Somewhere in the world, one Barbie doll is sold every 3 seconds. During her 58-year-long existence, she has changed many professions and images: from a blonde model to an IT-specialist with a ponytail in a simple T-shirt. It looks like this is the secret of her popularity: Barbie changes with the world, and in this article, you will see her most unusual images.
Barbie changed her dresses and professions every year, and people looked for the hidden meaning in her images, they even made it up themselves, then protested other people’s ideas. This incredible process had been going on for more than 50 years, and the writer Linor Goralik even wrote a book about it.
Once, Ruth Handler was watching her daughter Barbara playing with paper dolls, changing their clothes, and giving them adult roles. She was tired of playing with baby toys. This is how Ruth had an idea to create an “adult” toy for girls.
1. Barbie — a prototype of a prostitute from a comic book
1959. The prototype for Barbie was the Lilly doll from the Heinz Frank company — a character from a German comics series. In the story, a sexy pin-up blonde makes rich men give her presents and money. The doll was originally meant for children, and it was sold in tobacco shops and shops for adults.
The Mattel company purchased the rights for this doll and the production of Lilly was stopped.
It’s hard to believe but then, in 1959, all distributors refused to sell the doll because they were sure that nobody would buy it. The first Barbie looked like a 30-year-old woman. She wore a lot of makeup and her body shape was unnatural. But the doll was a hit. Parents protested, but girls loved it.
A year later, the company changed the makeup a little, the eyebrows became lighter and more round and the eyeliner disappeared.
2. Barbie supports gender equality
1960. At the beginning of the 60s, the feminist movement was noticed by doll manufacturers. The Barbie doll had a new profession — a fashion designer. And it worked vice versa, too. The easily recognized image of Barbie stimulated the feminist movement in other countries.
Overall, Barbie has had 80 different professions — from jobs in fashion to “men’s” jobs.
3. Doll “like Mom”
1961. Barbie as a cab driver, a fashion designer, a singer, a ballet dancer, a nurse, a teacher, a flight attendant, and a firefighter — girls loved the doll. She dressed like mom, she went to work like mom, had makeup and hair like mom, and she was a perfect role model. Barbie was even labeled as a fashion doll which was obsessed with clothes.
In fact, Ruth Handler wanted to create a doll that children could play with that could be dressed, have its hair done, imitate an adult life situation, and teach girls good taste. By the way, through the years, Barbie has had 19 different hairstyles and more than 75 designers have styled her clothes.
4. Teenage pregnancy or family image?
1963. Barbie had a best friend Midge who was married. Once, the company created a “Happy Family” kit where Midge had a plastic belly with a baby inside that could be put on and off. Also, there was an older child, Barbie, and Ken as a doctor. It might seem that the company showed girls a perfect image of a family. But some people found a way to criticize it anyway: they said that the new image of dolls stimulated teenage pregnancy.
5. Barbie dances the twist and can turn from her waist
1967. Due to many parents’ complaints about how adult Barbie looked, the company released a doll with a child’s face. She had very little makeup, red cheeks, and a round face. The doll existed only for three years, children didn’t accept it because they were used to seeing Barbie as an adult.
Jack Ryan, a specialist on cruise missiles, made up special hinges to make the doll’s arms, waist, elbows, knees, and hands move. At the time, the twist was very popular. Later, Barbie will “be into” different kinds of sport. For example, there was a Barbie-ballet dancer who was specially made to be able to perform certain tricks.
6. A man is an accessory
1968. Ken’s production stopped because he wasn’t really popular. In fact, he was just Barbie’s pet, and critics said that Mattel created the wrong impression of the relationship between genders.
But just one year later, they had to return Ken. As it turned out, he played a much bigger role than just an accompanying doll. Ken protected the sexy and open-minded Barbie from questions of kids and their parents. Basically, he was there to protect her reputation as a woman.