Degen Pener
June 28, 1996 AT 04:00 AM EDT

As extreme sports go mainstream, they’re spawning a whole new category of clothing: extreme sportswear. From snowboard boots to racing suits, the garb once reserved for competition is now hitting the streets. ”Snowboard boots were the rage this winter. Kids who are never going to the slopes had to have them,” says Joanne DeLuca, a partner in Sputnik, a New York trend consulting firm for companies like Reebok and Pepsi. Meeting the demand are a host of small, mostly California-based companies — like More Core Division, which makes surf gear, and Girly Thing, manufacturer of snowboard wear — that promise in-the-field authenticity. ”These companies are run by 25- to 30-year-olds who are surfing and snowboarding and mountain-biking themselves,” says DeLuca. ”And the small lines are driving the big lines to keep in step.”

Indeed, in the last couple of seasons, Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren, and Tommy Hilfiger have all looked to extreme sports — including freestyle skiing and skateboarding — for ideas, transforming fabrics used by extreme athletes (high-tech nylon, neoprene, and mesh) into high-end clothing. Says Donna Karan, ”They’re real performance wear, not just fashion items.”

Even apart from sports clothes, an extreme attitude is asserting itself in fashion. This summer’s hottest accessory, the airline bag, picks up on sports’ need for speed and runs with it. The rage for clashing colors — witness Urban Decay’s nail polish (with names like Roach and Shattered) and Airwalk’s neon yellow sneakers (made of tennis ball material) — is like a page from the Dennis Rodman stylebook. And from Todd Oldham’s mix-but-don’t-match plaids, F8’s Japanimation shirts, David Dalrymple’s Op Art creations, and Diesel’s computer-grid designs, a summer surge of prints conveys all the super-connected energy of a free fall. ”We just do what we like to wear ourselves,” says Diesel head designer Wilbert Das. ”We have no limits in designing.” In other words, it’s extreme wear for those who are never worn out.

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