Before they left Barbieland in search of the real world, Mattel's signature Barbie and Ken dolls left home in search of a better life in the U.S. military. Like many veterans, both Ken and Barbie apparently missed the camaraderie of service over the years, joining every branch of the U.S. armed forces at various times. And just like their fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, they snubbed the Coast Guard.
Unlike previous Barbies, whose fashions were created by clothing designers, the "Stars and Stripes" series of Barbies and Kens wore uniforms that were approved by the Pentagon. Celebrities don't get to choose how to wear their uniforms. If Elvis couldn't do it, neither could Barbie.
Barbie joined the Army in 1989, wearing the U.S. Army's female officer's evening uniform. What her actual job was is anyone's guess: All the box told us was that she enjoyed formal events with other members of the military, suggesting there's a good chance she pretended to care about the Army-Navy Game.
Barbie being all she could be didn't necessarily convince young girls to choose a military career. At the time, the military already had the highest number of enlisted women it had seen between 1973 and 2010.
In time for the 1990-91 Gulf War, Barbie and Ken both rejoined the Army, wearing maroon berets, Desert Combat Uniforms and the 101st Airborne "Screaming Eagle" patch. This time around, Barbie definitely had a job, serving as a medic. Both were enlisted soldiers, with Staff Sgt. Ken outranking Sgt. Barbie and both likely wishing they had joined the Coast Guard instead.
Next up for Barbie was joining the Air Force in 1990. Three years before then-1st Lt. Jeannie Leavitt became the first female Air Force fighter pilot, Barbie was sold wearing a green flight suit and leather jacket, complete with gold-trimmed flight cap. We can assume she was a fighter pilot, because in 1994, she joined the USAF aerial demonstration team, the Thunderbirds.
Navy Barbie was also enlisted, hitting shelves in 1991. Quartermaster 1st Class Barbara Millicent Roberts wore women's Navy whites, and according to her packaging, she'd been in the Navy for eight years. Any longer, and they'd have had to issue Chief Barbie some khakis and a disgustingly unwashed coffee mug.
In 1992, Marine Corps Barbie appeared on shelves clad in dress blues, wearing a sergeant's rank and sporting the Southwest Asia Service Medal and a Good Conduct Medal. There's a good chance the Barbie Convertible was purchased with a 31% interest rate during this time period.
Although martial Barbies made their appearance around the first Gulf War, this didn't mean her military career ended. Some years later, Barbie would get a chance to fly with Pete "Maverick" Mitchell as a promo for "Top Gun: Maverick." Stereotypical Barbie didn't get to be a naval aviator, though, and Top Gun Barbie looked more like actress Monica Barbaro's character in the movie, Lt. Natasha "Phoenix" Trace.
Ken's service history is obviously going to be a lot different. He was sporting Navy white crackerjacks and a sea bag back in 1963, making him at least a Vietnam-era veteran. Kids could also buy a Ken clothing pack to make him an Army officer or Air Force pilot. Since the uniforms were sold separate from the doll, they came with uniform regulations.
By the time Barbie started joining the military in the 1990s, Ken couldn't just sit at home and wait for the BAH and BAS to flow in. In 1992, he became an Army officer once again, as part of Mattel's "Stars and Stripes" Barbie collection.
In 1992, Ken also became a sergeant in the Marine Corps; he was a Desert Storm veteran with a Good Conduct Medal and an achievement medal. His one uniform failure is that he probably did not have an Eagle, Globe and Anchor tattoo. Ken was back in the Air Force in 1993, three years after Barbie. He then joined the Thunderbirds in 1994, the same year as Barbie, but without any of the time in service.
Keep Up With the Best in Military Entertainment
Whether you're looking for news and entertainment, thinking of joining the military or keeping up with military life and benefits, Military.com has you covered. Subscribe to the Military.com newsletter to have military news, updates and resources delivered straight to your inbox.