13 July 2023

Fascinating facts about Barbie & Ken you never knew

13 July 2023

Barbie and Ken have been staples in children's toy boxes for more than six decades. These iconic dolls, created by the American company Mattel, are more than just playthings. They also reflect societal shifts and contemporary fashion trends, embodying a rich history worth delving into. Here, we explore some fascinating aspects of Barbie and Ken that capture their enduring appeal and intriguing history.

First, let's start with the world-famous Barbie. Created in 1959 by Ruth Handler, co-founder of Mattel, Barbie has undergone numerous transformations, mirroring societal changes and changing beauty standards. The name 'Barbie' isn't just a fictional moniker; Ruth named the doll after her daughter, Barbara, effectively giving it a personal touch.

Contrary to common perception, Barbie dolls weren't always as diverse as they are today. In fact, the first African-American Barbie didn't appear until 1980, a clear reflection of the racial inequalities of the time. Today, Barbie's representation has become more inclusive, featuring diverse dolls of different body sizes, abilities, and more than 20 skin tones, mirroring the cultural evolution towards inclusion and diversity.

A little-known fact is that Barbie has had more than 200 professions since her inception, from being an astronaut in the 1960s during the space race, to becoming a presidential candidate in 1992. This myriad of careers was a deliberate attempt to break gender stereotypes and inspire young girls that they can be anything they want to be.

Ken, fashion doll Barbie's long-term companion

(Video Elephant)

Shifting our focus to the ever-charming Ken, you'd be surprised that he was named after Ruth's son, 'Kenneth,' just like his female counterpart. Since his debut in 1961, Ken has been a constant companion to Barbie.

Interestingly, while Barbie has been a pioneer in her various fields of work, Ken didn't land a job until 1985 when he was introduced as a "Pizza Hut Server." However, one of his most interesting professions to date was serving as a Wildlife Park Ranger.

Ken also went through a significant transformation in recent years. In 2021, Mattel introduced a more inclusive Ken range featuring diverse body types and hairstyles, including the company's first bald Ken. This was a big stride in promoting body positivity and inclusivity in children’s toys, breaking away from the conventional good-looking, athletic stereotype.

Together, Barbie and Ken have evolved to represent different aspects of real life and societal issues, making them more than just toys. They represent shifts in norms, values, and aesthetics.

As we move forward, the evolution of Barbie and Ken isn't likely to halt anytime soon. No longer just glamour symbols, these iconic figures stand as role models for diversity, inclusivity, and ambition, underscoring the concept that beauty lies in our differences and that anybody can achieve anything they set their minds to.

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