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13 times Columbo was seen out of ‘uniform’

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Here’s the Columbo we know and love!

Columbo doesn’t wear a uniform, per se, but we know and love him best in his ever-present crumpled beige suit, off-white shirt, scuffed boots, green/brown tie and, of course, the shabby raincoat.

He sported a near identical appearance for 35 years. Indeed the Lieutenant’s unique wardrobe is so intrinsically linked with the character that it’s almost impossible to separate the two in our minds. Yet there were a number of occasions when we encountered him out of his usual attire – and that’s what I’m chronicling here.

Some of these 13 chronologically listed examples are more memorable than others, but see how many of these you recognise and remember on this fashionable journey down memory lane.

NB – I haven’t included occasions where Columbo switched ties (Requiem for a Falling Star; It’s All in the Game) or other times when part of his famous ensemble is missing (e.g. shambling around in his vest in By Dawn’s Early Light) or has had a small item added to it (e.g. hats in Fade In To Murder and Columbo and the Murder of a Rock Star).

“The Lieutenant’s unique wardrobe is so intrinsically linked with the character that it’s almost impossible to separate the two in our minds.”

1. A Stitch in Crime

Scrubs

Yes I know he’s wearing his full suit underneath, but Stitch in Crime is notable in that it’s the first time we see the Lieutenant in something other than his regular work ensemble.

Busting into the operating theatre where the fiendish Dr Mayfield has just removed incriminating dissolving sutures from his patient, Columbo appears in full surgical scrubs, into which Mayfield memorably stows the sutures when shoving the detective angrily out of his way.

2. An Exercise in Fatality

Exercise 2

Oooooh yah!

Supposedly taking advantage of a special offer at the Milo Janus Health Spa, Columbo signs up for membership and is found lashed to a jogging machine, sweating it out in a blue tracksuit, as Milo saunters through the gym.

Unused to the physical exertion of a gentle jog, Columbo tweaks his hamstring and is later forced to limp out of Janus’s office in no small amount of pain. He was never again seen in sportswear…

3. Troubled Waters

Waters 1

For a man on his holidays, Columbo spent a lot of time in his traditional outfit aboard ship, although he did shed his tie on a number of occasions. The biggest departure came at the end of the cruise as Columbo donned a brown, black and white patterned casual shirt to seal Hayden Danziger’s fate. He was also spotted in a night gown when alerted to the death of Rosanna Welles late at night.

We must presume at some point during the cruise that Columbo was sporting a pair of luminous green budgie smugglers to take a dip (every man does it), but we were thankfully spared that particular sight…

4. Forgotten Lady

Chat 5

The first episode of the fifth season was notable in that it marked the first occasion we saw Columbo really dressing up as he dusted off a tuxedo to attend a private movie screening at Grace Wheeler’s house. His effort wasn’t lost on his gracious host, who correctly commented that the Lieutenant looked “simply smashing“.

5. A Case of Immunity

Garden party clash

After going 31 episodes without wearing a tuxedo, Columbo went back-to-back in season 5, busting out splendid evening wear once again (borrowed from his brother-in-law) to attend the Suari Legation Garden Party thrown to celebrate the King’s visit to the United States.

Initially worn in conjunction with his raincoat, Columbo absolutely rocked the look – and also rocked Hassan Salah’s poise by letting him know he was suspect number one.

6. Now You See Him

Columbo Now You See Him

One of the best examples in this magic-infused cracker of an episode as Columbo struggles throughout with a new coat bought for him by Mrs Columbo. With all other aspects of his outfit remaining as per usual, we find out here it’s the coat that really gives the Lieutenant his mental superpowers as he bellows “I gotta take off this coat! I can’t think in this coat!” early in the episode, before trying desperately to lose it throughout. He’s back to the trusty old  favourite by the end, though, to secure the arrest of The Great Santini. The new coat never rears its ugly head again…

7. Murder Under Glass

Glass tuxedo

Fighting crime never looked  so good!

Heading out to a glitzy awards dinner to celebrate the great and the good of the LA restaurant scene, what else would Columbo dust down other than the tux? Although it’s lost its novelty appeal by now, the good Lieutenant still looks absolutely ravishing in it, so there can be no complaints from viewers.

He also memorably dons a chef’s hat when cooking for Paul Gerard at the episode denouement, albeit worn in conjunction with his regular wardrobe.

8. Make Me a Perfect Murder

Perfect5

“AIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”

After busting his neck in a car prang during the episode’s opening credits, Columbo seeks assistance from a burly masseur to quell the pain. Lieutenant fanciers are therefore treated to the very real thrill of a trim and taut Columbo wearing only his boxer shorts as the bald muscleman massaging him unsuccessfully attempts to cure his ails. Phwoooooooooooooooooooooooar

9. Murder, Smoke & Shadows

Ringmaster

“Tah-DAAAAAAAAAH!”

Not sure this really counts, because it was presumably supposed to be a trick of the light to fool Alex Brady (and the disbelieving viewer) at episode’s end, but for a couple of seconds Columbo appears in full Circus Ringmaster regalia as he seals the fate of the world-renowned movie director. The less said about this, the better…

10. Rest in Peace, Mrs Columbo

Rest in Peace Mrs Columbo

In order  to smoke out villainous, vengeful widow Vivian Dimitri, Columbo stages a sting operation par excellence in which he fakes Mrs Columbo’s death and stages a phony funeral for her. That’s a whole lot of taxpayers’ dollars, folks.

To keep up the charade, the weepy Lieutenant is adorned in a suitably sombre black suit, coat and tie combination – an outfit he remains in until he outfoxes Dimitri in the episode finale.

11. Caution: Murder Can Be Hazardous to Your Health

Hazardous tuxedo

Wade Anders is MCing a glitzy bash to which the Lieutenant, naturally, shows up at to discuss the case. And, just as naturally for such an auspicious occasion, he rocks up in a tuxedo, making it the fourth time we see him so attired. He even comments that the shirt he’s wearing with it was made in Korea, and cost the princely sum of $29.95.

12. No Time to Die

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Twerk, bride, TWERK!

It’s the tuxedo… again… but warranted as the Lieutenant has guest of honour status at nephew Andy’s wedding (he’s the son of Columbo’s deceased sister, Mary). As always, he pulls it off with style. Shame the same can’t be said for the plot of this televisual debacle…

13. Undercover

Undercover

Dear God, WHY?

The madcap (some would say preposterous, yet others would say dire) 1994 caper features, the most wardrobe changes for the Lieutenant in a single outing. Adopting a variety of guises from a down-and-out and an art-loving gangster to full-on mafia don, there’s also a scene where he’s wearing crazily coloured trousers (see above). Quite why I can’t recall as I can’t bring myself to rewatch to find out.

Columbo also gets whopped on the head at one point and has to go into hospital necessitating a switch into a hospital gown. How we laughed

Undercover features the most wardrobe changes for the Lieutenant in a single outing.”

That’s the end of my list, folks. If you can think of any examples I’ve missed please identify them  in the comments section below. And do  let me know what your favourite example of Columbo being out of uniform is.

Thanks for reading, and don’t be a stranger!


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Columbo was also at his happiest in his regular shabby outfit – and so are we!

 

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20 thoughts on “13 times Columbo was seen out of ‘uniform’

  1. My fave annoyance he does is When Roddy McDowell killed his uncle & moved in his office & flipped over his pic- Columbo said ” oh this must have fallen over” & Roddy said
    ” lieutennnannt .. ” very annoyed! I luv that!!
    No does it better than that – RIP Roddy-

     
  2. How about the Van Wick killing? Ahead of its time – Digital watches, heat sensors, nanny cams etc.. His Mother inlaw called it ” gadgetry” & hated it- now ur phone does all that !!!!!!-

     
  3. One of my favourite and most memorable moments in the whole series is related to the new raincoat in Now You See Him. It is when Columbo leaves the new raincoat in the car and tells Dog to look the other way if somebody tries to steal it. I simply love that moment.

     
  4. Hello columbophile great to see posts and updates coming thick and fast .
    I dont think this one counts but here I go anyhow , At the End scene of Uneasy lies the crown ( which i think is one of the better new episodes ) columbos coat is off and hes wearing a shirt and turns around and there is a big blue stain on it , I think from the chemistry experiment he had done to Seal the murderous dentists fate and the coroner says are things so bad downtown you cant afford a new shirt its a slightly funny moment and is Clothes related .

     
  5. apropos to nothing…..”Identity Crisis” was on this morning. And……McGoohan DID a Columbo thing. After he and the Lt. talk at Brenner’s patio table, Columbo gets up and walks away. There are perhaps 4 beats, then Brenner says (in typical Columbo “just one more thing”style…or is it simply McGoohan’s meter, so to speak), “Let me show you to your car”. The whole script was brilliant, of course, and the acting wonderful, but this little exchange just caught my ear. I do wonder if those beats were deliberate……

     
  6. I’m one of the few people that happens to really like undercover, so I know it is not canon so to speak. I think it has some really good moments though.

     
    • Hi, I’m definitely not someone who likes Undercover but it’s very refreshing to see someone does.

       
    • I’m pleased to hear it! I don’t think it should have ever been a Columbo episode, but there are some excellent performances, so all is not lost.

       
      • These were all very memorable scenes especially from the 70s run my favorite probably would be his clothes In Troubled Waters It seemed different Yet seemed to suit the environment and didnt make columbo look silly , Then also I think Troubled waters was one of the best episodes , Definitely a top 10 contender ,as for No time to die I Cant really remember and some of the clothes in Undercover especially the bright trousers which was quite funny was also just plain silly and bear no comparison with the scenes Mentioned in the 70s Era..

         
  7. I am still watching Colombo over and over.seen all of the episodes way more then a hundted times. Great charater. Yhe best guest stars.

     
  8. I would have included the scene in “The Bye-Bye Sky High l.Q. Murder Case” where Columbo gets caught in a rainstorm without his raincoat (“Wouldn’t you know it. Just tonight my wife decided to try out a new spot remover for my raincoat.”). As you say about “Now You See Him,” “it’s the coat that really gives the Lieutenant his mental superpowers” — and here he’s without it.

    What gives this scene special significance is its connection to Levinson and Link’s vision of the last Columbo. According to Richard Levinson: “We always wanted the last show to be a story in which he doesn’t wear his raincoat during the entire case. It’s being dry-cleaned. At the very end, with the case solved, he walks outside and it’s starting to rain. He puts his hands in the air and we have a freeze-frame. That’s how we wanted the series to end.”

    http://www.columbo-site.freeuk.com/iq2.htm

     
    • I thought about that scene, and it’s a gem, but there are a number of episodes when he sheds the coat for a while so I couldn’t squeeze it in.

       
  9. Speaking as a man who has to be reminded that his jeans need to go through the laundry occasionally, and who tends to wear the same things until they are only good for washing the car (“What about those nice new shirts you have? You’ve never worn those!”), I am with Columbo all the way – if it’s within reach and it still fits you, why agonize over choosing what to wear?

     
  10. Brilliant sartorial compilation, I’ve gotta say! The starchy new raincoat was the funniest. Wilson’s pointless tracking of it was enjoyably frustrating.

     
  11. The Circus ringmaster costume can easily be explained away as a hallucination. Alex Brady lived in a strange world of illusions, one whose every element had collapsed simultaneously. Columbo had co-ordinated the final devastation, anything could have been going on in Brady’s head at that point.

     

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