Nobody puts Barbie in a corner. OK, maybe you do when you go through your angsty teen years, desperate to prove you don’t play with dolls anymore. But, if 2022 has taught us anything, it’s that Barbie never really leaves us. And right now, she’s experiencing a comeback unlike any other.
First, there was the fuchsia-on-fuchsia Fall 2022 Valentino haute couture show, where the bold shade of pink reminded everyone of a certain Barbara Millicent Roberts—and put #Barbiecore, an equally bold fashion movement, into the mainstream. (An aesthetic Nicki Minaj has been rocking for years, BTW.)
That was only compounded by the slow dopamine drip of photos from the Barbie set, a live action production starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, directed by Greta Gerwig—with a plotline that’s become almost cheekily under wraps. (Little is confirmed, beyond that it’s about a doll who’s forced to leave a place called Barbieland due to her imperfections.)
Right on the heels of all that hype, Mattel has officially brought back its best-selling doll of all time—Totally Hair Barbie, which raked in $100 million in its first year on store shelves. While this iteration doesn’t come with a squeeze tube of Dep hair gel for puffing out her bangs like the 1992 original, it does feature four variations on the toy, with different body types, hair colors and skin tones to be more inclusive. The reboot is timed to Totally Hair Barbie’s 30th anniversary, but it feels almost divinely orchestrated: The most iconic Barbie of millennials’ lives hits stores right as many of them have children of their own of Barbie-playing age, and while the #Barbiecore aesthetic is at its definitive, late-summer peak. All of which begs a two-fold question: Why now, and what does it reveal about us?