(This article was originally published in May 2018 and has been updated as new shirts were added.)
When you think of Magnum PI, you probably think of Tom Selleck in his classic red Aloha shirt. That Magnum PI shirt is actually in the Smithsonian. That ain't bad for a shirt that became famous by accident.
Note that there is also a black version of the shirt that he wore on the show. But as famous as that red shirt is, it wasn't the only shirt made popular by the show. Here are some other "Magnum PI" shirts.
This first shirt is probably the least known of the four shirts. It is the blue Mini Anthurium shirt. Although this shirt comes in blue, black and red, Tom Selleck only wore the blue version on the show. Tim Smith of Pacific Clothing Company, Inc. recalls that it is possible that the print may have been licensed to another company prior to being picked for the show. But that shirt company apparently did not renew their license for the print so the fabric company that owns the print granted the rights to Pacific Clothing. And ever since then, Pacific Clothing has had exclusive rights to this print and has brought it back after decades of it being out of production.
This next shirt is a bit controversial. Around the time that the wardrobe person from the original series found the now-famous red shirt, he/she also purchased an older version of the black "Star Orchid" shirt featuring white orchids on a black background. This was probably at a department store called Liberty House in the 1980s. In the video at the bottom of this blog post, you can see Thomas Magnum wearing this shirt and ducking behind a wall after Higgins fires a cannon. According to Tim Smith at Paradise Found, the original version of this shirt was slightly different from the current version. The flowers were closer together but the shirt did not sell well. They modified the print and spaced the flowers further apart. The result of this subtle change was that sales of the shirt increased significantly and this new version replaced the old one. The print was also made in over 10 different colors. We hope that Paradise Found brings back some of the other colors for limited runs in the future. So while this shirt is not exactly the same as the one that first appeared on the show, it is an updated version of that original print and is the only one currently in production. Jay Hernandez wore this new version in the Magnum PI reboot.
The third shirt that Tom Selleck wore is the purple Calla Lily shirt. According to Smith, Selleck personally came to their office/showroom around the 3rd season of the show to pick out some shirts that he liked. One shirt he picked out was the purple Calla Lily shirt and bought several of them. Smith thinks the reason he bought so many was so that if any of the shirts got damaged during filming or photography, he could easily put on another one with minimal downtime for the production. A black version of this shirt (Calla Lily black) is also available but was not worn on the show. But what makes this shirt different from the others is that rather than being selected by the show's wardrobe designer, it was picked Tom Selleck himself.
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Magnum, P.I. (1980–1988) Tom Selleck (Magnum), Roger Mosley (TC), Larry Manetti (Orville 'Rick' Wrigh) & John Hillerman (Higgins) #MagnumPI #TomSelleck #JohnHIllerman #LarryManetti #RogerMosley #Magnum #Higgins #80s #tvseries #vintage #classictv #television #tv #Comedy #Crime #Action #detective #procedural #Hawaii #childhoodmemories
The fourth shirt worn on the show is what we call Midnight Bamboo. Smith said this print was an "open print" that the fabric importer had on hand and that some other local shirt company or seamstress made into the shirt. But since the print was an open print that anyone could buy instead of a "confined print" which can only be used by the owner or licensee of that print, Pacific Clothing was able to not only make the Midnight Bamboo shirts but was also able to buy the exclusive rights to print. Today, that print is a confined print that only Pacific Clothing can use to make into shirts.
Also, there has been some discussion inside Pacific Clothing about what exactly is in the print. The shirt is known internally as "Magnum Bamboo" but the white "bamboo" artwork also resembles a dragonfly or a bird of paradise. When we first saw it, we were going to call it Midnight Dragonfly but ended up going with Midnight Bamboo.
All four of these shirts are available now so if you're a fan of Magnum PI or need a costume idea, check these shirts out and the women's shirts and dresses in our Magnum PI Collection. The manufacturer of the shirt, Pacific Clothing, is working on bringing more of their old prints from the 80s that were worn on the show back into production. And we'll have those shirts as soon as they are ready!
In the meantime, relive the 80s and the awesomeness that was Magnum PI in the opening credits to the original series. Aloha!