A swimming cap designed specially for use with afro, curly, and thicker hair has been approved by swimming's governing body, following a ban at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
FINA announced their official approval of an inclusive swimming cap range as part of their drive for diversity and accessibility in the sport. Soul Cap was initially rejected for competitive use at all levels by FINA last year, leading to a public conversation about diversity in the world of swimming.
The lack of appropriate swimwear has proved to be an obstacle for swimmers from some communities, and often leads to people giving up or avoiding the sport entirely. Conventional swimming caps and their smaller designs are typically made for swimmers with shorter or thinner hair types, which makes it difficult for swimmers with braids, locs, and afro hair to find the right fit and protect their hair from the damage caused by water and chlorine.
“We’re so grateful to everyone who showed support and was part of creating this major change."
Brent Nowicki, executive director at FINA said, “This 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.”
Founded in 2017, inclusive swimwear brand Soul Cap is a Black-owned business that has helped over 120,000 swimmers find their fit. The company has spent the last few years campaigning for greater accessibility in swimming, with an emphasis on swim education and encouraging under-represented communities to learn and compete.
“This result plays a huge part in our wider mission to improve inclusion in the sport,” said Toks Ahmed, co-founder of Soul Cap. “We’re so grateful to everyone who showed support and was part of creating this major change.
"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.”
In the lead-up to the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, Soul Cap applied for their inclusive swimming cap sizes to be approved for competitive use, which would have affected not only future Olympians, but competitive swimmers at every level. Unfortunately, that application was rejected.
“Our hope from the approval is to keep seeing more people of all ages and abilities feeling comfortable and confident in the water,” said Michael Chapman, co-founder of Soul Cap. “Whether that leads to competition swimming or casual swims, it’s about having the choice and knowing there’s space for you.”