New Nike Pro Hijab causes huge online buzz

For hijabi athletes, Nike just did it. The sports brand has ticked all the boxes for fitness enthusiasts by announcing its Nike Pro Hijab which is causing a massive reaction online.

Figure skater Zahra Lari wears Nike's new hijab for Muslim female athletes. The pull-on hijab is made of light, stretchy fabric that includes tiny holes for breathability and an elongated back so it will not come untucked. It will come in three colors: black, vast grey and obsidian. Beaverton-based Nike says the hijab will be available for sale next year. Nike via AP
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For hijabi athletes, Nike just did it. The sports brand has ticked all the boxes for fitness enthusiasts by announcing its Nike Pro Hijab which will be available in 2018.

As of Wednesday morning, amid the online buzz, the garment even launched its own Instagram account

We are #nikehijab. We are built to inspire. We train in modesty. We are queens. #NikeProHijab

A post shared by Nike Pro Hijab (@nikehijab) on

A project that has been in the brand’s creative labs for over a year, the modest wear is a lightweight, breathable, adjustable garment that was unveiled as part of an ongoing campaign that puts a spotlight on Muslim women athletes.

But as Nike jumps in to change the rules of the game by making modest sportwear commercial, and therefore more acceptable, it has sparked a healthy cultural debate on social media about the novelty and necessity of big brands leading the discussion on equality.

Emirati athlete Iman Al Omrani, who is the founder of the fitness studio Curvalicious, says creating a functional hijab for women in different sports has been long overdue.

“For so long we’ve just had to find ways to cover up but they aren’t always efficient solutions,” says Omrani, who wears a hijab while working out.

“But if you have a big sports brand like Nike that is willing to look into it, that’s excellent. Especially because it supports our own vision of getting fit and achieving without compromising our values.”

Omrani says she has been making do with elastic headbands that bikers use and is looking forward to something more secure. “Usually the scarfs that we wear they don’t stay put until you pin them down, which is a challenge. But with the different exercises, you can’t trust they won’t still fall off. At the same time you don’t want to wear anything that will chafe you because it isn’t cotton or breathable.”

Social media users around the world have lauded the brand’s effort to accept diversity.

Twitter user @imdiamondrivera’s post on the topic was retweeted more than 1,500 times.

Some social commentators took a lighter approach to the announcement.

Social satirist Hend Amry’s take has been retweeted more than 4,400 times.

Kazeem Famuyide, founder of the Stashed Media Network based in the United States, tweeted

@islamandlife took to Twitter to post:

Some hijabis questioned the buzz around apparel that niche brands and modest wear boutiques have been designing for years.

@AshaEveryday tweeted

Another Twitter user, @pettyblackgirl pointed out, with illustrations from the brand Asiya Sport, that another apparel companies are doing it better. “Nike will be releasing a “pro-hijab” collection but there are companies ran by Muslims who are already doing this.”