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Happy Birthday Ken!
America's favorite Boy Toy Turns 40
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• The Ken Slide Show
• The Barbie Start Page 40th Anniversary Ken Doll
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• Keeping Ken 
Lucy's Jetsetting With Ken
Barbie Boy's Bodacious Birthday Blowout

 

Did you know that Barbie is dating a younger man?  Ken Carson, Barbie's loyal boyfriend for, well, just decades now, turned 40 this week.  This makes Ken two years younger than 42 year old Barbie.  Ken's actual birthday is March 13. Barbie celebrated her 40th birthday on January 21, 1999.

Ken has not had it easy.  He's been referred to as a dork, a dweeb, even a doofus by many, including dedicated Barbie collectors!  However, most Barbie collectors DO have a soft place in their heart for Ken, and, after all, without Ken what would Barbie do with all of those fantastic wedding dresses that the fine designers at Mattel have created for Barbie over the years? 

Ken was introduced to children in 1961.  The 1961 Mattel catalog introduced him this way:

"Here he is...the Boyfriend for Barbie the Teen-Age Fashion Model.  All Barbie fans will want Ken and his smartly-tailored wardrobe of finest quality materials for perfect fit and finish...with miniature accessories...plus a special arm tag identity for the only genuine Ken Doll."

That first year, Ken was available with outfits including pajamas, a tuxedo, a terry robe and a very natty looking letterman sweater outfit called "Campus Hero."  Throughout the years, Ken has been dressed for nearly every occasion.  His hobbies have included skiing, disco, scuba diving, hunting, camping, roller blading, baseball and roller skating.  His careers have been varied as well--Ken has been, well, everything nearly--astronaut, actor, pilot, doctor, cowboy, fountain boy--Ken's even starred in Baywatch! 

In the 1960s, Ken was the boy next door, and his persona and outfits reflected that. First, he came with flocked hair and red swim trunks.  In 1962, he received more practical molded hair (since the flocked hair easily rubbed off or came off totally in water)  and a red and white striped robe.  By 1965, he had bendable legs for the first time (still the same boy-next-door face) and by the end of the 1960s, Ken was "talking."  

In the 1970s, Ken began his journey to "find himself."  First, he became a suntanned sun worshipper (remember Malibu Ken?) and then by the middle of the 70s, became quite the hip guy--"Now Look Ken," produced in 1975, had hair down below his shoulders!   By the end of the 70s, Ken was a bit scarce in toy stores, and he was back to sun tanning (Hawaiian Ken) and shaving (Sport & Shave Ken).

Ken came roaring back in the 1980s, and celebrated the disco era with wild abandon.  The look of some of the mid-1980s Kens can lead even a lover of the fashions of that decade into gales of laughter--after all, "Jewel Secrets Ken" from 1986 wore a light blue silver lame jumpsuit with a striped shirt and an iridescent bow tie and cummerbund!  "Super Star Ken" from 1988 got treated to an all-silver suit with, um, a baby pink bow tie and cummerbund.

By the 1990s, Ken's journey came full circle, and he found his way back to manly outfits (denim and a checked flannel shirt for "Camp Fun Ken" in 1993), and promising careers (now that his wild party days were behind him).  Ken also  got back into sports in a big way 1n the 1990s--Winter Sports Ken had a multi-poseable body and came with his own skis and snowboard (1994).  

For 2001, look for Ken to star as the Nutcracker/Prince in "The Nutcracker" ballet.  And, to celebrate Ken's 40th birthday, Mattel has created a commemorative, tuxedo-clad Ken that comes with a mini-Ken: a tiny replica of the very first doll, wearing a red bathing suit, cork sandals and yellow towel (just as 40th Anniversary Barbie came with a mini replica of the #1 Barbie doll from 1959).  The special Ken will sell for about $40, and will be available nationally in the United States in June.

Want to see more of Ken?  Don't miss the Ken Slide Show, which includes the #1 Ken,  some great images of 1960s Dressed Kens, Ken Hunting, Talking Ken, and Ken's friends Allan and Brad! 

 START THE KEN SLIDE SHOW >>

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Denise Van Patten--your Guide to Dolls
Article, Graphics Copyright © 2001 Denise Van Patten

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