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A hijab and real students: A round of applause for Gap’s beautiful, inclusive back-to-school ads

Gap's “Gap to School” campaign features a girl wearing a hijab alongside a multiethnic group of students. (Stefano Azario/Gap)
Gap's “Gap to School” campaign features a girl wearing a hijab alongside a multiethnic group of students. (Stefano Azario/Gap)

Props to Gap for creating back-to-school ads that actually look like America’s schools.

The brand’s newly released “Gap to School” campaign features a smiling girl wearing a hijab alongside a multiethnic group of youngsters looking adorable and school-ready in their denim.

The excitement is palpable.

Hamdia Ahmed, the first Miss Maine pageant contestant to wear a hijab, tweeted, “Back to school ad for Gap.!! This makes me so happy OMG!”

The images we encounter – in advertisements and entertainment, on billboards and buses, on screens and glossy pages – reflect what we hold dear. It only makes sense that all children should see themselves in those images.

A Gap spokeswoman told me recently the ads are being distributed in “select markets.”

Saadia Siddique, a friend of mine who works as an immigration attorney in Chicago, said a Gap flyer arrived at her house over the weekend to much fanfare.

“Aizah literally gasped when she saw this,” Siddique said of her 11-year-old daughter. “She attends Saturday Islamic school and often wears a hijab to school there. It’s nice to know she can see this and feel ‘normal’ and ‘mainstream’ about wearing it outside of just the Islamic school context if she ever chose to do so.”

Siddique has an 8-year-old daughter as well.

“My younger daughter saw it and said, ‘Oh back to school is 40 percent off.’ ”

(Also an important observation!)

In 2017, Mattel introduced a hijab-wearing Barbie modeled after American fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, but images of girls and young women wearing the Muslim head covering remain rare. Hopefully the Gap campaign is a sign that’s changing.

“You have nooooo idea how important this is!” a woman who goes by Aroosha tweeted about the ads. “We love representation of older hijabi women but this!!!!! i rmbr feeling so weird & out of place being a young girl wearing the hijab and for a young girl seeing this is soooooo heartwarming and re-affirming.”

One of my favorite parts? The kids featured in the campaign are students from a public school in New York’s Harlem neighborhood, according to a Gap spokeswoman.

More of this please, clothing companies.


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