Nike have introduced a groundbreaking new Pro Hijab that will forever change the landscape for Muslim athletes and fitness enthusiasts.
The Nike Pro Hijab may have been more than a year in the making, but its impetus can be traced much further back, to an ongoing cultural shift that has seen more women than ever embracing sport.
This movement first permeated international consciousness in 2012, when a hijabi runner, Saudi Arabia’s Sarah Al Attar, took the global stage in London.
Its origins can also be seen in Nike’s founding mission to serve athletes, with the signature addendum: If you have a body, you are an athlete.
The brand has underscored this commitment to athletes across the GCC Region with the introduction of the recent “What Will They Say About You” campaign, Nike+ Run Clubs and the Nike+ Training Club App in Arabic.
Over the 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.
For example, UAE weightlifter Amna Al Haddad recounted how the garment’s weight, the potential for it to shift during action and its lack of breathability disrupted her focus.
She also detailed her extreme difficulty finding performance hijabs; Amna had only one competition-worthy covering, so she had to hand wash it every night during competitions. And, as this hijab had been an impulse purchase at a random market, she was unable to procure more or replace it if it fell apart.
Nike’s NXT design team combined this information with existing Nike innovations to create three initial sample hijabs in early 2016, which they seeded to Amna 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.
Equipped with this collected insight, the Nike Pro team (which is responsible for creating athletes’ base layer product) examined how to make a performance hijab similar to Nike Pro’s other products: inconspicuous, almost like a second skin. Three more prototypes were crafted with this goal in mind.
These new garments were again wear tested by elite Nike athletes, like groundbreaking Emirati figure skater Zahra Lari
“I was really hesitant when I first saw it,” said Lari. “I was thrilled and a bit emotional to see Nike prototyping a Hijab, but I’ve tried so many different hijabs for performance, and with how fast I spin on the ice and in training, so few of them actually work for me. But once I put it on and took it for a spin on the ice, I was blown away by the fit and the light weight.”