KEN & FRIENDS: MALE FASHION DOLLS & CLOTHING FROM 1961-1987
Casual All Stars – Sears exclusive sets 1970-1973
The Casual All-Stars series began in 1970 and ran until 1973. They were genuine Mattel outfit sets available through the Sears Christmas Wish Book. Each set came with a jacket, two pairs of slacks, a long-sleeved shirt, a short-sleeved shirt, two ties, and a pair of shoes and socks. The earlier sets (1970-71) were made in Japan, and also included a pair of shorts, soap and razor. The sets from 1972-73 were produced in Taiwan. A vast amount of variation fabrics were used each year, especially for the Taiwan-made sets.
1970-71 THE JAPAN-MADE SETS
The Japan-made jackets have a regular Ken label. There is stitching detail around the collar and pockets.
The jacket below is made of a much stiffer and brighter blue ‘suede’ fabric than the one above.
All versions I’ve seen of this green jacket have a Barbie label by mistake. My version has had the Barbie label cut, and a Ken label glued over the top.
1972-73 THE TAIWAN-MADE SETS
The Taiwan-made sets certainly came in a vast array of colours and fabrics, and my collection is far from complete.
These jackets have no stitching detail around the collar and pockets, but two rows of stitching down the front on either side. They have no Ken label. Instead they have a small Taiwan tag inside the front.
Unlike the Japan-made shirts, these shirts have a double row of stitching down the front, there is no stitching around the border of the collar, and the shirts have no cuffs.
The Taiwan-made slacks are the most difficult to identify, as, unlike most Mattel slacks, they have no fly-stitching at front. This makes them look like almost any clone or homemade trousers or pajama-bottoms. Below are the trousers I’ve so far identified. They are all constructed identically, with a fully-elasticated waistband with the elastic hidden under the fabric. The hem of the trouser leg is also a good indicator, as they are identical on all genuine slacks.
The 1972-3 tie also came in green, the 1972-3 long-sleeved shirt in purple, and the ‘suede’ jacket in deep red. These are only the ones I’ve so far discovered – many more variations undoubtedly exist.
THE SEARS WISH BOOKS
The 1973 Sears Wish Book mentions shorts and an “electric” razor. This is almost certainly an error. They were included in the earlier Japan-produced sets, but do not appear in the photos, or the MOC versions, of the Taiwan-made sets.
MATTEL 1970 BIG BUSINESS & 1971 V.I.P. SCENE SHIRTS
The three shirts below are occasionally listed by online sellers as belonging to this series. The green and blue shirts are from the 1970 outfit Big Business, and the red shirt is from the 1971 outfit V.I.P. Scene. These shirts differ in three main ways: they have four buttons (Casual All Stars shirts have three), they have a slit at the back of the neck for the talking pull-string (Casual All Stars shirts do not), and the shirt bottoms are rounded, whereas the Casual All Stars short-sleeved shirts are straight.
MATTEL 1971 SLACKS ARE BACK TROUSERS
The green slacks below have a Ken label, so can only be from the Action Wear Slacks Are Back series. No other Mod era slacks are labelled. They also have fly-stitching, whereas the later, lime-green, Casual All Stars slacks do not.
MATTEL 1974 BEST BUY SHIRT
This red flowery shirt is very similar to the Casual All Stars ones, but it has differences – the collar is not made well enough and is too large, it has only one popper, and the sleeves are slightly too short. It is by Mattel though, and also a Sears (store) exclusive. It was part of their 1974 exclusive Best Buy Fashions collection. More photos of this shirt can be seen in the section 1974 The Outfits.
These clone pajama bottoms are practically identical to the genuine Casual All Stars slacks: similar cut, hemming and type of fabric. The only inconsistencies are the slightly looser cut around the hips, and the fact that the elastic inside the waistband is visible, whereas on genuine Casual All Stars slacks the elastic is stitched under the fabric.
Rare and colourful Casual All Stars items can fetch high prices, so some sellers falsely claim they have pieces from this series.
If you look at every single ‘variation’ garment that Mattel made between 1961 and 1987, it was only the fabrics that varied. In every other aspect they are identical: the style, construction and stitching is exactly the same on all ‘variation’ pieces. The Casual All Stars series was no exception. The Japan versions differ slightly from those made in Taiwan, but all Japan-made jackets, shirts, pants etc. are identically made, and all Taiwan pieces are identically made. The pants below have a totally different kind of waistband, and the hems at the bottom of the trouser leg are way too small. In fact these pants are not even for Ken at all. I’m not a Barbie collector, but would imagine they are for a girl doll.