Following their video campaign that went viral on social media where Middle Eastern female Muslim athletes are seen breaking stereotypes and ignoring the “what will they say about you?” question, Nike is now about to the launch the “Pro Hijab” for Muslim Female athletes who also wear the traditional headscarf.
Nike has admitted that the video was merely a forerunner to the “Pro Hijab” headscarf, to encourage more Muslim females to do what they want to without worrying about the head cover or any other cultural norm.
The “Pro Hijab” is being launched in Spring 2018.
The reason for this move is also the fact that women are increasingly joining the sports sector and they need all the support they can get. The fact that the hijab is no longer seen as a restriction or barrier to women going out there and achieving their dreams is a big step in the way the Muslim community is seen the world over.
Muslim Female athletes have already run in the Olympics wearing hijabs before and this has spurred the world to acknowledge the need for hijabs in sportswear too. Sarah Attar completed the 800m at the London Olympics wearing a hijab, and before that Bahraini sprinter Ruqaya al-Ghasra completed a race during the Athens Olympics 2004 and then the Beijing Olympics in 2008 while wearing a hijab.
With Nike sponsoring athletes all around the world it was obvious that they would also have to listen to the needs of the sportspeople. The Nike Pro Hijab has come about as a direct result of Muslim female athletes telling Nike that they need a hijab that would help them perform better. Some of the normal hijabs they usually wear help them in only performing, but not at their very best of course.
Sometimes athletes like Amna Al Haddad complain that they only have one hijab which they then need to wash carefully after every competition so that they can be reused the next day.
When Nike first decided to design and make the Nike Pro Hijab for its female Muslim users, they had to look at the fact that the hijab was not the sole reason why Muslim women were hesitant to participate in sports. Religious and cultural conservatism aside, the Gulf and Middle Eastern countries have very hot temperatures in the summer and this can lead to dehydration and with the hijab, even suffocation.
The Nike Pro Hijab had to be designed in a way that it wouldn’t suffocate the user and allows the accumulated sweat to evaporate. Manal Rostom, one of the first Muslim women to try out the Nike Pro Hijab, had commented on this very issue that the user feels suffocated in the heat with the added pressure of the hijab.
Nike designed their Pro Hijabs with a mesh material which they regard to be their “most breathable fabric” and one which would allow evaporation of sweat as well. The polyester is lightweight and has small holes strategically placed all over to allow most breathability.
These Pro Hijabs were tested by Nike brand ambassadors like Manal Rostom and Zahra Lari, an Emirati figure skater, as well other athletes all over the Middle East.
The Hijab in Sports
Muslim females wearing the hijab while competing in sporting events has been a hotly contested issue for a long time. Hijabs are often excluded by sporting federations when deciding sportswear for the contestants. This is also the main reason why Muslim women are not seen on the global sporting platforms too much.
Fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad was the first Muslim American woman to be able to compete in the Olympics while wearing her hijab. FIFA, the soccer federation, had a ban on hijabs and any sort of head coverings till 2014 when it finally decided to do away with the ban.
However, FIBA, the basketball federation, still has a ban on athletes wearing the head covering.
Increasingly, Muslim majority countries and traditionally very conservative countries have made a move towards helping women take part in sports. Outdoor spaces and sporting complexes are increasingly being redefined to include women and Nike’s bold step is encouraging all these plans as well the international move towards a global acceptance of the hijab.