Remember in 2009 when Abercrombie & Fitch got sued for discrimination because it refused to hire a young Muslim woman named Samantha Elauf based on the fact that she wore a hijab? The argument the retailer made was that the garment didn't fit the "look" the company wanted to communicate through its employees. That hijabs are religiously and politically charged, the brand implied somewhat unconvincingly, was beside the point.
While Abercrombie eventually lost the case in 2015, the fact that Elauf had to take her complaints all the way to the Supreme Court (and wait six years after the lawsuit was initially filed) to see her victory said something about how hijabs — and the almost exclusively Muslim women who wear them — were seen in fashion and broader American society at that time.
It's this backdrop that makes a new offering from American Eagle, a brand so often mentioned in the same breath as Abercrombie, especially worth noting: American Eagle is currently selling a denim hijab on its site.
Muslim model Halima Aden shared an image of the hijab on her Instagram, captioning it "a DENIM hijab" adding the clapping-hands emoji. For Aden fans who had seen her featured in the brand's latest campaign, the post confirmed that the denim hijab Aden wears in the ads wasn't made just to accommodate her — it's actually for sale through American Eagle's website for anyone who wants to buy it.
It might seem like a small thing, but for many Muslim American women who have felt sidelined by mainstream Western fashion, seeing a mass retailer offer garments directly (and exclusively) — at an accessible price point of $19.95 — aimed at them may feel significant.
As Aden herself said in an editorial earlier this year, "every little girl deserves to see a role model that's dressed like her, resembles her or even has the same characteristics as her."
To see that reflected in a brand that's built its image on being quintessentially American signifies a welcome shift. After all, what could be more American than the freedom to worship — and dress — according to your convictions?