Laura McGuire’s Hipstik promises women the comfort of leggings in the style of tights

Laura McGuire has been frustrated with hosiery for as long as she can remember.

“I can remember my mom pulling out tights for me to wear, and her saying, ‘I know, I hate them, too,’” McGuire recalls. “I could almost feel her apologizing for having to give this kind of pantyhose to her daughter.”

Fast forward to 2016. McGuire was wearing a pair of tights on the Amtrak Carolinian from Raleigh to Charlotte when something suddenly dawned on her. She was sitting there, sucking in — every woman reading this will know the feeling to which McGuire refers — and in that moment, she experienced the entrepreneurial epiphany.

“It occurred to me that I could make a better pair of hosiery for women,” she recalls. “And I thought to myself, ‘Why don’t I just do it?’”

And she did. She launched Hipstik in 2016 to revolutionize the hosiery experience.

Women around the world have talked about and worn nylon stockings for the better part of the past century. In 1938, the vice president of DuPont announced the invention of nylon at the New York World’s Fair. Nylon stockings went on sale for women in May 1940; 64 million pairs sold that year.

The game changed in 1959. Allen Gant Sr. of the Glen Raven Knitting Mills in North Carolina invented pantyhose — stockings and underpants all in one piece — which eliminated the need for multiple garments worn at once. Then, in 1965, Glen Raven Mills created seamless pantyhose to coincide with the introduction of the miniskirt in the mid-1960s.

As much as the culture or look of nylon stockings, pantyhose or tights has changed over the years, the technology and fit hasn’t. Pantyhose were designed to be attractive, hide blemishes and create a smoother look; it was never about comfort or fit. It’s a lesson that generations of women pass down to each other: Wearing pantyhose is not an enjoyable experience.

“Comfort has never really been a part of this industry, especially since the control top is the main way they sell the product,” she says. “So this category has always been about sucking in with that control top.”

With Hipstik, McGuire set out to keep the style of tights, but pair it with a control top built with the comfort of leggings.

Taking on this type of challenge was new for McGuire, who had committed to self-funding the venture along with the support of her husband, Jason.

“I’m not someone from the fashion industry,” she admits candidly. “I’m just one real person coming from a place where a product category frustrated me, and I knew something needed to be done about it.”

What McGuire was bringing to the table was a strong, professional background in ideation, product development and marketing. As someone well-versed in bringing a product to market, she knew what it would take to launch something new.

Women had sworn off tights and pantyhose after lifetimes of disgust and discomfort. McGuire’s real work was about changing their minds.

To do that, she developed a product that addressed every woman’s concerns about pantyhose. First, the lace hip fits each woman’s shape without squeezing, rolling or “sucking” in. Also, the silicone “stik” strip means they won’t sag around the waist. Last, but not least, McGuire rebuilt the sizing chart for Hipstik. Where women have come to depend on reading a chart on the back of a pantyhose package that measured their weight with their height, Hipstik asks you to consider and select your body shape first. McGuire partnered with her manufacturer to research and formulate the product around women’s varying shapes because one size does not fit all.

“Every single brand does the weight chart by weight; it’s just what they do,” she admits. “When I worked at Dillard’s, [I got] the feeling [and frustration from women that] ‘hosiery’ on a whole was judging [a woman] with a ‘how fat are you chart’; it was unfair and inaccurate, so I changed it. And I wasn’t ever going to make Hipstik by weight, period.”

The Hipstik brand touts raving fans, many of whom aren’t shy with their positive reviews. That customer feedback is helping to shape new products. The company will be releasing a footless version soon, and they are adding another size, to go from A to H versus A to G. That was a decision made when McGuire realized that their best-selling sizes are for women size 8 or larger.

Today, Hipstik tights and sheers are sold via the company’s online shop in up to seven different color and style combinations. All products are made just 90 minutes east of Charlotte at a mill that’s been in business for over 40 years. A proud North Carolina-based company, Hipstik never considered going overseas for production.

“This type of product has been made the same way for so long,” she notes. “We were really looking for a USA-based partner committed to helping change the way they’re made.”

McGuire’s work with Hipstik continues to be a side hustle, something she does in addition to her full-time job. But her goal is big: She wants every woman to replace her tights or pantyhose with a pair of Hipstik.

“You should be able to wear what you love, be comfortable, and enjoy the experience of it all,” she admits. “I’ve wanted this kind of product for so long, and I’m happy to be the facilitator who brings this to life.”