Back when we were kids, there was basically just one option when it came to picking out a boyfriend for your Barbie: He was tall, blonde, and uber-tan. He also had a six pack to die for.
Yes, I’m talking about Ken.
Over the years, Mattel has certainly made an effort to diversify its doll collection, but when it came to the dudes … well, there just hasn’t been much variety. Until now, that is. For just $9.99 you can now buy any one of the 15 high stylin’ new Ken dolls the toymaker offers — or heck, buy them all why don’t you. The diverse new line features male dolls in three different body types — slim, broad, and original — with varying personal styles. There’s even one doll with a MAN BUN, people! Yes, a man bun, because this is 2017 and Barbie needs her man to get with the times already.
But here’s the best part about the Ken Fashionista collection: It features not just one, but seven different skin colors, making this a huge win in the push for representation in toys.
Mattel’s site offers some rather unique descriptions for each guy — like “Plaid on Point,” “Chill in Check,” and “Classic Coo” — making it easy to see the millennial hipster inspiration behind Ken’s big makeover. And the hair styles no longer say “plastic helmet,” either. In addition to man buns, the dolls also sport cornrows and what can only be described as preppy chic coifs.
As a mother to three kids myself, I’m actually pretty dang psyched to see real body types and diverse styles being reflected in one of our most classic children’s toys. In fact, when I showed these new Ken dolls to my oldest son, who is 7 (though he was quick to say, “Mom, I’m 7 and three-quarters, make sure you tell them that!”), his response was fantastic. “You know, that one looks like my friend Marco and that one looks like me!” he exclaimed.
Teaching diversity is one thing, and we can say all the right things all the live long day. But actively living what we preach — that all men and women are equal and should be treated as such — becomes much easier when we give our kids the tools they need to see the world from multiple perspectives. And isn’t that the best way to teach diversity; to show kids, rather than tell them, that differences are when make people so special?
I’ll admit, for many years I swore up and down that my kids would never have Barbie dolls, because the white, blonde, super-skinny Barbies I once played with represented unrealistic beauty standards that belonged in the past. But nowadays? I can totally get behind curvy Barbie, and while I’m at it, I’m going to order up a Ken Fashionista Cactus Cool and a Ken Fashionista Hip Hoodie, because damn it, Barbie is worth the eye candy entourage.