A Brief History of the Magnum PI Shirt

A Brief History of the Magnum PI Shirt

The Magnum PI Aloha shirt is one of the most iconic of all Hawaiian shirts. And this is because Tom Selleck often wore this shirt on the TV show Magnum PI. Some people have asked us if this is the actual print that he wore on the show. Well, as it turns out, yes it is. The shirt uses the Jungle Bird print which has been licensed to Pacific Clothing, maker of the Paradise Found label, since the 1980s. It is not clear where the shirt was purchased or whether it was custom-sewn from the fabric. But somehow that shirt ended up on the show and eventually became Magnum PI's signature shirt. Pacific Clothing found out after the fact that the shirt was being used and started providing the shirts directly to the show. So this most famous of Hawaiian shirts became famous by accident.

Towards the end of the series, the show switched from buying pre-made shirts to buying rolls of fabric in different prints so that they could tailor make each shirt for whoever was wearing them on set. Because these shirts were being custom-made, it is possible that whoever was sewing them did not put a Paradise Found garment label on the shirt. They may have sewn on their own label or even not put any label at all.

The TV show had a good run from 1980 to 1988. In 1988, Tom Selleck turned over his famous red Hawaiian shirt and other items from the show to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. The Smithsonian chose the Magnum PI memorabilia because the show portrayed Vietnam Veterans in a positive way at a time when the nation was still dealing the wounds of Vietnam. Those characters were Thomas Magnum, T.C, and Rick.

Magnum PI in the SmithsonianThe fabric for the shirt has also gone through some changes over the years. Prior to 1983, the shirt was made of 100% rayon. From 1983 to 1991, the shirt was made in both 100% rayon and 100% cotton. Then in 1992, Pacific Clothing decided to make it only in 100% cotton. This cotton-only fabric remained until 2007 when it was changed back to 100% rayon. Since then, all the Magnum PI shirts and dresses have been made in 100% rayon.

So that’s a really quick rundown of the Magnum PI Aloha shirt. It truly is a piece of pop culture and television history. And the most amazing thing is that it became iconic by accident. There are countless other Hawaiian shirts out there and there are even some famous ones. But few have the historical significance of Magnum’s red Hawaiian shirt. See our blog post about the other Hawaiian shirts that Tom Selleck wore on Magnum PI