Ken: Barbie needs a man with an edge


Poor Ken.

He's in a bit of a midlife crisis, it seems.

His longtime girlfriend -- maybe you know her? Barbie? Leggy girl, with the cool pink car? She dumped him last year for a hotter doll, Blaine. And since then, Ken has been catching the blues about why Barbs kicked him to the curb. Many have speculated, but Mattel, Ken's parent company, has decided the breakup came down to one thing:

Ken needs a makeover.

"He's trying to keep up with the most fashionable woman on the planet," says Lauren Bruksch, spokeswoman for Mattel Brands, which announced last week that Ken, who is 43, would unveil a new look this spring.

Mattel has enlisted the help of celebrity stylists and fitness trainers, designers, style experts and nutritionists-to-the-stars to come up with the look Ken needs to win Barbie back.

Style guru Phillip Bloch, who is leading the charge on Mattel's fly eye for the plastic guy team, says Ken needs a tan and better hair. And it's time the man got a little bit of an edge.

"Ken is one of those guys that has too much of one style," Bloch told Mattel. "You have to be able to change it up these days -- be able to go from Oscars to Emmys, to hanging out with the homeys. Be versatile like J. Lo."

It appears Bloch and his crew have got it under control. But we thought we'd ask a few other style-watchers what they thought Ken could do to step into the 2000s. The suggestions ran the gamut, from "get a BlackBerry" to "buy a pair of Converse high-tops." But, you'll be pleased to know, not one person uttered the word "metrosexual."

Change his look

Ditch the polyester blends, and go for better-quality, richer-looking clothes.

"Ken is never going to win Barbie back with his sort of stuck in the '70s Tom Selleck look. Sure he's a little more clean-shaven [than Selleck] but he looks like he stepped out of Magnum P.I. His clothes all look like they were made out of leisure-suit material. No wonder they broke up."

-- Dannielle Romano, editor- at-large of, an online guide to new styles and trends

"He should follow [National Basketball Association Commissioner] David Stern's advice. Suit and tie. No sweats, no tees, no bling-bling. We've got some wonderful new turtleneck looks. And we've been hooking them up with understated cashmere and wool pleated and flat-front trousers. And seeing that Ken is one of the few of us that has not gained any weight in the last 40 years, he can pull off some of those flat-front looks."

--Marc Sklar, president of Gian Marco Menswear on South Charles Street

"He should be a la Steve McQueen -- a good pair of jeans, a good jacket, a good boot, good glasses. And a good haircut."

-- New York-based designer Debra Rodman

"Ken, like many American men, needs to relearn something he might have already known, and that is how to get dressed in the morning. A lot of American men have forgotten how to dress in tailored clothing. Ken and they can both revisit that subject and learn how to tie a tie, and wear patterns on patterns. Women are tired of sloppy Ken, casual Ken. [They want to see] banker, broker, lawyer Ken, but in the modern and cool way. Being in a suit doesn't mean being a suit."

-- Sanford Bryant, designer for Sanford Bryant Custom in New York

Change his hair

"I think he should grow a goatee. Facial hair is hot. He's a little too clean-cut. Everybody likes a bad boy. And he should tone down the yellow; the hair's a little brassy. The last time I remember it was like a canary yellow. It's like making out with Big Bird."

-- Kyle White, of the Oscar Blandi Salon in New York, who styles Mariah Carey's hair

"Ken should go a little lighter with his hair color and update his style. That helmet is tired. He has way too much hair for a modern look. A good haircut will get Barbie's attention."

-- designer Kevin Johnn of Project Runway fame

Change his attitude

"Let's jazz up the shoes a little. If he goes to [the Converse Web site], he can design a pair of Chuck Taylors exactly to his specifications. That would show that he's his own man. He's not listening to the bosses at Mattel and wearing those plastic shoes. I think Barbie wants a man who knows what he wants."

-- Romano

"He needs to drop the preppy thing. He's got like that surfer thing going on, which is cute, but you've got to change it up a little bit, be a little more masculine. Get some cues from G.I. Joe, Ken. Everyone wants to have sex with G.I. Joe."

-- White

"Once his look is complete, Ken can develop an air of confidence he didn't have before. He should not seem too eager to get Barbie back. They have a lot of history together! He should take her to the places they used to frequent and add some new places, too. I mean, how many times can he freeload at her townhouse and on her speedboat? Ken needs to be a little more creative and show Barbie he's got some toys of his own."

-- Johnn

"The only thing Ken needs more than glitter and sequins is a new boyfriend."

-- Heatherette designer Richie Rich

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