Nikka Pokka: The Functional and Safe Workwear of Steeplejacks
Have you even seen workers at construction sites in Japan wearing this kind of baggy workwear? They’re called “nikka pokka,” and they’re an absolute must for people working in construction and carpentry. Let’s take a brief look at the history and characteristics of this distinct style of functional work fashion.
The History of Nikko Pokka
Properly called nikkabokkāzu (“knickerbockers” in Japanese) and originally modeled on a type of loose-fitting trousers worn by Dutch children, these pants extend a little past the knee and are rolled up at the hem. When they first came to Japan, they were used primarily in the military and for sports (e.g., equestrianism, golf, mountain climbing, etc.) owing to the ease of movement that comes when wearing them. They grew baggier and baggier until they took on the uniquely-Japanese form they have today and are primarily used by workers of engineering and construction projects. This style of trouser has also gotten attention lately from the world of fashion.
Why Nikka Pokka Are Worn
1. Easier Footwork
For steeplejacks who do their job on scaffolding at incredible heights, ease of footwork is a must. Nikka pokka are ideal in these circumstances, as they make it easier to plant your feet, arch your legs, stretch, bend, and even squat.
2. Extended Danger “Sensors” for Better Risk Avoidance
The fabric bulges on the legs of these trousers act as a sort of extension of your sense of touch, allowing you to feel things a little earlier and avoid danger that much more readily. Additionally, for workers doing welding work, even if a red-hot flake of iron falls onto the nikka pokka, it can prevent the hot iron from touching the skin and thus prevent burns.
3. Easier to Keep Balance
At first glance, these baggy trousers would seem to be terrible for stability, but they actually work similarly to the balance pole used by tightrope-walkers, helping workers keep their balance while working at heights. Also, if the wind picks up, they’ll again act as a sort of early-warning system, alerting the wearer to get to safety.
Nikka Pokka with Tabi
When combining nikka pokka with tabi footwear, a worker’s movement and balance become even more flexible and secure. Actually, the combination of the two together are also seen on ninja from the waist down.
Especially for men’s fashion, there’s definitely stylistic virtue in having the cool maturity of a set of nikka pokka in your closet.