The Pro Hijab is made out of a lightweight and mesh stretchy polyester and will be available initially in three colors. Three professional athletes have been involved in the testing process—including figure skater Zahra Lari, runner and triathlete Manal Rostom and Olympic weight lifter Amna Al Haddad. These athletes are reported to have faced issues in the past, from finding a hijab that met qualifications and specific standards as well as were lightweight enough to not inhibit their performance.
This news comes the same week that Nike announced their shoes developed to help athletes break the 2-hour marathon and this announcement specifically shows Nike’s desire to develop quality products for all athletes.
“There weren’t any hijabi athletes to look up to when I was growing up, and I had to be my own pioneer, and now girls today have women like Amna Al Haddad and Zahra Lari to look to as role models, which is so inspiring,” Ms. Rostom wrote over WhatsApp. “For young girls to see these women and to see this revolutionary shift will change the face of sport for Muslim Arab girls, whether they wear hijab or not.”
Female athletes in the Middle East are a young but growing group. In the 2012 Summer Games, Brunei, Qatar and Saudi Arabia became the last three countries competing at the Olympics to send women. That same year, Egypt’s contingent included 37 women, the highest number of female athletes representing the country since it entered the games in 1912.
The presence of hijabi-wearing athletes like the boxer Arifa Bseiso, the fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad (who became the first hijabi American to compete at the Olympics for the United States last year) and the triathlete Najla Al Jeraiwi has become increasingly common at international competitions. But it was only in 2014 that FIFA, the international soccer organization, lifted its ban on religious headgear. The basketball organization FIBA maintains its ban and has postponed a vote on the matter until May.
Beyond bans, there is the issue of comfort. Female Muslim athletes have struggled with finding headgear that will not slow them down or distract them from arduous physical exercise. It was Ms. Haddad’s difficulty in acquiring a hijab that met her requirements for competition — namely, that it would not shift when she moved and that it would be more breathable — that inspired the Pro Hijab project.
Coming in Spring 2018, female athletes will be able to purchase a Pro Hijab from Nike for an expected retail price of $35. It was teased in a recently released ad in the Middle East, seen here: