Nike is now selling its first-ever performance hijab for Muslim female athletes.
On its U.S. shopping website, Nike says the Nike Pro Hijab is made with lightweight, breathable fabric "that wicks away sweat, and stays tucked in during any workout or competition."
"The pull-on design and long back keeps the Hijab in place, while mesh fabric provides a breathable, personalized fit," Nike said. It features tiny, strategically placed holes for "optimal breathability" but is otherwise opaque.
The hijab sells for $35 and is available in black in sizes from extra-small to large.
While most Muslim women wear the hijab for religious reasons as an expression of modesty, other Arab or Muslim women choose to wear it to express cultural identity.
“It’s not just about making a product available for Muslim and Arab women, but it is also giving a chance to those women who are putting off the idea of wearing the veil completely in order to compete,” Manal Rostom told Al Arabiya English earlier this year.
Nike said it has been developing the garment for a year, drawing upon the experiences and recommendations of such athletes as Emirati figure skater Zahra Lari, Egyptian runner and mountaineer Manai Rostom, and Emirati weightlifter Olympica Amna Al Haddad, who have wear-tested the garments since early 2016.
In 2012, two Saudi runners competed in hijab at the Olympic Games in London. One of them, sprinter Sarah Attar, also completed at the Games in Rio, in a uniform designed by Oiselle, an Oregon-based company, according to The Guardian.
Nike noted that the new design was aimed at addressing both the cultural requirements of the garment and the particular styles of each Muslim country.
Nike also said that fewer than one in seven girls participates in locally recommended sports activities for an hour or more in Middle Eastern countries and said it hopes to inspire more women and girls there "who still face barriers and limited access to sport."
In initially unveiling its plan to offer a performance hijab, Nike launched Middle East video campaign “What Will They Say About You,” which was touted for featuring Muslim women athletes such as Lari, Tunisian fencer Inès Boubakri and Jordanian boxer Arifa Bseiso. But many on social media and in the Arab world criticized it for, among other things, portraying Arab women’s lives unrealistically and patronizing athletes by suggesting Nike empowered them.
“It means the world to have the leading sport brand in the world come up with a product like this,” Rostom said. “It’s not just speaking to athletes, but speaking to the whole word that Nike supports all athletes to literally go out there and Just Do It.”
Contributing: Aysha Khan, Religion News Service