In an age of xenophobia and Trump travel bans, Nike is following the lead of people, around the world who have stepped up to champion diversity. The representation and solidarity now provided from the athletic clothing mega-brand is a hugely progressive step toward normalizing Muslim athletes.
Although Nike is not a savior to sports in marginalized communities, their partnership with FIBA, the basketball federation that currently imposes a head covering ban, proves hopeful for change in the sports world. Through a partnership with Muslim athletes, Nike’s attention-grabbing announcement does not stand alone. The sportswear company primed their audience with an advertisement that featured their partners in the Middle East and North Africa. The video was viewed more than 1.5 million times in the weeks leading up to the hijab premiere.
Nike’s new hijab for Muslim women is not the first to hit the market. Smaller sporting companies including Capsters and ResportOn have produced athletic hijabs in addition to crowdfunded efforts on sites such as Kickstarter.
Nike is the first major brand to launch hijabs for female athletes. After the company spent a year developing the sporting hijab and market discovery proved there was a desire for the product, the online response to the release has been primarily positive. Nike addressed concerns about the placement of their trademark above the left ear by explaining that the decision was thoughtfully planned to “highlight the hijab’s pinnacle performance nature.”
The Pro Hijab features light and breathable but durable mesh available in dark colors. The pull-on design is constructed to prevent untucking during athletic activities. Nike’s new garment will go on sale in 2018.
Molly Harris is Paste Design’s assistant editor and a freelance writer based in Athens, Georgia.