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Mattel tries to break the mold with new, diverse Ken dolls

Photo: Barbie/Mattel

Over the last 50-odd years, Barbie has changed jobs as regularly as her clothes, had a rotating lineup of friends and family, and, recently, even taken on a whole new shape. Her ever-present partner, Ken, has also evolved along the way, though not in nearly as many iterations. Well, Mattel is setting that great injustice aright—Ken is getting an extensive makeover as part of the new Fashionistas line. These so-called New Crew dolls sport a variety of clothes (naturally), hairstyles (yeah, okay), and even skin tones (an expanded selection), which Mattel has developed in a bid to more accurately represent the multicultural world in which we live and it markets its products.

Though the Fashionistas line includes several new Barbies, the Ken dolls were the ones highlighted on Good Morning America earlier today because for the first time, that old plastic figure is available in three different body types: original, broad, and slim. They’re intended to complement the new Barbie types: petite, tall, and curvy. All those descriptors are pretty flat, but Mattel’s also launched new ’dos and skin tones to demonstrate just how far they’ve come from the beach-lounging, free-loving hardbody of yesteryear. The toy company hasn’t assigned any race or ethnicity to the new dolls, preferring to let kids just pick a doll that looks more like them or the human Kens in their lives. To fully reflect the wide range of dudes out there, the new Fashionista Kens are outfitted with Buddy Holly glasses, jorts, and yes, a man bun. There are also Kens who love the outdoors, or at least dressed in plaid to suggest they love being out of doors—or maybe they’re just dressed to attend Pitchfork.


GQ actually has a fascinating read on the development of this new toy line, including the debate over “broad” and “husky,” hair fibers versus a mold, and the decades of personal history and feelings that have been projected onto the doll since its debut.

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