Man buns and cornrows: Barbie's boyfriend Ken gets a makeover

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Man buns, cornrows or bleached blond hair? Barbie’s longtime boyfriend Ken is getting a makeover with new hair styles, a range of body types, a hip wardrobe and skin tones for every ethnicity.

Toymaker Mattel on Tuesday announced 15 new Ken dolls, featuring seven skin tones, nine hairstyles and three body styles including a more muscular “broad” physique.

The move follows the introduction in 2016 of three new bodies - petite, tall and curvy - for Barbie that California-based Mattel said reflected a changing world.

Ken, Barbie’s faithful boyfriend of 56 years, is now catching up.

“We are redefining what a Barbie or Ken doll looks like to this generation,” Lisa McKnight, senior vice president and general manager for Barbie, said in a statement.

She said the variety of Ken dolls would allow girls to “further personalize the role they want him to play in Barbie’s world.”

Ken was invented in 1961 as Barbie’s buff, blue-eyed friend and has undergone many iterations including the first African-American Ken in 1981 and Earring Magic Ken in 1993, which became a big seller among gay men.

In 2004, his romance with Barbie was deemed over by Mattel, but the toymaker officially reunited them on Valentine’s Day in 2011.

The launch of the new Ken range follows declining sales of Barbie dolls around the world as girls increasingly turn to other dolls and electronic toys.

Mattel in April reported that Barbie sales declined 13 percent in the first quarter of 2017 when it also reported a much bigger than expected quarterly loss and cut its full-year sales growth forecast.

All 15 Ken dolls will be in toy stores later this year.

Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Cynthia Osterman