This Feature Story appeared in the Keeping Ken Ken News! on February 11, 2001.
Keeping Ken Ken News Feature Archive
ABOVE: "Golden Tan! Blonde Hair!" The Sun Set Malibu Ken #1088 (Box Date 1970) will be the first blonde version of the 1968 head mold. It will also immortalize the "Malibu" line.
Your voting for "favorite Ken head mold" may very well make history for Keeping Ken. This particular poll garnered the most responses than any other poll so far. Your passion for the subject at hand gathered 1072 unique votes, with a clear winner after polling ended.
While the 1968 Ken® head mold won, several other head molds gathered respectable results. (You may view the official results for all the head molds on the Poll link above). In the end though, the 1968 was the clear winner. This feature will examine it's history and popularity. It will also try to answer questions why it becomes a favorite with the Ken® collector. Was it because of nostalgia or it's ground breaking history? Do collectors like the look of this head mold for Ken®? Truly, only you can decide.
ABOVE: The 1968 Ken head mold is introduced on Talking Ken #1111 in 1969. Four more "masculine" fashions are produced to fit his beefier body mold. CLOCKWISE TOP RIGHT: Breakfast at 7 #1428, Rally Gear #1429, Town Turtle #1430 and Guruvy Formal #1431.
1968 Ken® head mold was introduced in 1969 on Talking Ken
Date 1968) with reddish brown painted hair and was dressed in red
swim trunks with matching red Nehru style beach jacket. Ken could also
talk this year. His
rich baritone voice demanded attention.
Another version available this year is
Talking Ken (Spanish)
Date 1968) who mirrored the Talking Ken®, except his hair color is
painted brown and his outfit is completely different. Mattel
brought back Ken® this year with a total makeover and dubbed him
“New Good Lookin’ Ken”.
Completely new for 1969, was the 1968 Ken® head mold that had a cool, debonair look. It will be used until 1975. The painted hair was longer in an Edwardian-style, that swept across the forehead from a part on Ken’s left. His new macho look imitated Warren Beatty, and he was fashioned as Peter Fonda. The eyebrows are painted much thicker, his eye color returns to blue, and his skin tone is pinker. With the production of this head mold, we see the first open mouth smile showing white painted “teeth”. His new huskier body mold made all the clothing made prior to this time not fit anymore. To resolve this problem, Mattel produced four new outfits that complemented this new persona (pictured above)
ABOVE: Talking Busy Ken #1196 Box Date1971.
year 1969, in my opinion, is the most pivotal in Ken® doll's entire
history. Mattel did not list a Ken
for 1968, and in 1967 only the Painted Hair Ken
(only available until fall by mail order) and the Bendable Leg Ken
were available for sale. 1968
becomes important in history as the only year a Ken doll is
not listed for sale. Consumers were left to wonder if Ken had
been discontinued. Of
course for the three years of 1966-1968, Mattel had certainly not
forgotten about Ken, but they left a considerable amount of time for
skepticism with the consumer about his future.
Mattel spent these three years remodeling Ken’s image. With styles changing all across America, his body mold was considered outdated, compared to the standards of the times. Teenage boys were discovering Charles Atlas in the back of comic books and girls were noticing. The new Ken® would take on a more handsome look and more muscular tone.
body transformed, so did his image. The 1968 head mold plays
an important part in creating the total image. While the
changes to the body mold are considered significant, Mattel played
down the body mold and centered most of their advertising campaigns
on Ken doll's appearance. The “New
Good Lookin’ Ken” campaign was not only an re-introduction back
into the market, it was an image over-haul played out there.
Not only is the term "Good Lookin'" used in the initial
advertising campaign, every ad includes the word
ABOVE: The 1971 Ken® / Brad® Fashion line.
|Now that we have the
history, we have to look at why the 1968 head mold still has an
appeal on the modern collector. Part of the appeal may lie in
the "truth in advertising" theory. You must admit,
for all the history the 1968 provides us with, you can't over look
the fact that Ken is definitely handsome! His features and molded
hairstyling is classic and just as appropriate today as it was 22
A boom in Mod era collecting may also be significant to this head mold's popularity. Many collectors thrive on either recreating a time stamp, or forever encasing their Barbie® memories. While many eras in fashion and appearance are represented in the Barbie® line, the Mod era is second only to the Vintage era. While not scientific, you will find that the median and most populous Barbie collectors are now in their thirties; neatly fitting into the time-line of the 1968 mold. The pioneers of the Barbie® collecting movement, which mostly prefer Vintage, have grown older. The Mod era is on the fast-track to becoming the next hottest property in the Barbie® collecting arena.
ABOVE: Ken goes Mod in his Live Action Ken #1159 version in1971.
The 1968 Ken® head mold can encompassed several image roles. It can have a healthy sun-tanned athletic appearance, or be "tall dark and handsome". It is always clean-cut and presentable and stays that way, innocently enough, as it eventually rides the wild and groovy wave of the Mod era until 1975. Even though the costumes change, it's still Ken behind the clothes. Did we really change our opinion of him when he made his new appearance. Yes and no. The new look for Ken® in 1969 was a much needed one. Ken® became more masculine, but didn't lose his boyish charm in the process. We can put more imagination into who Ken is through this head mold. We actually hear his voice in several versions. Though he said simple things like "Why don't we all go to the movies?" or "Let's dance", it gave him a personality, and gave us a whole new world of imagination.
Numerous factors may play in choosing the 1968 Ken® head mold as the favorite. Will tastes change five or even ten years from now? Will a new generation of Ken collectors choose something different. I believe the answer is "yes". The 1968 Ken head mold provides us with history, imagination and handsome masculinity. More importantly, it successfully changed Ken's image from a boy to a man. Essentially, the change will make his character stronger, and position him as a regular in a Barbie world.