When Barbie was â€œborn" into the Mattel family of toys in 1959, she wasnâ€™t just a doll. She was the epicenter of a retail revolution.
When parents bought their baby-boomer girls a Barbie, they were agreeing to an unspoken but implicit contract with the toy store to return time and again and buy stuff â€“ lots more stuff â€“ for Barbie.
Thatâ€™s how Mattel envisioned her. A kid wouldnâ€™t be happy with just the Barbie and some clothes like any earlier doll would offer. Nope, Mattel created an entire fantasy world, with price tags attached to every damned thing in that world, from friends like Midge and sister Skipper, and of course, the sexless boyfriend Ken (whose irony-drenched advertising slogan was â€œKenâ€¦. Heâ€™s a Doll!") to Barbie houses, Barbie Sports cars, carrying cases, closets, apartments with Barbie-sized furniture, picnic sets and even a tiny Barbie Doll for Barbie to own!