Hanes Hosiery

Winston-Salem, NC


In 1901, J. Wesley Hanes’s Shamrock Hosiery Mills in Winston­Salem began making men’s socks. In 1902, P.H. Hanes Knitting Company, owned by brother Pleasant, introduced two­piece men’s underwear. Wesley focused on the women’s market and Pleasant broadened his product line. 1


Women sewing union suits at PH Hanes 1930s. Source: UNC Archives Postcard collection




James Gordon Hanes, Sr., (1886­1972) son of Wesley, joined Shamrock immediately after graduating from UNC in 1909. He became President in 1917. The firm had a high debt. Within five years, the debt was reduced and company became solvent. Shamrock was renamed Hanes Hosiery Mills. 2

In 1938, with the introduction of nylon by DuPont, Hanes was among the first to recognize the potential to replace silk in women’s hosiery. Later they developed seamless hose and panty hose. The two companies merged to form Hanes Corporation. The idea to package hosiery in brightly colored plastic eggs, and sell in grocery stores, made the L’eggs brand the most successful hosiery brand ever. In 1950, R. Philip Hanes, Jr. began training for leadership and led the company to even greater success. He was Chairman of the Board from 1978­ – 1988.

In 1979, Sara Lee, known better for bakery products, acquired Hanes. In the next decade, the Hanes Her Way brand became a hit. Michael Jordan, a promising young basketball player from UNC­-Chapel Hill signed on as a company spokesman.

1994, Hanes became a major sponsor for the Winter Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway. When the local laundry was inadequate, Hanes airlifted fresh underwear to sports reporters. For the 1999 Special Olympics held in North Carolina, Hanes provided uniforms for over 35,000 volunteers. By 2000, Hanes was the leading brand of apparel in the world, and could be found in eight out of ten American homes.



  1. Blackburn, Charles, Jr., Our State, 75(6), 120­1. 2008
  2. Powell, Wiliam S., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, Vol. 3. Accessed June 4, 2010 Net Library