Mattel debuts new diverse Ken dolls with man bun, ‘dad bod’

Nearly a year and a half after Mattel announced plans to release Barbie dolls of various body types, the company has responded to requests for a similar effort to diversify Ken dolls.

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“By continuing to expand our product line, we are redefining what a Barbie or Ken doll looks like to this generation,” Barbie senior vice president and general manager Lisa McKnight said in a news release. “Evolving Ken was a natural evolution for the brand and allows girls to further personalize the role they want him to play in Barbie’s world.”

Fifteen new Ken dolls will reflect three body types, seven skin tones and nine different hairstyles, including Ken dolls with man buns and cornrows. Comparisons of the three new body types -- slim, broad and original --  have encouraged some references to the broad physique as the “dad bod” doll

“Broad Ken doesn’t have a six-pack, but he does have pecs, and abs with light definition -- a far cry from the potbellied ‘Dadbod Ken’ many commentators proposed,” GQ’s Caity Weaver wrote.

“Originally, I made him paunchy. I gave him a nice healthy gut. So he was the post-holiday Ken,” Ray Cavalluzzi, a Barbie sculptor at Mattel told GQ, noting that the company considered naming the broad body type “hefty” and “husky.” “It was a matter of finding a balance. You don’t want to go too much.”

Mattel began offering Barbies in petite, tall and curvy models in January 2016. Design additions also included new skin tones and different hair textures. The new offerings were a part of the first major change by Mattel in the iconic doll’s 57-year history.

Ken dolls debuted in 1961.

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“Yes, some people will say we are late to the game,” Evelyn Mazzocco, former general manager and senior vice president of the Barbie brand, said at the time. “But changes at a huge corporation take time.”

The company hopes that the new diverse offerings will appeal to their young audience of consumers. 

Ten of the 15 new Ken dolls are available now. Five other Ken dolls will be released over the coming summer months.

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