Nike: The Sports Giant Supporting Female Power
Since the 1970’s Nike, named after the Greek Goddess of victory, has been empowering women by creating durable sneakers for strong, powerful women to wear whilst they conquer the world.
Nike has always striven to empower women via collaborations with female athletes to convey the strength that all women have, and the feats that they can achieve when that power is tapped into.
The quote used in Mia Hamm’s campaign in the late 90’s, exemplifies Nike’s focus on the empowerment of women:
‘There is a girl being born in America. Someone will give her a doll. Someone will give her a ball. And someone will give her a chance.’
From partnering with The International Runners Committee in 1979, to naming a shoe after the incredible basketball player Sheryl Swoop, the second athlete of any gender to have a shoe named after them (the first being Michael Jordan), Nike, has always striven to pave a space for women within the space of sport and athletics. In 1999, Nike’s sponsorship of the U.S Women’s World Cup soccer team helped to launch female athletes into popular culture.
This year, Nike released an advert where Middle Eastern women skated, punched, ran and parkoured their way through stereotypes. The ad commences with the patriarchally fuelled question: ‘What will people say about you?’ accompanied by a voiceover in Arabic. The advert features a number of Middle Eastern athletes, including Zahra Lari, a figure skater from UAE, Amal Murad, a parkour athlete and Arifa Bseiso, a Jordanese boxer. Throughout the video, onlookers stare at the women disapprovingly, but they continue their activities without a care. The video ends with a girl stepping out into a skating rink, with the accompanying phrase: ‘maybe they will say you are the next big thing’. Nike, in this instance, is attempting to break down socio-cultural barriers within women that have been suppressed by patriarchal inequality.
They encourage women to do what they want when they want.
As of late, they’ve upped the ante by collaborating with women outside of the athletic field, such as International Girls Crew – a sextet of women from different backgrounds, with different careers, from different cities that come together to form a powerful myriad of feminine energy. The group includes WAH Nails founder Sharmadean Reid, Model and Pat Mcgrath muse Paloma Elsesser, stylist Camille Garmendia, filmmaker Grace Ladoja, nail artist Madeline Poole, and writer Phoebe Lovatt. Together they are IGC, joint at the hip by ambition to be the best within their distinct career fields, love of travelling and sisterhood.
Their creative collaboration with Nike rebirthed the Cortez trainer in a three colour palette option: a bright London style that has a reddish-orange base with a light pink stripe on the heel; the New York model which has a white base with yellow with royal blue accents and a yellow stripe on the heel; and the Los Angeles hero model has a sage green nylon base offset with white accents.
Sneaker culture isn’t thought to be mutually inclusive with women. Growing up, I always thought of sneakers in association to hipster-like males that had an entire collection, each worn with a combination of Hypebeast brands. Nike, through collaborations with celebrities with FKA Twigs and powerful women on social media like IGC, is trying to change that. Women are inspired by campaigns like these to seek more of themselves, outside of the traditional designated role, to be stronger, more aware of their chances and the power they hold to pave the way for themselves and others. I, personally, pair Nike sneakers with dresses and skirts giving free flow to the combined forces of the feminine and sportive; two elements that work great together! Although, I didn’t always think so. Through the collabs and focus on athletisure for women, Nike does away with the substandard sexualisation and demotion of women within the sportswear industry. It validates the power and voice of women in sports, as well as on the streets.
By Nailah Dossa, @reinha.n