Dressed In Power: When Sportswear Is More than Attire
by Sarah Ghanem
There’s always a huge media hype around when any brand sets to launch a collection that caters specifically to its Muslim customers. A recent example of this was the news of a new hijab to be released by the famous athletic brand, Nike, in spring 2018.
Since many Muslim female athletes and even an average Muslim woman going to the gym have expressed the struggles of finding an appropriate and comfortable hijab option, this new idea was warmly welcomed by most Muslims. The idea behind this hijab was to allow female Muslims to stay in shape and take part in sports without worrying about finding the right attire.
However, as always, there were two sides to the story. While many appreciated the step, Nike also faced substantial criticism for patronizing women or promoting a false representation of true Muslim women. The critique also included questions as to why Nike only now acknowledged its Muslim consumers and Nike was even blamed for cashing in on the general atmosphere of equality and modesty.
Nike Takes a Stand
The brand itself however, took a strong stand against the criticism and went on to answer that Nike has always aimed to serve athletes around the world and that this hijab has been in process for a long time. According to Nike, the inspiration behind the idea came from Sarah Attar, the famous Olympian who competed in Olympics 2012 while wearing a hijab and representing Saudi Arabia.
Representatives of the brand took to different media platforms to explain that this hijab is made of lightweight mesh with strategically designed holes, which will allow the hijabis to enjoy its optimal breathability. It was also mentioned in a statement by Nike that the hijab was tested on Nike athletes including Middle Eastern Muslim athletes.
Money Making Tactics
The criticism on social media included comments claiming that Nike was using moneymaking tactics to take advantage of women who are being oppressed. Nonetheless, it remains a fact that Nike’s Islamic headscarf release is the first such step by any major sportswear company. In the current political scenario, hijab has led to assaults against many Muslim women around the world, especially in the US and Europe.
Nevertheless, such assaults have also led to an increase in support for hijab as symbol of equality and diversity, so it is indeed an exemplary act of Nike to rise to the occasion and embrace this symbol. It was also commendable that Nike shared this new development with the world on International Women’s Day.
Muslim women who wear hijabs, and athletes in particular, have shown great appreciation of the product and they’ve also expressed the past struggles of finding a modest sports outfit that meets their needs. So there exists a general perception that steps like these are likely to close the gender gap while promoting a culture of acceptance.
Despite the criticism and backlash, Nike has continued its support for the decision and it also plans to open many new stores across the Middle East. It is definitely something new to see a big brand like Nike to mass market such a product and it surely makes the future seems brighter for Muslims as well as modest fashion followers. Undoubtedly, every man and woman should be free to wear what they want, no matter what their religion.