The Iconic Barbie Turns Sixty

Mar 6, 2019 By Arohi G, Writer Intern
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When Ruth Handler saw her young daughter, Barbara, playing with paper dolls for hours, she set out to create a 3D version. 

On March 9, 1959, Barbie -- named after Handler's daughter, made her debut at the New York Toy Fair, wearing a black and white striped swimsuit.

Now, 60 years later, this iconic doll has held more than 200 careers and is sold in more than 150 countries. 

According to Mattel, more than 100 dolls are sold every minute and 58 million each year! 

The Barbie Phenomenon

When Barbie first hit the stands at the New York Toy Fair, she received criticism and wary looks from mothers, as they hesitated to buy a doll with unrealistic body measurements for their daughters.

To combat those conceptions, marketers for Barbie appealed to mothers by using Barbie as an example for fashion and feminity, as opposed to body image. Seemingly successful, those attempts at convincing mothers worked, as 300,000 Barbies were sold. While many began to support Barbie, many consumers continued to remain skeptical of Barbie, for they believed that her body image would send the wrong message to young girls. To appeal to the critics, Mattel produced a brother and best friend for Barbie.

As the doll's popularity grew, so did her accessories. She has her own DreamHouse, introduced in 1962, as well as nearly 45 different categories of products such as food, clothing, and fitness. Barbie even has her own Youtube channel as well as a huge following on social media with 14 million fans on Facebook and 1.2 million on Instagram!

Inspiring Girls To Dream

Barbie was a trailblazer and was the first to travel to the moon in 1965, four years before the successful 1969 moon landing. She was depicted as an astronaut, surgeon, Air Force pilot, tennis player, basketball player, NASCAR driver and more, long before women were accepted in these professions. In fact, the first Barbie President doll appeared in 1990 at a time when there were no women presidential candidates on the U.S ballot! 

In 1968, African American and Latina Barbies were incorporated into the Barbie community. Expanding their horizons, Mattel decided to create Barbies that looked like famous women, as well a limited number of chemo barbies that were donated to hospitals in support of cancer patients. 

Barbie has entered the 21st century with careers in STEM too, inspiring young girls to become computer engineers, video game designers, astrophysicists, or be the first to travel to Mars. With four different body types, skin colors, and hairstyles, Barbie is more inclusive and up to date with the current social atmosphere. While a Barbie costs $12 today, can you guess how much you need to pay for an original 1959 doll? $27,450!!

Sources: Mattel