Clothing giant Nike is developing a hijab for Muslim athletes, making it the first large sportswear company to do so. While several other manufacturers were already present in this market, Nike is so far the largest and most visible, and is promising a product that is both breathable and secure. The company says it was inspired by Sarah Attar and Amna Al Haddad, who wore hijabs while competing in the Olympics in London and Rio, respectively.
Nike has designed this hijab (which will be available in spring 2018) with input from Muslim women, including weightlifter Al Haddad and figure skater Zahra Lari, who have been testing the company’s products since early 2016. Al Haddad commented that she had difficulty finding hijabs suitable for athletic performance, with weight and breathability being significant issues. Similarly, the speed at which Lari performs has meant that finding a hijab that stayed in place and didn’t distract her was challenging.
Based on these needs, Nike has focused on developing a product that is lightweight and breathable, and it sounds like the company has succeeded. The Nike Pro Hijab is made with a layer of stretchy, durable mesh that allows air to pass through while still being opaque enough for Muslim women’s needs. It is also longer in the back to ensure that it stays tucked in despite vigorous activity.
While many Muslim athletes are excited for this product, some people remain unimpressed. Nike’s video ad went viral, with over 2 million views, but has earned both praise and criticism. Some feel the ad is patronizing and suggests that Nike is empowering women to compete, when Muslim women have been exercising and competing long before now. Others are annoyed at the implication that Nike is the first company to offer sport hijabs when Muslim companies have already been making them for years.
The presentation and marketing of this product may leave something to be desired, and it is important to acknowledge that Nike is not pioneering the athletic hijab. However, the company is still making an impact on the market. Not only is it innovating in terms of material and design, but it is making the product more visible and more easily accessible. Muslim women will now have another option to choose from, and the move may encourage other companies to innovate as well.
Additionally, the product and ad campaign are bringing more visibility to female Muslim athletes, which has the potential to inspire more women to play and compete. Nike’s campaign may not be perfect, but the Pro Hijab is a product that could allow women who wear head coverings to compete more effectively, and make sports more comfortable for a significant portion of the population.
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