After introducing a new batch of Barbie dolls last year, Mattel is rebooting the Ken doll. And the most surprising version of the new male counterparts to Barbie is the one with a man bun.
Other new versions of Ken dolls include the “slim” and the “broad” variety. New hairstyles include the previously mentioned man bun — as well as cornrows. There are also six skin tones available for these dolls.
The reboot of the original female Barbie dolls included versions that were petite, curvy and tall; the new entries were credited with helping to boost Mattel’s Barbie division sales by 7 percent over the previous year.
It’s hard to tell if a reboot of Ken dolls was very much in demand — especially ones with an on-trend hairstyle that will likely be on its way out very soon. Yet many feel this was a natural progression for Mattel.
“I’m not going to say it’s a game-changer, but is it a piece of the puzzle? Yes … The play pattern is that for every six to eight Barbies [a child] has, they generally have one Ken,” said Jim Silver, chief executive and editor in chief of the toy review website TTPM.com to the Los Angeles Times. “So if you have a Ken [that] kids aren’t interested in, that could affect sales. What’s happening needed to be done. They needed to do this. It’s the next step.”
The “broad” Ken has a larger belly and midsection, which has some comparing it to the once-trending “dad-bod,” while the “slim” Ken is petite in both the wrists and midsection.
As for the hairstyles and accessories portion of the rebooted dolls, Mattel wants to expand even further in the future.
“We want to do beards,” said Robert Best, senior director of Barbie Design, to the LA Times. “Facial hair is definitely a thing. There’s going to be changes that we keep pushing, but you have to launch with something. It’s progress, not perfection.”
Gaining the most attention on social media is unsurprisingly the man-bun doll, which is not the first time Mattel has attached itself to a fading trend. In the ’90s, one Ken doll wore an earring.
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New skin tones and body types are no doubt understandable on the part of Mattel — but a man bun? Is that really what the new Barbies are looking for in a partner or pal? Poor saps attaching themselves to a sad and temporary trend in search of some sort of identity?
Maybe the next Ken dolls can wear beanie hats when it’s 90 degrees out and sport skinny jeans, too — because, you know, progress.