nike goes pro hijab

April 08, 2017

words by: Vane Karolle

And I'd just lauded the beauty sect for taking to diversity and inclusion.

Now, Nike ushers us into International women’s day with the launch of their new line, the Pro Hijab. The line was created in collaboration with Muslim athletes: Zahra Lari, the first figure skater from the United Arab Emirates; Manal Rostom, a runner and triathlete currently living in Dubai; and Amna Al Haddad, an Olympic weight lifter also from the United Arab Emirates.

Nike’s latest market extension has gotten quite a reaction – no surprise, seeing as it came from one of the most powerful sports brands in the world. But it's important to note that Nike isn’t the first mainstream sports brand to cater to the needs of female muslim athletes: Oregon-based Oiselle, the Danish brand Hummel and others have already recognized the need for representation.

But given its stature, Nike’s take on the modest sportswear industry makes a bigger splash. With Nike’s move, perhaps exclusions like the ban on head-covers by FIBA, (the International Basketball Federation) might be overturned, given FIBA's new partnership with the sportswear marque. Nike is ‘the official partner for product and marketing at FIBA's biggest competitions’ – including the FIBA women’s basketball World Cup – providing apparel, footwear, and equipment.

"Will that include its new hijab?" asked ESPN sportswriter Kavitha Davidson. It would be rather absurd for Nike to partner with a federation that excludes hijabis, don’t you think?

Beyond exclusion, this is about comfort. Female Muslim athletes struggle with finding headgear that won't slow them down or distract them from arduous physical exercise. So many have turned to creating and designing their own hijabs via crowdsourcing and fundraising. Weight-lifter Amna Al Haddad consulted with Nike, providing ideas based on her own experience - she'd been finding it difficult to find hijab that met the requirements for her weight-lifting competitions, one that didn't shift when she moved, one that would be more breathable. Her thoughts inspired the Pro Hijab project – Nike spokeswoman Megan Saalfeld said the line was created “as a direct result of our athletes telling us they needed this product to perform better, and we hope that it will help athletes around the world do just that.”

The hijab is expected to cost $35, made of a lightweight, stretchy mesh polyester, and will come in gray, black and obsidian. Translated:  affordable, comfortable fabrics, toned-down sporty hues.

By no means has Nike become the "savior" of all female muslim athletes, but some say their support goes far in terms of recognition and visibility. “For us, we come up with ideas, and ways to be comfortable in what we wear, but to have the No. 1 sport and fitness brand in the world facilitate this process for us? To provide something  we can grab and wear in 10 seconds? It’s going to change everything,” said runner and triathlete Manal Rostom.

Some athletes won't stand behind the behemoth brand’s signature ‘Swoosh’ but it is undeniable that Nike’s hand has influence.