blue denim Levi’s jeans with an orange tab sewn into the seat-facing seam of the back right pocket. An alternative to the brand’s more familiar “red tab”, the orange tab was used from the 1960s through 1999 to designate “non-basic” items from bell-bottoms to boot-cuts.
The orange-tabbed Levi’s that Magnum wears with his black Star Orchid shirt get progressively lighter in wash for each appearance across the first season, beginning with the rich mid-blue denim jeans in “No Need to Know” through the much lighter blue jeans in “J. ‘Digger’ Doyle”.
Magnum always wears a khaki webbed belt, recalling the durable belts he would have worn with his khaki service and working uniforms while in the Navy. During the first season, these belts have the standing shining brass-finished box-frame slider buckles that can be found on both G.I. and commercially available versions of these belts from contractors like Rothco.
Beginning with the second season, Magnum wore these same belts but with a personalized belt buckle that features his name “MAGNUM” below a relief of the U.S. Navy Surface Warfare emblem. However, these belts never appeared with the black Star Orchid shirt, which he never wore again after the first season.
Magnum’s favorite shoes are sneakers and deck shoes, exclusively wearing the latter with his black Star Orchid shirt. Also known as boat shoes, this style originated in the 1930s when American sportsman Paul A. Sperry was inspired by how well his dog Prince could run along ice without sliding, thanks to his cracked paws. Sperry transferred the same technology to shoes, developing the siped sole that became a defining characteristic of his Sperry Top-Siders.
With the Top-Siders, Sperry introduced a casual yet presentable shoe style that also served the purpose of giving its wearer traction on wet surfaces like boat decks. Featuring moccasin-stitched toes and a 360-degree lacing system that pulled through derby-laced eyelets, these low shoes became a menswear staple at sea and eventually a favorite farther inland, declared a “crucial element” of preppy style by the time Lisa Birnbach’s published her satirical guide in 1980—the same year Magnum, P.I. debuted on CBS.
The first time the black Star Orchid shirt appears in “No Need to Know” (Episode 1.05), he’s wearing the classic configuration of brown oiled leather boat shoes with lighter two-toned rawhide laces. When he re-dons the shirt after a brief interlude in an uncharacteristic dinner jacket, he’s wearing boat shoes with beige nubuck uppers and matching rawhide laces pulled through two sets of white-finished eyelets. These beige boat shoes are also what he wears with this shirt in “All Roads Lead to Floyd” (Episode 1.13) and “J. ‘Digger’ Doyle” (Episode 1.17), so—for all intents, purposes, and the sake of my legitimately diagnosed OCD—we can consider those to be Magnum’s “canon” footwear with this shirt.
Prior to donning his father’s cherished, albeit anachronistic, Rolex GMT Master during the fourth season of Magnum, P.I., Thomas Magnum’s trusty timepiece was a stainless steel Chronosport Sea Quartz 30 dive watch. Flashbacks within the show confirm that this watch had also accompanied him during his service in Vietnam. Interestingly, historical research posted to Reddit indicates that this choice has a certain historical accuracy, as some Navy SEAL teams purportedly wore Chronosport watches during the early 1970s, though the Sea Quartz 30 wouldn’t be developed until 1977. The Momentum brand revived the Sea Quartz 30 in mid-2023, paying tribute to the original Magnum, P.I. dive watch.
Magnum sported his Chronosport Sea Quartz 30 on a black tropic rubber strap, featuring a sleek black rotating bezel marked with ticks. Its black dial boasted luminescent markers and numerals at 12, 6, and 9 o’clock, along with a black day-date window positioned at 3:00. In episodes where the watch is examined up close, it becomes evident that the watch was a pre-1982 model, displaying only the word “Quartz” on the dial, before Chronosport later added the complete “Sea Quartz 30” designation.
A consistent element of Magnum’s style throughout the series was his gold team ring, featuring a prominent oval face embossed with the French Croix de Lorraine, also known as the “Cross of Lorraine,” and filled in with black enamel. This symbol, often referred to as a double cross or patriarchal cross, held historical significance as a symbol of resistance during wartime France. Magnum Mania! experts have proposed a plausible connection between this symbol and Magnum’s team, suggesting it served as a meaningful memento for them. Numerous replicas of this ring are available, including a relatively well-reviewed piece offered on Amazon. It’s worth noting that while this symbol has no direct association with the U.S. Navy or Marine Corps, the branches Magnum, Rick, and T.C. served in, it has been the insignia of the U.S. Army Reserve 79th Infantry Division since the division’s involvement in the defense of France during World War I.
In the first episode and throughout the second season and beyond, Magnum wore the ring on his right hand. However, during the entire first season, he curiously wore it on his left ring finger.
Hawaii’s sunny setting demands stylish eyewear protection. Alongside his gold-framed Ray-Ban Shooter Aviators, Magnum opts for the tortoise nylon-framed Vuarnet Skilynx Acier sunglasses, which presents a sportier take on the iconic aviator design. The Vuarnet brand made its debut in 1961, seizing the opportunity to promote the Skilynx lens developed by Roger Pouilloux and Joseph Hatchiguian four years earlier. This lens innovation coincided with French alpine ski racer Jean Vuarnet’s gold medal win at the previous year’s Winter Olympics, which provided an ideal platform for their product.
Odds and Ends and Other Appearances
“No Need to Know” (Episode 1.05) provides an entertainingly incongruous sartorial moment when Magnum arrives at Rick’s to pick up a white dinner jacket “guaranteed to make the ladies’ swoon”.
The ivory dinner jacket follows the more excessive menswear trends of the ’70s, evident by its overall cut, long and informal single vent, dramatically slanted hip pockets with wide flaps, and the broad and full-bellied silk-faced peak lapels with silk piping that continues over the back of the collar. Magnum doesn’t do it any favors by modeling it over a Hawaiian shirt and jeans… nor does his final execution fare much better, as he keeps on his jeans and boat shoes even when wearing a proper pleated-front white evening shirt and bow tie.
Several seasons later, “The Legacy of Garwood Huddle” (Episode 5.04) centers around the titular Mr. Huddle (Pat Hingle), a former bank robber from El Higgo’s past who arrives at Robin’s Nest after escaping from prison. To help Garwood blend in, he evidently borrows some of Magnum’s aloha shirts—including, as you may suspect by its inclusion here, the long-unseen black Star Orchid shirt.
Based on the narrower collar and larger dimensions of the floral print, Garwood’s shirt appears to be a newer one purchased for the production that differs from the shirt Magnum had worn during the first season.
Outside of Magnum, P.I., the black Star Orchid shirt appeared in several other movies of the decade, worn by Gary Busey in the 1985 horror thriller Silver Bullet and by Tim Robbins in the 1988 baseball-centric comedy Bull Durham.
The black Star Orchid shirt was even one of several original Paradise Found prints to be worn by Jay Hernandez in the second through fourth seasons of the Magnum, P.I. reboot that debuted in 2018.
Magnum’s position at Robin’s Nest came with full use of Robin Masters’ bright red Ferrari, personalized with the license plates “ROBIN 1”. The Ferrari actually evolved through three different models over the course of the show, beginning with a 1979 Ferrari 308GTS in the first season.
Featuring an elegant body crafted by Leonardo Fioravanti at Pininfarina, Ferrari introduced the 308 in 1975 as a successor to the mid-engine Dino series, which had been in production since 1967. Initially, it was offered exclusively as the hardtop “Berlinetta” GTB model. However, at the 1977 Frankfurt Motor Show, Ferrari introduced the “GTS” model with a removable targa-style roof.
In the second season, ROBIN 1 was now a 1981 Ferrari 308GTSi, which was replaced for the final two seasons with a 1984 Ferrari 308GTSi quattrovavole.
How to Get the Look
- Black “Star Orchid”-print rayon short-sleeved aloha shirt by Paradise Found with camp collar, plain front (with 6 wood buttons), and breast pocket
- Available via AlohaFunWear
- Light blue denim Levi’s vintage “orange tab” jeans
- Alternative Levi’s 501 “red tab” in medium stonewash available via Amazon
- Khaki web belt with gold-tone box-frame belt buckle
- Available via Amazon
- Beige nubuck leather Sperry Top-Sider moc-toe boat shoes
- 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
- Replicas available via Amazon
- Vuarnet Skilynx Acier tortoise nylon sport sunglasses
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the entire series.
I also highly suggest the extensively researched Magnum Mania! site for fans of the series. For obvious reasons, I suggest the site’s comprehensive Magnum Gear page that includes brief descriptions and links about the clothing and accessories worn by not just Magnum but also Rick, T.C., and Higgins.