Sportswomen Headwear: The Nike Pro Hijab

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Since a while the sportswomen wanting to maintain ‘modesty’ have been encountering many dress code barriers, especially while participating in international events. This has generated extensive debates about how dress codes based on religious beliefs can impact the participation of women in international cum competitive level of sports. The basic problem is in the existing dress code regulations of the various sports bodies. Although, the rules do not specifically ban the Islamic headwear hijab, but the language and manner in which the headgear is banned inadvertently prohibits hijab. Interestingly, this rule also prohibits the Sikhs and Jews sportsmen and women who observing their faith may want to cover their heads.

The debate about existing dress regulations has resulted in some of the highest sports bodies such as IWF, IBF, FIFA, FIBA to review their relevant rules.

FIBA finally votes to allow hijab headscarves

The sportswomen modesty campaigners have made some noteworthy strides with the regulatory bodies but the professional recognition has come God sent to their doorsteps by Nike launching – The Nike Pro Hijab. For the believing sportswomen this ground breaking headcover besides solidifying their religious belief is also a tool to become the best. Till present the hijab wearing sportswomen while training and actually competing have faced problems related to garment weight, temperature, breathability cum suffocation and maintainability. Due to combination of such problems the main issue has been the maintainability of ‘focus’ during training and competitions.

According to the Nike, “This problem was noticed by Nike, who designed their first hijab for athletes using a mesh material, considered as their most breathable fabric. The lightweight polyester features tiny, strategically placed holes for optimal breathability.”

Ibtihaj Muhammad the first American Olympic athlete to wear hijab

The Nike statements appended below provide an insight into the manner in which – The Nike Pro Hijab was developed and finally launched on 1st of December 2017:

  • “This movement first permeated international consciousness in 2012, when a hijabi runner took the global stage in London,”
  • “Over recent years, meetings at Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon with top-flight athletes have illuminated performance problems associated with wearing a traditional hijab during competition. Nike’s design team combined this information with existing Nike innovations to create the initial prototype hijabs, which they seeded to the weightlifter and a variety of hijabi athletes for wear testing. The women came back with a range of feedback, which laddered up to the desire for an even lighter, softer garment….”
  • “These new garments were again wear tested by elite Nike athletes, like the groundbreaking Emirati figure skater Zahra Lari and Nike+ Run Club Coach Manal Rostom. Everyday athletes from around the Middle East also assessed the hijabs,”
  • Equipped with this collected insight, the Nike Pro team (which is responsible for creating athletes’ base layers) examined how to make a performance hijab similar to Nike Pro’s other products: inconspicuous, almost like a second skin. More prototypes were crafted with this goal in mind.
  • The final, pull-on design is constructed from durable single-layer Nike Pro power mesh. Nike’s most breathable fabric, the lightweight polyester features tiny, strategically placed holes for optimal breathability but remains completely opaque, with a soft touch. The mesh is also stretchy, so when combined with an elastic binding it allows for a personalized fit that adapts to both the wearer’s head and her sport. Ice skating, for example requires a tighter fit for twirling. The back of the hijab is also elongated to ensure it doesn’t come untucked. Fluff threads were used at the neck to eliminate the rubbing and irritation that can occur when an athlete sweats.
Coach – Manal Rostom
Skater – Zahra Lari
  • At the request of the athletes, the designers placed a signature Nike Swoosh just above the left ear to highlight the hijab’s pinnacle performance nature.
  • The hijab’s debut colours: black and college navy, were similarly based upon the consulting athletes’ desire for dark neutrals. By providing Muslim athletes with the most ground-breaking products, like the Nike Pro Hijab.
  • After detailed working and conducting additional rounds of wear testing, the Nike Pro Hijab was complete.

Editorial Note: Some statements have been edited and reformatted for editorial / design purposes.

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