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My fondest childhood memories take place on a tennis court or a golf course with my dad. Sports came naturally to me, and the competitive streak runs in the family. And after trying my hand at a melange of athletic activities, I found my true calling when I started playing badminton a few years back. But while I was living in Dubai, a few of my girlfriends insisted I join their women’s badminton team. And for the first time in my life, I hesitated before saying yes.
I had started wearing hijab. Wearing a headscarf has deep-rooted symbolism that goes beyond just covering your hair. It calls for a lifestyle change and stresses the importance of wearing modest attire while behaving in a way that does not attract attention toward your body.
Since this was my first experience playing a sport in hijab, I found myself in a fix. I didn’t know how to dress either appropriately or comfortably to play in a co-ed environment. Not finding much solace in the suggestions out there, I opted for lightweight jersey scarves and paired them with moisture-wicking jackets. Underneath, I wore loose-fitted tracks and a knee-length tailored cotton shirt. However, wearing so many layers made me feel like I was in a hot box just within 10 minutes of a game. Some other challenges that affected my focus were when I had to take a time-out and adjust the scarf, replace pins that fell out of the hijab, or fix any loose hair strands. Yet nothing could deter me, and I kept playing until I snagged two trophies.
The niche for hijab-friendly sportswear has been ignored for a long time, and the culture of co-ed gyms and clubs makes it difficult for Muslim women to engage in physical fitness. Finally, in the last couple of years, quite a few modest activewear brands have sprung up. This means that millions of women can now compete in a sport they love. Here’s (some of) what’s available:
If you’re on the hunt for sports gear with a cool, comfy, and covered-up vibe, the Belgian brand Mumine is a good place to start. The mesh tunic-style top is one of my favorites for a run; it comes with nifty details like non-sheer panels that are slimming, thumb-hole sleeves that don’t ride up, and secret pockets for stashing essentials. For those of you who like to fit exercise into your daily routine, the drylite performance top is a fashionable choice that will get you through your bike ride to work and beyond. And if you’re looking for something cozy while making a statement, the brand offers striking sweatshirts with slogans inspired by Arab pop culture.
Your hijab unraveling during a match can be your worst nightmare. From the Netherlands, Capsters offers colorblocked headscarves that can be worn without any pins, knots, or under-caps to hold the hijab in place. There’s a variety of breathable, stretchable, and lightweight materials to choose from. Named after different sports, the fabric of each hijab is tailored to enhance performance in that arena.
FIFA recently declared Capsters as a safe choice to be worn during football matches. Capsters also supported Indira Kaljo, a Bosnian-American basketball player who was instrumental in overturning the FIBA ban against wearing headgear on the court.
You might have dozens of pairs of sweats in your closet, but finding the perfect one for the sport of your choice can be a hit or miss. The US brand Veil saves you the hassle with its athleisure range that looks effortlessly feminine without sacrificing on style.
Both the Spark half-zip pullover and the Halo running hoodie facilitate a free range of movement and have concealed pockets to stash your essentials. For all those bad hijab days, trust Halo to be your savior as its stay-in-place scuba hood functions as a built-in-hijab.
Stocking roughly 300 brands, the Turkish e-store Modanisa offers something for everyone at ridiculously affordable prices. Keep a lookout for the inspirational slogan tracksuits to make you feel upbeat and put you back in motivational mode, or opt for something fun and functional.
One of my favorites is the Bwest crew-neck tracksuit. Think streetwear with a feminine feel in lightweight polyester fabric, perfectly suited for high-impact sports.
Feel comfortable in your own skin with US brand Asiya’s pull-on hijab collection. You’ll never have to slow down to adjust your headscarf because the brand offers a variety of coverage options that minimize excess fabric, along with built-in headbands.
Asiya also takes orders for custom prints and colors. It recently designed sports hijabs for the Muslim students of Deering High School in Portland, Maine — the first US high school to provide sports hijabs and boost the participation of female Muslim athletes.
Although these brands are not mainstream, they are making great strides in the realm of modest activewear. Meanwhile, big names like Nike are starting to recognize the gap in the market. The brand is releasing its much-awaited Pro Hijab in spring 2018. It is a pullover headpiece made of a lightweight, stretchy mesh polyester that comes in three colors: black, gray, and obsidian.
With a wide range of modest sportswear accessible now, it’s not hard to find something to keep you afloat through different trends or seasons. We no longer have to compromise on fashion, function, or faith.