Nike’s latest athletic performance line allows even more women to live out the company’s slogan: just do it.
The Nike Pro Hijab is officially set for release in Spring 2018. When it hits stores, Muslim female athletes will finally have sports equipment that doesn’t compromise their religious beliefs.
“The Nike Pro Hijab may have been more than a year in the making, but its impetus can be traced much further back, to an ongoing cultural shift that has seen more women than ever embracing sport,” Nike said in a statement.
Zahra Lari, a figure skater from the UAE, and Manal Rostom, a mountain climber, runner and Nike + Run Club Coach hailing from Dubai and Egypt, are the faces of the new campaign.
“People may think or tell you that you can’t do certain things, but I’m going to show them you absolutely can,” Lari told Vogue Arabia. “I am covered, I am Muslim, I am from a desert country, and I’m doing a winter sport.”
Weather was also a concern for Rostom: “[Muslim athletes] live in the hottest countries in the world so covering the neck area specifically is always going to be a challenge. For many women, running more than 3K in the heat is almost suffocating,” she said.
Lari and Rostom both helped develop the new line, which features Nike’s most breathable fabrics and an elongated neck that prevents the garment from becoming untucked.
Performance was priority number one for Amna Al Haddad, a weightlifter from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). She travelled to Nike’s sport research lab in Oregon and explained that during competitions, she had to hand wash the only sports-ready hijab she owned every night in the sink.
Al Haddad wasn’t the only athlete who helped inspire the performance line.
Runner Sarah Attar donned a hijab while running the 800m for Saudi Arabia in the 2012 London Olympics. Before her, sprinter Ruqaya al-Ghasra of Bahrain competed in the 2004 Athens Olympics while wearing a hijab.
“The Nike Pro Hijab was designed as a direct result of our athletes telling us they needed this product to perform better,” Global Nike Spokeswoman Megan Saalfeld told Al Arabiya English. “We hope that it will help athletes around the world do just that.”
The sportswear line follows an advertising campaign, “What will they say about you?” that features Muslim female athletes overcoming external judgement while training. Many of the athletes included in the ad wear hijabs during competition.
Nike has the resources to bring about athletic inclusivity on a global scale. But they weren’t the first to make hijabs specifically for athletic competition.
In March 2016, Hummel, a Danish sportswear brand unveiled soccer uniforms for the Afghanistan national soccer team that featured an optional hijab. The announcement coincided with International Women’s Day.
The following August, American fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad became the first US athlete to wear a hijab at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Her bronze medal-winning performance helped normalize hijabs and brought awareness to the obstacles Muslim women face in athletic competition.
The fact that Muhammad was detained for two hours by US customs in February demonstrates how much more has to be done before Muslims are treated with full respect in the US. Sports can help that transition.
Now, thanks to Nike, more Muslim women will be able to compete at an international level, or in their own communities.
Spring 2018 can’t come soon enough.
Send petitions, emails, or tweets to world leaders. Call governments or join rallies. We offer a variety of ways to make your voice heardGet Involved