As a hijabi who owns more scarves than shirts and pants altogether, I would say I've got a knack for collecting scarves. My favorite hotspots include the sales rack at Kohl's in autumn, the spring accessories corner in Stein Mart and the occasional out-of-season lucky strike hanging by the handbags aisle at Target. Scarves are everywhere, and you'd think it'd be a hijabi's dream come true to find so many — except, I usually can't wear any of them.
Those scarves aren't made for Muslim girls like me in mind.
They're beautifully designed on short strips of sheer, patterned that also happens to be frustratingly slippery, so getting them to cover my hair takes a lot more manpower than a hijab cap and pins can offer. Besides those scarves, there aren't many options I can turn to for hijabs, except a couple plain fall-winter scarves made of viscose, cotton and certain polyester blends, which can get irritatingly hot mid-summer. So, I take what I can get, sigh and move on. My pipe dream dissipates in the face of the clear, harsh truth: Muslim girls and hijabs are just not seen as marketable, so most stores don't care to cater to us. We have to make do with whatever's left over from what the majority population prefers to wear. What I can buy, what I can wear and the very cloth I can express my individuality with — all of it is suppressed by an industry that couldn't care less about my existence.
Then this summer, something changed.
American Eagle (AE) debuted their first-ever hijab made specifically for Muslim women! No other prominent clothing retailers in the U.S. have ever marketed modest-style clothes for the 3.3 million Muslims living here, let alone thought to manufacture headscarves for Muslim women who cover. The fact that a major brand name store not only thought to cater to our demographic but to flaunt that openly in the day and age of Trumpatania is something I find absolutely awe-inspiring.
And better yet?
They hired a real Muslimah model to be the face of this new line, and honestly, they could not have picked a more talented, beautiful young lady than Halima Aden. Instead of falling in line with the media that twists the connotation of terrorist and Muslim to seem as though they're two sides of the same coin, AE stepped up and threw the spotlight on us, showing Muslims in a friendly, positive, normal setting rather than on the news in some foreign land an ocean away. Their creation of an original headscarf and collaboration with a hijabi to promote has set American Eagle apart from every other brand. AE did something unique that all other American brands have failed to do: they showed everyone, who we are and what we represent through our own people and through our own eyes — not how we are seen by others who are befuddled by the negative perceptions they've been fed for so long.
They didn't think, hmm, what can we do to make our company seem inclusive? Instead, they asked Muslim women: what can we do for you? What is it that you need that we can help provide? This speaks volumes about their values as a company and their view of us Muslims.
Seriously, hats off to you American Eagle. Hijabs stay on, but hats off to you.
If you haven't seen this ingenious denim style yet (who knew denim could be made malleable), check out the cloth below!
Many people on Twitter are celebrating AE's public recognition of Muslim women as ordinary, average Americans. This is only the beginning, but even this small show of inclusion that hijabis exist, matter and are here to stay is a heartening gesture. I applaud American Eagle for taking this step forwards in promoting and accepting the diverse America that exists today.
It's also a brilliantly played marketing move on American Eagle's part and so far, the ads and promo have been incredibly thoughtful. Famous brands like Nike are now taking a page from AE's book by designing the Nike Pro Hijab to debut in spring 2018. Brands with international strongholds like DKNY and Spain's Mango have also turned their sights on marketing to the growing generation of Muslim millennials around the world by releasing their fashion collections prior to the holy month of Ramadan.
As a Muslim millennial myself, I'm looking forward to the new fashion and clothing standards this will bring to U.S. retailers and the world. The generation after us may grow up in a world where you can purchase hijabs at your local Walmart, but we older generations will never forget the struggle of perusing foreign online retailers for deals and waiting for spring scarves season in the States to grab whatever's available. It was fun, and while it certainly hasn't come to an end at the drop of a hat, I'm already looking forward to the better days ahead.