When in the presence of adult males outside of their immediate family, Islamic law dictates that all Muslim women must wear a hijab, a veil that covers the wearer’s entire head and upper chest, revealing only the front of the face. For Muslim female athletes, attempting to wear a traditional hijab during strenuous sporting competition can become a restrictive and frustrating process. In 2016, fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad became the first American to participate in an Olympic event while wearing a hijab, sparking a dialogue that led activewear giant Nike to develop of a high-performance version of the veil. During the conceptual stages, Nike sought input from multiple Muslim female athletes, including United Arab Emirates weightlifter Amna Al Haddad and figure skater Zahra Lari, who said the prototype made her “thrilled and a bit emotional”. Lari continued, “I’ve tried so many different hijabs for performance…so few actually work, but I took it for a spin on the ice and was blown away by the fit and light weight.” The “Nike Pro Hijab”, set for a 2018 release, will include tiny holes for breathability, and a gently fitted, stretch facial opening to ensure the athlete’s vision doesn’t become obstructed during competition.
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