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Nike Pulls a Seat Out at Their Table for Hijabis A MissMuslim interview about the Nike Pro Hijab

Today my feed has been buzzing with images of the Emirati figure skater, Zahra Lari, in a Nike hijab. Yes, you read that right – NIKE PRO HIJAB made headlines today all around the world as Nike announced it has been working on making this groundbreaking product available, starting early next year. For female Muslim athletes, this news is a breath of fresh air amidst political tensions in this volatile Islamophobic climate.

The company released a statement indicating this product has been a year in the makingwith primary research done in the Middle East along with various Muslim athletes. That list includes, Amnah Al Haddad, a female weightlifter from the United Arab Emirates. Last year Nike had featured Haddad on their website in April 2016 and she recounted the effects of the hijab’s material has disrupted her focus because of its lack of breathability and the potential for it to shift during action. Nike also worked with Zahra Lari and Nike+ Run Club Coach, Manal Rostom, as well as many athletes in the Middle East to gather feedback on their reaction to the garment Nike was testing for the product.

I was a hijabi for a short period of time and my biggest challenge was finding a suitable one I could wear during crossfit. The closest thing I found was a children’s slip-on. It made me sweat more than normal, irritated my skin, it wasn’t very breathable, and it flopped over my head when attempting different moves. I searched the internet and the only gym friendly hijabs from small companies were either too expensive, sold overseas with high shipping costs, or always out of stock. I reached out to Nike with some questions in regards to this new product, which 2 years ago would maybe have saved me a ton of stress.

Below are their responses to the questions they could answer at this time:

MM: What is the price point for this product?

NIKE: $35

Is there one kind of Hijab? Since there isn’t just one kind of Hijabi athlete.

Three colorways at launch. Black, vast gray and obsidian. Nike is looking at more seasonal palettes for future seasons to align with the broader Nike Pro apparel line.  The Nike Pro Hijab will come in two size options (XS/S and M/L) allow for a perfect fit on a variety of face shapes.

Is this the beginning of a line? Will we see modest athletic wear?

Nike is the number one sports brand for girls and women globally.  Our designers are committed to delivering industry leading products to all athletes* to enable access to sport – from our first performance hijab to continued innovations behind pro bra and tights, to an extended plus size offering.

Where will these be available? You mention the Middle East only in your statement pertaining to research on how it was designed. Will this be available for American athletes?

The product was created based on initial insights from Middle East athletes, and has been tested most extensively by athletes in the Middle East.  However, the product will be available more broadly in 2018.  We don’t yet have specifics on which markets will offer the product.

What went into researching the design of the product to suit different cultural and performance requirements?

Nike gathered both the athletes’ performance feedback and their reactions to the garment’s aesthetic. As each country has its own particular hijab style, the ideal design would need to accommodate variances. The brand also solicited the opinions of advocates and local communities to ensure the design met cultural requirements.

Although this product has been in the making for a year, its impetus can be traced much further back to Nike’s founding mission, to serve athletes, with the signature addendum: If you have a body, you’re an athlete. The announcement of the Nike Pro Hijab comes only weeks after a Nike ad was released in the Middle East. The video featured five successful female professionals from different parts of Middle East pursuing their dreams as athletes as a voice over says, “What will they say about you?” This message highlighting only one of the many struggles Muslim athletes face in a culture that has been slow about accommodating today’s fierce Muslim women globally.

The final hijab will be made of a durable single layer Nike Pro power mesh with a pull-on design. It is Nike’s most breathable fabric and the lightweight polyester features tiny, strategically placed holes for optimal breathability. The mesh is stretchy, opaque, and has a soft touch. Nike has designed this product with an eleastic binding which allows for a personalized fit that adapts to both the athlete’s head and her sport. To ensure the hijab doesn’t come untucked, the back of the hijab is elongated. For comfort, fluff threads were used at the neck to eliminate the rubbing and irritation that can occur when an athlete sweats.  Finally, the Nike swoosh was added to the left side above the ear to, “highlight the hijab’s pinnacle performance nature,” said Nike spokesman.

For female Muslim athletes, this news is a breath of fresh air amidst political tensions in this volatile Islamophobic climate.

This groundbreaking product goes further than just being a breathable, flexible, sporty hijab with a swoosh. Nike aims to help inspire athletes in a region where only 1 in 7 girls participate in locally recommended sports activities for 60 minutes or more. Gone are the days where girls will feel uncomfortable being sporty while staying modestly dressed. Thank you, Nike, for pulling out a seat at your table and inspiring Muslim women to think beyond barriers.

All images provided by Nike

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