Nike has always been focused on helping athletes achieve their goals by giving them the proper gear to do it with, But one group has been consistently overlooked — hijab-wearing women.
In an effort to change this, and enable everyone — no matter their background or religious practices — to have the opportunity to participate in sports comfortably, Nike will launch a "pro hijab" in Spring 2018. The announcement came just in time for International Women's Day, as Nike revealed a preview of the hijab with a video of its latest "Believe in More" campaign on Instagram.
The video depicts strong and powerful female athletes performing various activities wearing their sporting gear. The pro hijab is shown at the very start of the video on Egyptian athletics coach, Manal Rostom, as she goes out on a run. Emirati figure skater, Zahra Lari, is also featured.
Because the pro hijab has a more streamlined design compared to a traditional hijab, it won't affect, or get in the way of, optimal performance. The pro hijab features air holes in the fabric for greater comfort, and as the publication Al Arabiya English points out, this mesh breathable material is an especially important component as Middle Eastern regions are among the hottest in the world.
While these pro hijabs are a greater step towards inclusivity in sports and fashion, they are not the first of their kind. The Guardian reports that Nike was inspired to create the pro hijab after watching Saudi Arabian athlete Sarah Attar compete in the 2012 Olympics with her own performance hijab from Oisette.
There are also numerous smaller brands that have been selling modest sportswear and a sport hijab, such as Veil, but having a major company like Nike create one is massive.
With help and feedback from female Emirati Olympic weightlifting athlete Amna Al Haddad, who visited Nike's global headquarters in Oregon, Nike got to work on the pro hijab.
"For a brand like Nike to come out and say that these people exist and are inclusive of hijabis is a big deal. It not just about making a product available for Muslim and Arab women, but it is also giving a chance to those women who are putting off the idea of wearing the veil completely in order to compete," Rostom told Al Arabiya.
Rostom also took to Instagram to express how pleased she was to see the hijab:
"Feels more surreal to be featured as one of the first #Hijabi athletes to get to try this as Nike launches their first ever Nike Pro Hijab Collection launching officially in Winter 2018. I cried when they showed it to me. I cried when I tried it on for the first time. I still cry looking at this and how far we've come to change the perception of the world about us Arab, covered women as we deal with the struggle of wearing it every day. Anyone telling you otherwise would be lying. History being made right there. Nike caters for all Hijabi athletes worldwide to simply Just Do It, in Hijab. So, so proud and honoured to be the face of this campaign as it kicks off worldwide, breaking barriers and paving the way for young Arab girls to show them what they are capable of, regardless of how they look, or what they wear."
Though Nike's entrance into this conversation is a huge step, there is still much to be done to help hijab-wearing women feel comfortable participating in sports.
"We recognize that around the world. There are barriers for many people to access sport, and some of these barriers are unique to women and girls. We want to help break down these barriers, and encourage and enable more women to be pioneers in sport," Global Nike Spokeswoman Megan Saalfeld told Al Arabiya English. "We take so much inspiration from women like Zahra and Manal who are showing that anything is possible, and we want to tell their stories to inspire others and give them the product that they need to achieve their goals."