Fashion, fitness, and culture continue to collide with the latest groundbreaking design
This past Tuesday marked International Women's Day—and millions of people celebrated in their own personal ways, ranging from small Twitter shout-outs to large-scale intiatiaves. Danish sportswear brand Hummel decided to get in on the #IWD2016 action with a new launch of their own: the first soccer jersey with an integrated hijab, designed specifically for the Afghanistan women's soccer team. It was just two years ago that hijabs, traditional Muslim headcoverings, were first allowed by FIFA onto the pro soccer fields—and by creating a jersey with one integrated into the design, Hummel is breaking sportswear, religious, and cultural boundaries. (Meet Caroline Maher, the taekwondo champ changing how the world views athletes.)
Hummel brought on the former captain of the Afghan soccer team, Khalida Popal, and teamed up with the Afghanistan Football Federation on the jersey's design, making sure it met both functional needs and league standards. (Not to mention a hint of style too.) And Popal was up for the challenge, citing that her primary reason for playing soccer was for gender equality. "Football wasn't only a game for me, it was like a tool to empower women," Popal says.
Working on the jersey's technical aspects and aesthetics gave Popal the chance to give back and help the next generation of female soccer players from her own on-field learnings too. Incorporating the hijab into the baselayer makes it a seamless addition to the jersey—one that feels virtually weightless and has a sleek look akin to the rest of the team's jerseys. "From the outset, it was clear that the shirt was enormously significant," says Hummel designer Paul Fitzgerald. "I asked Khalida to think of something that inspires her about Afghanistan and she told me about the Afghan mountains—that was really my starting point." Likewise, they looked to other Afghan arts and traditions including calligraphy, jewelry, and wood carvings before deciding on the final design.
Check out Fitzgerald, Hummel, and the new jersey in the video below. After watching, I guarantee you'll be inspired to dust off an old soccer ball to kick around today (maybe you'll want to try The USWNT's Endurance Circuit Workout). It's truly amazing to see how sports is being used as a tool to further female equality, don't you think?