Nike unveiled its first hijab for Muslim female athletes this week after more than a year in development with plans to begin selling the head covering in early 2018.
The Pro Hijab, which is expected to cost $35, was developed with input from athletes, the company said, as well as community advocates to ensure its design was sensitive to cultural requirements.
“We created the Nike Pro Hijab directly from our athletes’ insights and feedback, and using Nike’s existing product innovation pipeline,” Matthew Kneller, director of Nike North America Communications, told NBC News in an email.
Amna Al Haddad, a weight lifter from the United Arab Emirates, was one of the athletes who provided input, telling Nike that the weight of a traditional hijab, its lack of breathability, and the possibility of the garment shifting detracted from her focus, the company said.
Made with polyester, the Nike Pro Hijab includes small holes that are placed for ventilation, while the stretchy fabric allows it to conform to the athlete's head. The hijab also has an elongated back to prevent it from becoming untucked.
Nike also worked with figure skater Zahra Lari from the United Arab Emirates and Egyptian runner Manal Rostom, who both wore and tested the hijab.
“This product is about allowing more females to access the best apparel innovations and to serve more athletes needs around the world,” Kneller said.
Sport hijabs and modest garments are not new in sportswear, with many companies around the globe — including Anah Maria Active in the United Kingdom, Nashata in Malaysia, Gerak Plus in Indonesia, and Veil Garments in the U.S. — catering to the market.
ASIYA, a U.S.-based modest sportswear company, welcomed the announcement of the Nike Pro Hijab, saying that Nike's leadership could encourage more Muslim girls and women to play sports.
“We know that participation in sports help develop important interpersonal, teamwork, and leadership skills that set girls up for success — so we are happy to hear that Nike is planning to launch sports hijabs,” Jamie Glover, co-founder of ASIYA, told NBC News in an email. “We hope that their leadership will not only help more Muslim girls and women feel encouraged and supported in the world of sports, but could also help drive some much-needed regulation changes in certain sports leagues where hijabs are currently banned.”
The new product comes as global Muslim purchasing power has seen an increase throughout the last few years. In 2014, Muslims spent $230 billion on clothing, according to a report by Thomson Reuters. By 2020, that amount is projected to grow to $327 billion.
Last year, Dolce & Gabbana revealed a line of high-end hijabs and abayas targeting the Muslim luxury and fashion market.
“Although we can’t neglect that there are definitely consumerist agendas behind the line, that doesn’t undercut the fact that Nike is catering to a niche market (modest fashion) within a niche market (modest sportswear) creating positive representation and inclusivity of minority groups,” Hassanah El-Yacoubi, a modest fashion and lifestyle blogger, told NBC News in an email.
She called the hijabs a “game changer” for world-class Muslim athletes, everyday Muslim women who want to be comfortable and stylish at the gym, and possibly women of other faiths who adhere to head coverings.
“I also hope they add a line of modest sports tops that are befitting for Muslim women because that’s just as difficult to find as a proper head scarf is,” Yacoubi said.