From early-morning gym sessions or school days, most are familiar with the hair-snaring plastic tyranny of the swimming cap. No matter how careful, gentle or practised, you will always painfully extract a few hundred follicles while either putting the thing on or pulling it off. If you can identify, spare a thought for African women – and some men – whose experience is magnified by 100.
Not even in Africa are swimming caps created for African hairstyles; instead the material is damaging to the hair shaft and the design is not nearly big enough to fit and protect braids, dreadlocks, weaves or natural afros – well, they weren’t until now. Capetonian Nomvuyo Treffers has two young daughters, whom she refers to as “water babies”. While they jumped into the water at any opportunity, Nomvuyo would only keep an eye on her girls from the dry side-lines, knowing that joining them (even wearing a mainstream swimming cap) would mean socked hair and hours of blow-drying or a trip to the salon.
Of, course she searched for a product that would fit her hairstyle, but found nothing of the sort on the continent. The ones she did find came with hefty dollar or euro price tags, and that wasn’t even counting the delivery fee. Eventually, in the name of mother-daughter bonding, the trained photographer cut off her beloved locks – but she hadn’t given up. Nomvuyo wondered how, in a country like South Africa with its demographics, could a suitable swimming cap range for African hair not exist. This was an obvious gap in the market and soon the internet-based Swimma Cap was born.
Swimma Cap products are everything those with big hair could want in swimming caps: made with thick silicone, they prevent damage to natural hair while maintaining up-dos that would be ruined by water. The caps are also larger than average, accommodating high-volume hairstyles. Customer feedback proves that such a product is long overdue in Africa, coming at a time when – as Nomvuyo herself notes – we’re seeing a prouder attitude towards black African hair. TRUE Africa also pointed out - when interviewing the entrepreneur - that Swimma Cap’s success goes beyond providing a quality product; it’s also about inclusion.
Throughout the world, people of colour are demanding representation, not only in politics and entertainment, but also in everyday life. The consequence is an increase in products that match the needs of Africans and people of African descent – band aids and dolls, for example. Currently, Nomvuyo is providing caps to school children in Cape Town and Johannesburg, but Swimma Caps is more than just a business to her; it’s a practical way to set an example to her daughters who have watched her build a business from the ground up.
“I hope that they take the lesson that one does not have to accept things as they are, and should question the status quo and know that they can change the game,” she says.