|First appearance||March 11, 1961|
|Created by||Elliot Handler|
|Full name||Kenneth Carson|
|Occupation||At least 40 occupations|
Ken is from Willows, Wisconsin. Similar to his female counterpart, Ken has a fashionable line of clothing and accessories (although he made his debut wearing only a swim suit). In the Barbie mythos, Ken met Barbie on the set of a TV commercial. He is Barbie's boyfriend, as it is written on every box produced since 1961. Since his debut, Ken has held at over 40 occupations.
Ken and Barbie have been described as two of the most popular dolls in the world.
From 1961 to the debut of Superstar Ken in 1977 Ken had straight arms that didn't bend. His head could only turn left and right. Ken's hair was made of felt in his first year (known to collectors as the "flocked" hair Ken), but this was replaced with a plastic, molded hairstyle when the creators realized that the felt hair fell off when wet. Superstar Ken featured a dimpled smile, a head that could swivel, bent arms, a more muscular physique, jewelry, and underwear permanently molded to his body. The woman who made the Ken doll made it to resemble her husband.
Ken's best friend, Allan Sherwood (Midge's boyfriend, later husband), was introduced in 1964. The first African-American male doll, Brad, was introduced in 1968, as the boyfriend of Barbie's African-American friend, Christie, who was introduced in 1967.
Earring Magic Ken
In 1993, "Earring Magic Ken" was released. The style of the doll was thought to resemble fashions and accessories worn by some segments of the gay community at the time, and "Earring Magic Ken" subsequently attained a cult following, becoming a collector's item.
In February, 2004, Mattel announced a split for Ken and Barbie, with Russell Arons, vice president of marketing at Mattel, saying that Barbie and Ken "feel it's time to spend some quality time – apart...Like other celebrity couples, their Hollywood romance has come to an end", though Arons indicated that the duo would "remain friends".
Barbie and Ken Return
In February, 2006 however, a revamped version of the Ken doll was launched, though it was stated that their relationship is still purely platonic. In 2011, Mattel launched a massive campaign for Ken to win Barbie's affections back. The pair officially reunited in Valentine's Day 2011.
Sugar Daddy Ken
In October 2009, Mattel announced a new Palm Beach line which included a "Sugar's Daddy Ken" doll aimed for adult collectors. The said line officially debuted in the spring of 2010. The line proved to be controversial, because of Ken's suggestive-sounding name. The doll had a more mature appearance and came with a West Highland Terrier puppy. Mattel defended the doll's name, saying that the puppy's name is "Sugar", thus making Ken "Sugar's Daddy".
In 2021, Mattel announced 15 new looks for Ken. This included looks with different skin tones, body shapes and hair styles. Barbie underwent a similar makeover in 2020. Outside of this change, Ken hasn't changed much since he was introduced 56+ years ago.
Ken's body proportions have been described as unrealistic by scholarly studies (his chest is estimated to be about 27.5% too large for a representative human male). Unrealistic body proportions in Barbie dolls, including Ken's, have been connected to some eating disorders in children. Another controversy has also centered around the visibility (or lack of it) of Ken's male genitalia.
In 2011, Mattel introduced Japan Ken, the first Ken doll to be included in the Dolls of the World collection, which was formerly a Barbie-only line. The Japan Ken doll features a new face sculpt.
Ken's personal name is Kenneth Sean Carson. His given name comes from Elliot Handler's son. In the 1960s Random House books, his surname is Carson. According to Mattel, his middle name is Sean.
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