Ken and Brad are best of friends. They’ve likely bonded because they both know what it feels like to be living in their girlfriends Barbie’s and Christie’s shadow. You know, the purse holder at a Red Carpet event, while the women do their step and repeat, haha! I have to admit, among my extensive Barbie collection, I only have two Kens and one Brad. So, I’ve decided to give them some love and let them be in the spotlight for a change!
Ken Carson was born on March 11, 1961 and stood at 12” high. Ruth Handler, prior President of Mattel and inventor of the iconic Barbie, named Ken after her son and Barbie after her daughter. I remember my first Ken doll in the early 70s. It was 1971 blonde Malibu Ken #1088. He wears red swim trunks and comes with a blue towel. He and Malibu Barbie made a powerful “it couple” cruising Malibu beach in their yellow dune buggy with their beautiful tans, bright smiles and laid-back surfer vibes.
The other Ken in my collection is 1971 Live Action Ken #1155. He joins my Live Action Barbie, Christie and P.J. so now they make up a band and, man, can they groove! They have a new body construction that allows them to dance on their Touch ‘N Go stand. Ken wears flashy, satiny gold pants (sa-weeeet!), a multicolor shirt, a brown suede fringed vest and brown shoes. Later that year, they added a stage with a microphone, mod stickers you could apply, and a record with two hit sides with a sheet of lyrics. He was Live Action Ken on Stage #1172. There was also a Live Action Barbie and P.J. on Stage.
Ken’s bro Brad
I recently acquired a 1970 Bendable Leg Brad #1142, the first black male doll in the Barbie line. He was introduced in the latter part of 1970. Such a handsome dude. My Brad is looking pretty groovy in his denim shirt flanked with flowers and jeans. He comes in an orange shirt with orange and brown print shorts. Earlier that year, Brad debuted as New Talking Brad #1114 and was introduced on the box as Christie’s boyfriend. He wore orange shorts with a colorful orange, yellow and olive jacket to match 1970 Talking Christie’s outfit. #CoupleGoals Unfortunately, he was only produced from 1970 – 1972. In 1975, a black male doll was introduced by Mattel and his name was Free Moving Curtis #7282. He had the Brad head mold and his outfit was identical to Free Moving Ken’s (see below) but in orange.
Ken’s history from 1961 – 1975
Ken #750 was introduced in 1961 as Barbie’s boyfriend. According to toy maker Mattel — Barbie met Ken on the set of a TV commercial in 1961. He’s 12” tall with flocked hair (blonde, brunette or light brown) with blue eyes and wears red swim trunks and cork sandals. Later in 1961, Mattel swapped out his yellow beach towel for a red and white striped beach jacket. Mattel felt he was under-dressed in just his swim trunks! The following year in 1962, Ken wears the same outfit but has a newly sculpted head with painted hair in blonde or brunette. In 1963, he remained the same except that he was 1/4 inch shorter; the only time Mattel produced a shorter version of Ken. In 1965, Ken #1020 had lifelike, bendable knees that clicked. Available in blonde or brunette, he wears a blue jacket with a “K” decal and red shorts and sandals.
No new Ken doll was produced in 1968 but Talking Ken #1111 was introduced in 1969. He now came with a more bulked-up buff body (he must have spent 1968 lifting at the gym!) with bendable legs and a new painted head mold with a more current looking face. He wears red shorts with a red jacket. 1970’s Talking Ken wears orange shorts with a blue jacket and orange stripe. 1970 also brought New Good Lookin’ Talking Ken #1124. OUCH. Were they implying Ken wasn’t good looking before? They wouldn’t be wrong, ha!
1972 brought a number of Ken dolls. Busy Ken #3314 in an orange or red tank top worn with a brown belt, jeans and white sneakers. The new holdin’ hands feature had jointed elbows, thumbs and wrists that allowed the doll to realistically hold things including a portable TV, a soda set, a travel case with stickers, a record player and a telephone; the kind you had to use your finger to dial! His inner circle included Busy Barbie and Busy Steffie. Mattel produced a 1972 Talking Busy Ken #1196 wearing a blue and red print shirt with a brown belt, red corduroy pants and brown shoes. The last Ken doll produced in 1972 was Walk Lively Ken #1184 who wears a blue polo with plaid pants and brown shoes. Joining him was Walk Lively Barbie and Walk Lively Steffie.
Other Kens in the 70s include 1973 Mod Hair Ken #4224, the first Ken doll with rooted hair. He only came in brunette and had facial stickers to give him a mustache, sideburns and a beard When he wears the 'stash, he gives off a Freddie Mercury vibe! He wore a brown and white plaid jacket, white shirt, brown pants and brown shoes. 1974 brought the Sports Set Sun Valley Ken #7809 who wears a blue ski suit with a red turtleneck, and red skis. The Sports Set also included Sun Valley Barbie, Newport Barbie and Yellowstone Kelley. In 1975, there was a Funtime Ken #7194 in blue swim trunks. The set also includes Funtime Barbie, Funtime Cara (who is identical to 1973 Malibu Christie), Funtime Skipper and her girlfriend Funtime Skooter.
1975 Free Moving Ken #7280 wears a red and white striped polo and attached white shorts. Basically, a onesie! No judgment here. :-) His ensemble includes a red belt, white sneakers, white socks with red and green stitching, a gray plastic golf club and tennis racquet with a ball. There was also a Free Moving Barbie, Free Moving P.J. and Free Moving Cara. From 1975 – 1976, there was a Gold Medal Ken doll skier #7261; commemorating the 1976 Winter Olympics in Montreal, Canada.
Way back in the start, Mattel introduced a friend for Ken in 1964, Allan #1000, and he was touted as “Ken’s buddy.” He has painted red hair and rust-colored eyes, wearing blue swim trunks and a multicolor striped shirt. Allan came with bendable legs the following year, just like his pal Ken.
But we were on a break!
Interestingly, in the past 60 years, Barbie and Ken have never gotten engaged nor married. In fact, they were on a bit of a break from February 2004 to February 2006. Barbie started dating hunky Australian surfer Blaine. Ken resurfaced with a makeover in 2006. Coincidence? Hmmmm… Not to fret, our love birds reconnected and have been living happily ever together since – probably in different apartments. There’s still no ring on Barbie’s finger. Ken, you know what Beyonce has to say about THAT. Then again, knowing how independent Barbie is – she probably doesn’t want a ring. You go girl.
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