A swimming cap designed to protect the natural hair of athletes has finally gained approval by the International Swimming Federation (FINA). The competitive sport’s governing body initially rejected the use of the SOUL CAP head covering during the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.
The cap, which is designed by a Black-owned company, caters to thick, curly, braided, and textured hair types. “Our design was unconventional. And back then, there just wasn’t enough awareness about the challenges faced by swimmers from some backgrounds,” said the company in a statement posted to their website.
On Thursday (Sept. 1), FINA Executive Director Brent Nowicki said the announcement “follows a period of review and discussion on cap design between FINA and SOUL CAP over the past year. Promoting diversity and inclusivity is at the heart of FINA’s work, and it is very important that all aquatic athletes have access to the appropriate swimwear.”
Traditional caps follow the natural design of the human head, but Soul Cap’s designs is larger and more accommodating for those who do not have thinner hair types. A year ago, FINA described the caps as unsuitable for competition because of the untraditional design. They also said to their “best knowledge, the athletes competing at the international events never used, neither require to use, caps of such size and configuration.”
Since then, there has been more discourse about the need for improved inclusivity in competitive swimming. “We’re so grateful to everyone who showed support and was part of creating this major change,” said SOUL CAP co-founder Toks Ahmed to The Metro UK. He added, “As a new father and someone who didn’t learn to swim growing up, creating access for the next generation feels even more close to home. We’ve seen what community and collective energy can achieve, so we’re hopeful to keep knocking down more of these barriers.”