People may frown and jeer about multi-billion corporations like Nike dominating the markets, but one thing that is always incredibly refreshing and inspiring to see is the merging of the Western world with other cultures across the globe.
One example of this came earlier this year, when toy giants Mattel released their very first hijab-wearing Barbie, modeled off Muslim-Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, who described the doll as “amazing”.
Sure, the introduction of products like this is undoubtedly to gain another market across the middle-east and with Muslims living in Western nations, but the overall show of inclusion to the Islamic community is heartwarmingly powerful.
In February of this year, Nike Middle East introduced a breathable, athletic hijab via an empowering commercial. It was practical, comfortable and functional, and allowed Muslim women to easily partake in sporting activities. However, the item was never made available to customers in the US… until now.
There are roughly 3.45 million Muslim people living the US (that’s roughly 1.1% of the population), and we can safely assume half of them are women, many of whom chose to wear a hijab in order to practice their faith. It’s also safe to assume many of those women enjoy exercise and sports, as many people do.
Now, Nike Pro has globally launched its first-ever sports hijab, and the campaign looks absolutely fierce!
Several prototypes for the hijab were developed, and many Muslim athletes were asked to provide feedback and advice in order to create the perfect product.
Images and videos from the campaign show athletes Ibtihaj Muhammad, Zahra Lari, and Zeina Nassar sporting the hijab and it looks… Well, it just looks like a decent and comfortable product that should have been available decades ago. But better late than never!
Many may sneer at the sports brand for even daring to introduce an item designed specifically for Muslim women, but if you’re the sort of person who is offended by the fact a woman who practices Islam also wants to remain comfortable during a game of badminton, then you are probably the problem.
Zahra Lari, a champion ice dancer from the United Arab Emirates, claimed the new hijab is “a reminder to us Muslim women that we can achieve anything in the world. What Nike has done for Muslim athletes is a dream that we never thought would happen.”
And New Jersey native Ibtihaj Muhammad issued a statement to Nike explaining why the product is so important to women in her culture. The Olympian revealed that she would often be forced to compete in a children’s hijab with a georgette fabric covering, but this came with several issues.
“When the material is wet [with sweat], it gets really heavy,” she said. “It would completely obstruct my hearing.” This is a clear disadvantage, as it would cause her to struggle to hear a referee or a coach’s instructions.
Another problem Ibtihaj faced was figuring out how to keep the hijab in place. Very often Ibtihaj would have to tuck it into her sports bra to make it stay and use pins to keep it closed – how anybody can comfortably compete an Olympic level like that is beyond me.
However, when Ibtihaj first tried on the Nike hijab, she stated how “it really sunk in how much my previous hijab was hindering my performance. Suddenly, I could hear, I wasn’t as hot, and it felt like my body was able to cool itself down better and faster.”
German boxer Zeina agrees, saying, “I’m not distracted anymore because it sits better and is well adapted for sport.”
But the new sports garment is about more than just improving athletic conditions for these women, and even more about opening up a new market for Nike. According to Ibtihaj, “[It] will help advance the conversation around hijabs and Muslim women in sports and further make sports an inclusive space.”
Nike Pro has revealed that the hijab will become available in early January on nike.com and in select stores across more than 20 countries, and will come in sizes XS/S and M/L. Colors will include obsidian, black, white, and vast gray.
If you’re still unaware of the importance of such a product, check out this eye-opening video:
Wearing a hijab should never impede a woman’s chances of achieving their dreams, or even just being able to play sports. But if a woman chooses to wear a hijab, then they should also have the choice to be comfortable.