While the sports hijab is nothing new, this latest announcement is still a big deal
On March 7, Nike announced that it is developing the “Nike Pro Hijab,” a piece of sportswear made specifically for Muslim women. According to multiple news outlets, the product is made of light stretchy fabric that includes tiny holes for breathability and an elongated back so it will not come untucked.
The product, which has been in development for a year, was tested by athletes including figure skater Zahra Lari. Nike also consulted with Muslim female athletes from around the world, including Middle Eastern runners and cyclists, in the designing of the hijab.
When it was first announced, the Internet predictably lit up with people sharing the news on Twitter and Facebook. However, this idea is not original and other companies have created sportswear geared towards Muslim female customers in the past.
For instance, a company called Capsters was launched in 2001 by Cindy van den Bremen, inspired by a Dutch girl who got expelled from gym class due to her “unsafe hijab.”
Another company called Mu’mine Activewear launched in 2015 and are still innovating in the comfort and breathability department to create better fabrics for their female Muslim competitors.
But even though Nike’s launch of their own sport hijab is not an innovative idea, it is still ground breaking due to the fact that it is being distributed by a multinational corporation.
After all, Nike has such a giant reach globally, which will hopefully bring to light the importance of sustainable sportswear for the female Muslim community, especially considering all the struggles female Hijabie athletes have faced in the past.
As for myself, growing up I found it extremely hard to shop for sportswear and swimwear that was comfortable and lightweight. I personally never heard about a lot of the companies that do produce sportswear for Hijabie females, partially due to the fact that most of them were online based and not in North America, which made getting my hands on one an extremely expensive prospect.
Nonetheless, it’s great to know that there are companies out there that are making it significantly easier to support Muslim-friendly sportswear that empower women to lead an active lifestyle.
Being recognized as athletes has been very difficult for female Muslims in the first place, but with all the barriers they have broken it’s not that surprising that a renowned company like Nike would want to explore such an untapped market.
After all, athletes like American fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad and Egyptian weightlifter Sara Ahmed are just the tip of the iceberg. Recent sporting events like the 2016 Rio Olympics were exciting to watch because I saw females that resembled me, who were breaking stereotypes and just being boss-ladies.
Although the hijab has been heavily politicized in recent times, it’s refreshing to see that these female athletes are continuing to break boundaries and being unapologetically bold and fearless.
Nike’s marketing campaign for this new product will only add fuel to this fire, and serve to show the world that the hijab has never stopped—and will never stop—females from playing sports and achieving their dreams.