After its bestselling hijab, a sports brand rolls out modest swimwear that will make more Muslim women feel confident in the water, writes Syida Lizta Amirul Ihsan.
A decade or so ago, one could not have imagined that giant sports brand Nike would be at the forefront of sports inclusivity, specifically making attire for Muslim women athletes.
In fact, when burkini was introduced in 2007 by Muslim Australian Aheda Zanetti, as the swimsuit for Muslim women, there was cheer and backlash in equal measure, the latter coming from a place that doesn’t associate covering up with water sports.
Looking back from 2020, it is clear that viewpoints have changed so much, thanks to vocal millennials and the power of social media, and they are changing fast.
Inclusivity is now a given. And at the swimming pool or the beach, women should not be limited to body-baring swimming gear. You can still cover up – by choice, by religion, or by whatever you believe in – and enjoy your time in the water.
When I received the Nike Victory Swim Tunic Top and Leggings, I was apprehensive at first because both are bulky. They take a lot of space in my vacation suitcase. Can something so heavy be comfortable, I asked myself.
But once I put them on, all is forgiven. They don’t feel heavy on the body and the fabric doesn’t cling on to the skin, something that spandex and lycra don’t do.
True to form, this piece of clever swimwear engineering brings performance innovation to modest swimwear.
I took it to Langkawi for our family holiday and put it to full use. You see, I don’t know how to swim, but I don’t want my son to inherit my lack of lifesaving skill so since he was six months old, I had exposed him to the pool to build his water confidence.
Now at two, he is brave enough to go into the water with just floats on both arms. But that means my husband and I have to be around as he plays in the water, which is why I need a swimsuit.
SOLVING A PROBLEM
Nike says as designers continued learning from athletes across diverse communities, they saw a striking gap in apparel for water sports – specifically, a lack of options for female athletes who don’t want to choose between modesty and movement with comfort and confidence.
Existing products were lacking in either coverage or functionality, these athletes shared, leaving them feeling weighed down by baggy garments, battling drag instead of striving toward personal bests or worrying about whether their hijab would remain in place.
Too often, these women athletes said, swimwear presented a barrier, rather than a means to enjoy the water.
WHY I LOVE IT
The tunic top is loose and doesn’t display the wearer’s figure, thanks to the flare below the chest. It ends at the thigh so the shape of your bum isn’t seen when you get out of water.
There are so many best parts about this pair. One of it is the hijab doesn’t move even as your head goes in and out of water. It gives confidence to my movement. I know it won’t roll back to reveal my hair.
Then, you have the arm and leg cuff that’s pretty much like tights so even if the sleeves roll up, your skin won’t show. This small detail is the product of clever and thoughtful design, and users will appreciate that.
When you get out of water, the water-resistant fabric dries off almost instantly, without clinging on to your skin and exposing your figure.
I don’t know if this can help athletes break swimming records, given that aerodynamics play a very important role in speed during swimming competitions, but the Nike Victory Swim line will definitely allow more Muslim women, or those who want to be fully covered, to enjoy their time at the beach or at the pool without being bodily conscious.
Instead, the ensemble gives them the confidence that they are covered without looking frumpy.
Nike Victory Swim drops tomorrow (Feb 1, 2020) at www.nike.com/my and its stores.
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