9 March 1959

The Barbie doll makes its debut at the American International Toy Fair in New York

The Barbie doll is an iconic cultural phenomenon that has left an indelible mark on the world of toys and fashion. Created by Ruth Handler, co-founder of Mattel Inc., the Barbie doll made its debut on March 9, 1959, at the American International Toy Fair in New York City.

Ruth Handler got the idea for Barbie from watching her daughter, Barbara, play with paper dolls and imagining them in adult roles. At the time, most dolls on the market were baby dolls or representations of infants. Ruth believed there was a gap in the market for a doll that allowed girls to imagine themselves as adults.

The original Barbie doll was inspired by a German doll called Bild Lilli, which was based on a comic strip character. Barbie was marketed as a teenage fashion model with a variety of outfits and accessories. She had a slim figure, blonde hair, and blue eyes, reflecting the beauty standards of the time.

POZNAN, POL – SEP 23, 2021: Barbie dolls of the Ocean collection, made from recycled plastic

Despite initial skepticism from retailers and toy industry insiders, Barbie quickly became a cultural phenomenon. Girls were drawn to her aspirational image and the endless possibilities for imaginative play. Over the years, Barbie has evolved to reflect changing cultural attitudes and trends. She has had countless careers, from astronaut to doctor to president, and has been dressed in outfits representing different cultures and time periods.

Barbie’s influence extends beyond the world of toys. She has become a symbol of femininity, fashion, and empowerment. However, she has also faced criticism for promoting unrealistic beauty standards and perpetuating gender stereotypes.

Despite the controversies, Barbie remains one of the most recognizable and beloved toys in the world. She has inspired generations of girls to dream big and imagine themselves in a variety of roles and careers. In recent years, Mattel has made efforts to modernize Barbie and make her more inclusive and diverse, introducing dolls with different body types, skin tones, and abilities.