Even after 60 years, Barbie is still an American icon throughout the world. With her numerous accessories, careers, and dream homes she has been a source of imaginative play for children and a point of contention for parents and watchdog groups. In every decade, Barbie has adapted her look to be in step with what was happening in fashion and with women. She has taken on jobs that were, at the time, only worked by men in the real world. Barbie has proven time and time again that girls really can and will do anything in the world. Here are ten of the most iconic Barbie dolls of all time.
1. #1 Barbie (1959)
Barbie made her debut on March 9th, 1959 at the New York Toy Fair. Originally marketed as a "teen-age fashion model," Barbie made a splash in her black and white swim suit, blonde ponytail, gold earrings, and black mules. The doll was created by Ruth Handler, the wife of one of the founders of the Mattel toy company. Ruth had observed her daughter Barbara, the namesake for Barbie, playing with paper dolls and giving them adult roles since at the time there were only dolls that looked like babies or young children. While on a trip to Germany, Ruth found a doll called Bild Lili, which was based off of a famous cartoon character in Germany and was originally intended for adults. Ruth brought the doll back to California with her and the rest is Barbie history. The original Barbie sold for $3.00 (which equates to $26.71 today) and came in blonde, brunette, or titian (red head). Today, a mint #1 Barbie still in it's original box can sell for more than $10,000.
2. Twist n' Turn Barbie (1967)
In 1967, a new Barbie innovation was introduced to the toy world: the Twist n' Turn Barbie. The Twist n' Turn Barbie featured a waist that could actually pivot from side to side, giving Barbie more movement than ever before. The doll also had bend and snap legs that bent at the knee for even more articulation. She also changed her look, going for a more Mod look and even came with real, rooted eyelashes that you could brush. For a $1.95, you could trade in your old Barbie for a new Twist 'N Turn Barbie, allowing you to explore all of her new fashion possibilities for half the price.
3. Malibu Barbie (1971)
Yet again, Barbie reinvented herself for a whole new era in fashion: California Cool. Malibu Barbie debuted in 1971 and featured sun kissed skin, minimal makeup, blonde hair parted down the middle, and an iconic blue swimsuit. One of the major changes for Barbie happened with her eyes. Originally with a demure side glance, she was now facing fully forward, which was to signal Barbie's shift from a teenage fashion model to an independent woman ready to take on the 70's.
4. Superstar Barbie (1977)
As the 70's drew to a close, Barbie went from a California Cool surfer chick to a Disco Dancin' Diva. Superstar Barbie debuted in 1977 and featured the now iconic Superstar face mold (which would be used throughout the 80's and 90's). With her pink gown, pink feather boa, and fabulous jewelry, Barbie is ready for a night out at Studio 54 or on stage, accepting one of her many awards. This Barbie also had a fabulous silver corvette for her and Superstar Ken to ride around in.
5. Western Barbie (1980)
Channeling her inner Dolly Parton, Barbie entered the 80's in this iconic western get-up. This Barbie had a special feature where if you pressed the panel on her back, she'd actually WINK at you! However, the mechanism that created this stunt would erode over time, leaving Barbie in a permanent wink. To find this Barbie with the winking feature still intact is a rare and extremely expensive find, but totally rewarding at the end of it.
6. Day-to-Night Barbie (1985)
In the 1980's, more women than ever were entering the workforce and going for the positions that were originally held by men. In her pink and white power suit, Day-to-Night Barbie was ready to take on the boardroom and make deals with important clients. By 5, Barbie's suit changed into a fabulous evening gown for a fun happy hour with friends or a romantic dinner in the city with Ken. Day-to-Night Barbie depicted a new working reality for women that still kept it fun with her outfit's ability to change into a dazzling evening look. The now iconic commercial created a tagline that would change the Barbie brand forever: "We girls can do anything, right Barbie?"
7. Barbie and the Rockers (1986)
One of the most 80's looking Barbies to come out of the 80's, Barbie and the Rockers is not a doll to be missed. With her big hair, bright colors, and bold makeup, she was taking notes from music superstars, like Madonna and Cyndi Lauper. The story of this doll is actually quite interesting. With the success of the television program "Jem and the Holograms," Mattel foresaw the release of Jem dolls that would've knocked Barbie off of her pedestal as the world's best-selling fashion doll. They were able to get the doll through development and onto store shelves in no less than 9 months, which is unheard of since toys usually take 12 to 14 months of development in order to be produced. Barbie and the Rockers ended up becoming one of the most popular Barbie lines of all time, outselling the Jem and the Hologram dolls, of course.
8. Totally Hair Barbie (1992)
She's totally hot! Totally cool! She's Totally Hair Barbie! With a death-defying short Pucci inspired dress, floor length crimped hair, and pink pumps, she was the quintessential Barbie of the early 90's. Totally Hair Barbie came with a number of hair accessories, as well as a small bottle of Dep (hair styling gel) that you could use to tease up Barbie's bangs into a bunch of different styles. Totally Hair Barbie is actually the best selling Barbie of all time, selling 11 million units between 1992 and 1995. She was so popular that Mattel reproduced the doll in 2017 as a collector's edition. To find the original doll still in it's box can cost you a pretty penny, especially if you can find her brunette version too.
9. Earring Magic Ken (1993)Earring Magic Ken | The real thing! | Gillian | Flickr
Released in 1993, Earring Magic Ken made headlines with his new, updated look but not for the right reasons. At the time, Ken sales were down and Mattel needed a way to make Ken more popular with young girls. For Earring Magic Ken, they brought in a focus group of girls and asked them how they could make Ken cooler and "of the moment." The girls referenced the men on MTV, especially Madonna's male dancers, as the epitome of 90's cool. And thus, Earring Magic Ken was born and he was a little...gay. So gay that he became the most popular Ken doll among gay men. who brought the doll in droves and gave him away as a gag gift. However, parents weren't happy about his appearance, especially his necklace which looked like a gay sex toy. The doll was quickly pulled from shelves and cast into the Mattel vault, never to be seen again.
10. Jewel Hair Mermaid Barbie (1995)
Move over Totally Hair Barbie, the Jewel Hair Mermaid Barbie has arrived. With the longest hair ever, Jewel Hair Mermaid Barbie debuted in 1995 to great success. With her ultra-long hair and mermaid tail that was removable, she became one of the great icons of the 90's. She originally came with glittery stars that could be put in her hair, as well as your own. However, the stars were known to mess up her long hair when you tried to remove them, making for a really messy hair play.