Just like the bright plastic candy-filled eggs found in Easter baskets or backyards, L’eggs hatched a new way for consumers to purchase pantyhose.
Introduced by Hanes in 1969, company executive Robert Elberson used the basement of the company plant in Weeks, N.C., to develop a new concept in hosiery sales – convenience.
At the time, women shoppers could only find hosiery in department stores’ lingerie sections, which might mean a special trip, if they had time. What if they could purchase the same styles while they were doing the weekly grocery shopping?
Designer Roger Ferriter of the Dancer-Fitzgerald-Sample Agency was tasked with creating a new packaging concept that was compact and more attractive than wrapping stockings around a piece of cardboard. He was inspired by the egg as “nature’s perfect package, a symbol of newness and freshness.”
The egg also inspired the design of the sales display, with a rounded dome top and round shelves that rotated so customers could easily find the color and size they needed. The display only used two circular feet of floor space and could hold 288 egg-shaped containers.
L’eggs spurred the sales of pantyhose, a fairly new concept in women’s hosiery. First marketed to dancers, who for years had taken to stitching single stocking legs to undergarments to bypass wearing garter belts, Allen Gant Sr. of the Glen Raven Knitting Mills had devised a stocking garment he named Panti-Legs in 1953. However, he did not patent his idea so competitor Ernest G. Rice patented his “Combination Stockings and Panty” in 1956.
The initial L’eggs packaging used only white eggs, but other colors were introduced as new styles hit the market, with Sheer Energy packaged in a shiny silver egg (1973). A series of pastel eggs appeared in the spring of 1975, as the eggs were popular among crafters. Hanes promoted the reuse of the egg packages with the printing of “The L’eggs Idea Book, Dozens of Creative Projects” by Alexandra Eames in 1976.
In 1991, L’eggs packaging shifted to a mostly cardboard container. Ferriter’s original egg container has been entered into the collection at the Museum of Modern Art.