After the initial rejection of a swimmer’s cap made specifically for natural Black and textured hair, Soul Cap has finally received approval. Last year, FINA, the world governing body for aquatic sports banned the use of the caps at the Olympics stating that athletes competing at this level “never used, neither require to use, caps of such size and configuration,” according to The Associated Press.
This report also stated that the caps do not “[follow] the natural form of the head,” which is a rule outlined in FINA’s requirements for approved gear.
Upon the announcement of the ban, conversations began to unfold around inclusivity and the barriers that exist for people of color in the competitive swimming world.
Chair of the Black Swimming Association, Danielle Obe told Sky Sports last year that “by and large, hair is a significant barrier to aquatics for many women especially and many people of color from our communities. So [the Soul Cap] should be considered as a product that overcomes this barrier.”
Fortunately, FINA decided this past week to walk back the product rejection following “a period of “review and discussion on cap design,” alongside Soul Cap creators, Brent Nowicki, executive director at FINA told the U.K.’s Metro.
“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,” he continued.
In a statement to NPR News, British Olympic swimmer and Soul Cap ambassador, Alice Dearing said that the news was exciting. Last year, Dearing made history as the first Black swimmer to represent Great Britain at the Olympic level, and went on to co-found the Black Swimming Association in 2020.
“I know that a lot of people value the option this cap brings them when going swimming,” Dearing shared. “Knowing that it is acceptable to compete in this cap at the highest level of sport sends a message that hair should not be a barrier which stops people from participating.”