Hooters Joins Gulf Cleanup Efforts With

Hooters Joins Gulf Cleanup Efforts With

Rene Ebersole
Published: 06/15/2010

Give us your pantyhose. Yes, your pantyhose. That’s the message ringing out from two small non-profits working to sop up the oil gushing into Gulf waters. Among those listening: Hooters, the only food chain in the land where pantyhose are part of the employee uniform.

Hooters got wind a few weeks ago that a shortage of pantyhose was slowing down efforts by non-profits Matter of Trust and Indigo Oceanic to collect hair and fur from salons, barbers, and pet groomers and stuff it into stockings that could be deployed as oil-collecting booms. Company executives knew right away that they were uniquely positioned to help. “We heard they were short on pantyhose, and a light bulb went off,” says Mike McNeil, vice president of marketing for Hooters of America, Inc. “We have 15,000 employees in the United States, 17,000 in the world, and they all wear pantyhose as part of their uniform.” 

Hooters sent a memo to restaurant managers at the company’s 460 locations in 45 states and 29 countries (the newest in Prague, Czech Republic) asking them to rally the Hooters girls to join “Project Pantyhose” by dropping their torn (laundered) sun-tan-colored stockings into donation boxes that would get shipped to a Florida warehouse for boom assemblage. “It’s voluntary,” says McNeil. “They don’t have to participate, but a lot of the girls want to help. We’re expecting a minimum of 100,000 pairs of pantyhose over the next few weeks." 

The effort makes sense, he says. “Our uniform guidelines don’t allow large, visible tears. (And you know those things can sometimes snag in a matter of minutes.) So we’re taking something that has no other use, except to go to the landfill.” What’s more, the booms—said to resemble “stocking sausages”--are virtual oil magnets. “This unique combo of pantyhose and hair proves to be a really good, reusable boom,” explains McNeil. “Each section can be used up to eight times.” (For more about how it works, read here.)

Ms. Hooters International Raechel Holtgrave, a 23-year-old from Saint Louis, Missouri who has a college degree in math and science, says she thinks the project is “a great idea.” In fact, she has already donated five or six pairs. “We usually throw these pantyhose away. But this is easy; we just have to throw them in our next load of laundry and drop them in the box,” she says. “I speak for thousands of other Hooters girls: It’s something little we can do to help out. We serve wings, entertain, and have fun, but this is kind of neat. I call it saving the environment one pair of pantyhose at a time.”

Matter of Trust president Lisa Craig Gautier says other companies are lending a hand—or, a leg, rather. Hanes shipped 50,000 pairs of pantyhose for the cause, and Spanx, the widely lauded body-slimming stockings that score high on Oprah Winfrey’s list of favorite fashion must-haves, will soon provide casings for the growing piles of hair and fur destined for oil cleanup.