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Ken, Barbie’s Beau, Turns 60

By Lori Perkins


This year marks the 60th “birthday” of Ken, the glamorous Barbie doll’s rather lack-luster boyfriend. He was introduced to the Mattel toy franchise two years after the buxom fashion doll up-ended the toy industry in 1961, and to celebrate Mattel is releasing a vintage version of this man toy.


Now, I was a young girl when Ken was launched into the world, and I never thought he was good enough for Barbie. Thankfully, I had a younger brother, so my Barbie had a bevy of dates with the overly muscled GI Joe, but her favorite beau during my childhood was Captain Action. This was a man as attached to dress up as she was. He came with masks and boots and could be Batman OR Robin, Superman, the Lone Sanger, even Aquaman. He was by far my Barbie’s fav. I do hope he’s about to get his own anniversary re-issue soon!


Of course, like Barbie, Ken has evolved over the years from the milquetoast blond he once was to a more inclusive New Kids on the Block kind of teen boyfriend. According to the Barbie website, there are currently three Ken body-types on the market at present, with 18 sculpts, 13 skin tones, ten eye colors and 27 hair colors. And, just like Barbie, there’s one in a wheelchair.


Also, just like Barbie, the Ken anniversary re-issue comes in a red bathing suit ($50.00), but they are offering re-issues from every decade (check out the groovy seventies!) for $9.99 (long hair Ken is amusing).


Interesting factoid --Barbie and Ken were named after the children of Mattel founders Elliot and Ruth Handler.my