The Soul Cap, which is designed specifically for natural Black hair, was officially approved by the International Swimming Federation, FINA, on Friday.
FINA executive director Brent Nowicki said approval of the swimming cap followed "a period of review and discussion on cap design between FINA and Soul Cap over the past year," he told the U.K.'s Metro.
Soul Cap said in a release on its website:
"For a long time, conventional swim caps have been an obstacle for swimmers with thick, curly, or volume-blessed hair. They can’t always find a cap that fits their hair type, and that often means that swimmers from some backgrounds end up avoiding competitions, or giving up the sport entirely.
"We want to see swimming become an accessible sport, with equipment and swimwear that lets anyone get involved and see success.
"And this new approval by FINA is a huge step in the right direction–bringing inclusive swimwear into competitive swimming, and helping to bring down some of the obstacles that are keeping swimmers away from the sport."
At last year's Olympics, using the Soul Cap was not allowed by FINA. The worldwide governing body for competitive swimming said that there was no reason for the cap's use because swimmers "never used, neither require to use, caps of such size and configuration," per the Associated Press.
FINA also said that the Soul Cap didn't "[follow] the natural form of the head," a rule that is outlined in the organization's swimwear requirements.
In an interview with Sky Sports last year, Danielle Obe, chair of the Black Swimming Association, said that hair "is a significant barrier to aquatics for—women especially—many people of colour from our communities" and that the Soul Cap should be approved to help "overcome" that barrier.
The Soul Cap's approval is a major step in the right direction, and one that will encourage people from all backgrounds to consider taking up competitive swimming. We should now be seeing its use at the next Olympics and other competitive events.