The Olympics Banned a Swim Cap for Afro Hair

The governing body behind swimming said that athletes don't need caps of this "size and configuration."

SOUL CAP, a Black-owned company that creates larger swim caps to fit around Afro and other styles of natural hair, won't be making an appearance at the Tokyo 2020 (2021?) Olympics.

According to Metro, FINA (short for Fédération Internationale De Natation, the federation for international competitions in water sports) deemed the "shape and configuration" of SOUL CAP swim caps to be unnecessary.

In a statement, FINA stated that to its "best knowledge, the athletes competing at the International events never used, neither require to use, caps of such size and configuration" and added that the styles were unsuitable for competitions, because they don't "follow the natural form of the head."

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SOUL CAP founders Toks Ahmed and Michael Chapman were understandably disappointed, calling out FINA's "failure to acknowledge the diversity of competitive swimmers." The duo established SOUL CAP in 2017 when they took adult swim lessons and found that they couldn't buy caps to fit over their hair. The brand also partnered with Alice Dearing, the first Black woman to compete in swimming for Great Britain at the Olympic level.

"For younger swimmers, feeling included and seeing yourself in a sport at a young age is crucial," Ahmed told Metro. "'How do we achieve participation and representation in the world of competition swimmers, if the governing body stops suitable swimwear being available to those who are underrepresented?' There's only so much grassroots and small brands can do — we need the top to be receptive to positive change."

On Twitter, the brand noted that they're not considering the decision as a setback, just an opportunity to open the dialogue around inclusion in swimming.

Parliamentarian Dawn Butler tweeted after the decision as well, saying that the news was triggering to her as a child that faced difficulty fitting her hair into standard swim caps.

"This decision has brought back childhood drama. I remember trying really hard to get my hair into a swimming cap when I was younger, it was one of the reasons I didn't like going swimming," she wrote. "There is no way my hair can fit into 'standard' 'normal' cap. Discrimination in plain sight."

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