A Brief History of the Magnum PI Shirt
The Magnum PI Aloha shirt made by the Pacific Clothing Company 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 shirt and label (Paradise Found) that he wore on the show. Well, as it turns out, yes it is. According to Tim Smith of Pacific Clothing Company, the maker of Paradise Found label, the TV show apparently sent someone to a department store called Liberty House (Liberty House was like the Hawaii version of Macy’s back in the 1980s) to find appropriate Aloha shirts for the show. Among the shirts that were chosen was the red “Jungle Bird” Aloha shirt that 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.
The 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.