Ken doll gets cornrows, beefy bod and new skin tones

  • Jun. 20, 2017 2:50 p.m.

NEW YORK — He’s been overshadowed by Barbie for decades, but now Ken is finally getting some attention.

Mattel is introducing 15 new looks for the male doll, including different skin tones, body shapes and hair styles. Barbie had a similar makeover more than a year ago, both part of the toy company’s plan to make its dolls more diverse and appealing to today’s kids.

Ken hadn’t changed much since he was introduced 56 years ago as Barbie’s blue-eyed, chiseled boyfriend. Now he’ll be sold in three body shapes: “slim,” ”broad” and “original.”

He’ll have modern hairdos, such as cornrows and man buns, and come in seven skin tones. And he’ll also be sporting new fashions: think skinny ties, plaid shirts and graphic tees.

“We are redefining what a Barbie or Ken doll looks like to this generation,” said Mattel’s Lisa McKnight, who oversees the Barbie line.

Mattel is trying to fight falling sales of its iconic doll line at a time when many kids would rather play with an iPad. Barbie sales were down 13 per cent in the first three months of the year compared with the same period a year ago. A live-action Barbie movie is in the works for next year, with hopes that the big-screen flick will spur doll sales as well.

Ken was in need of a makeover, said Jim Silver, the editor-in-chief of toy review website TTPM. Kids playing with the revamped Barbie dolls don’t want an outdated Ken, said Silver.

“He’s part of the storyline and he has to fit in with the picture,” he said, “or you would lose sales.”

Some of the new $10 Ken dolls were being rolled out to shops and online stores Tuesday, Mattel Inc. said, and all of them will be on store shelves by the holidays.

The El Segundo, California-based company also announced new Barbie looks Tuesday, including one with a nearly shaved head and another with an Afro. Mattel has been tinkering with other lines to be more inclusive, such as adding its first boy doll for the American Girl brand.

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