What’s fascinating about this all is that, in the Barbie universe, Ken doesn’t have a raison d’être other than Barbie. She is a doctor, a president, a mermaid, a princess, a fairy—he’s her jobless boyfriend. She has a pink convertible and a Malibu dream house—he sits in the passenger seat and stands outside her house waiting for her to show up.
Understanding this energy, this Ken-ergy, is crucial to Barbie, but also to unpacking an undercurrent in menswear that has been spreading everywhere from Get Ready With Me TikToks to the runways and red carpets. Despite the fact that all the fashion talk is centered around the “new masculinity” of painted nails, pearl necklaces, and various other gender-bending aesthetics, many men—cis, trans, straight, gay, and everything in between—are wearing what they always have been: cargo pants, Vans, vintage t-shirts, dollar-store ribbed tank tops, and trucker hats. “Masculine,” sure, but not in a huffing-and-puffing dirty flannel and old jeans kind of way. In a does-this-top-make-me-look-hot? style. This sartorial himbo spirit dominating mainstream men’s style is, dear reader, pure Ken-ergy.