After 56 years at Barbie’s side, Ken is getting a makeover.
Mattel announced this week that it’s expanding its fleet of Mr. Rights, offering 15 variations of Ken dolls in three body types, seven skin tones, eight hair colors, and nine hairstyles. Like Barbie’s own makeover last year, which busted the mold on her shape, size, and color, Ken will follow suit for a long-overdue transition into the 21st century.
Translated, Ken — not his friends, distant relatives, or neighbors — will look like the men all around us. Doll purchasers can choose to buy Ken with a fade or man bun; a multiracial, Asian, or Latino Ken; a broad-chested, slimmed-down, or “fit” Ken. And just like the Ken of yesterday, he can be a lawyer, a garbage man, a model.
The release of the broadened Ken line coincides with the introduction of 25 additional Barbie dolls that will join more than 100 diverse dolls and looks launched for Barbie’s Fashionistas line since 2015.
Overall, the announcement is in line with Mattel’s larger public commitment to making toys for the modern era — a commitment that’s seen the company shift away from outdated messaging about attractiveness, opportunity, and success. For decades, Barbie was a vision of exceptionalism that seemed to exclude everyone who wasn’t unrealistically attractive, fit, and white (or at least brown with otherwise white features). Now Mattel’s latest makeover is helping the company rebrand 58 years of marketing that largely defined diversity through a range of hair colors.
Of course, “new” Ken will also offer a range of hair colors, but from waist dimensions to eye shape accentuation, the male doll line’s expansion is more than just a dye job. It’s an evolution.
“Evolving Ken was a natural evolution for the brand and allows girls to further personalize the role they want him to play in Barbie’s world,” said Lisa McKnight, senior vice president and general manager for Barbie, in the statement.