Soul-Cap: The Swimwear Brand That Is Championing Inclusivity

SOUL CAP is a UK-based, black-owned brand that is championing inclusivity for swimmers with voluminous hair, through their innovative swimming cap product. In 2020, the Olympic swimmer, Alice Dearing, – became an official brand ambassador.

It all started, because two best friends (Michael Chapman and Toks Ahmed) grew up without learning to swim. In 2017, they joined an adult swimming class to learn together. During these classes, they met a woman with afro hair who was struggling with the tight fit of her swimming cap.

After talking to friends and family, the duo quickly realised that there wasn’t a solution for swimmers with afro hair, locs, braids or any other type of voluminous hair, – so they decided to create their own one: SOUL CAP.

When we were growing up, swimming was never really seen as a Black person’s sport. And this meant that kids weren’t chasing it, parents weren’t encouraging it, and the teachers at school weren’t promoting it,” said Michael Chapman, a Co-Founder of SOUL CAP.

And that’s strange, when you think about it. Learning to swim isn’t just for sport or competition: it’s a life-saving skill. It’s sad to think that there are so many adults out there who don’t feel safe or confident in the water, – all because they’ve been told it’s not for them,” he added.

Founders Michael + Toks

Since 2017, SOUL CAP has sold over 40,000 swim caps to swimmers across the planet, and the brand has been celebrated in Women’s Health and Refinery29 for their great work, – when it comes to challenging diversity in aquatics.

Prior to launching SOUL CAP, Michael studied a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Politics at the University of Leeds, and Toks worked in the City of London. But something more important came along: “The more we learned, the more we started to see a real problem in the health and beauty industry: it was completely overlooking the needs of people with thick, curly, and voluminous hair,” the duo explained.

In 2020, SOUL CAP were delighted to announce their partnership with Alice Dearing, who has just qualified for the Olympic Games in Tokyo next month, – making her the first Black woman ever to swim for Great Britain.

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The partnership has driven conversations through campaigns such as #BlackGirlsDontSwim, – a worldwide drive that is calling out for Black girls and women who have dealt with barriers to the sport (from their struggles with haircare, – to the racial stereotypes they’ve had to encounter) to share their stories.

Growing up, I was blessed to have had so much support as I worked my way up to swimming for Great Britain,” said athlete Alice Dearing. “But I know that swimming as a sport hasn’t always been accessible to people from minority communities. Increasing diversity in the water is a huge passion of mine – and with SOUL CAP, we are breaking those barriers together.

For younger swimmers, feeling included and seeing yourself represented in a sport is crucial. Alice securing her well deserved place at the Olympics is huge,” said Toks Ahmed, a Co-Founder of SOUL CAP. “We are over the moon to see her make history like this.”

SOUL CAP’s advocacy for diversity in aquatics starts from the ground up: they work with grassroots organisations such as Empowered Swimming and TankProof, who provide(s) free swimming education to disadvantaged communities, as well as access to swimwear that fits through SOUL CAP.

The brand is on a mission to make swimming accessible for everyone, making their tagline #SwimForAll a reality through their extended product line, and by driving necessary conversations.

They’re normalising the habit of adults learning to swim, addressing the pressures of poolside body image, exploring the financial accessibility of pools for different communities – and they’re spotlighting the astounding mental health benefits that swimming brings, especially for those with neuro-diverse conditions, such as Autism and ADHD. 

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