The success of Ken encouraged the production of many ‘clones’, ie. cheap, superficially similar boy dolls, mostly made in Hong Kong. Some are obviously made to resemble Ken, while others are more original, though none came anywhere close to being serious competitors.
FLOCKED HAIR CLONES
BILL by Fab-Lu Ltd, like most early clones, looks like a zombie Ken. With his ghastly skin and staring eyes, it’s a wonder they managed to sell any of these dolls. He was at least given a decent wardrobe, packaged almost identically to Ken’s own. Like Ken, Bill was available in blonde and brunette.
There are obvious similarities to the vintage Ken packaging, but note the differences on the reverse: Bill appears to be holding a cigarette.
Check out this website for more, wonderfully vitriolic, information about Bill and his girlfriend Babs: http://www.fondationtanagra.com/en/article/bild-lilli-and-the-queens-of-outer-space/page/enters-babs
MR. TEENAGER U.S.A. is another zombie-Ken. I have found three different box designs for this doll, and two different companies seem to have made him and his clothing range: Evergreen and Mego Corp. (including its subsidiary Princess Grace Doll Inc.). Whoever was responsible, they did a terrible job. Apart from the deathly doll, the clothing is extremely shoddy. I’ve seen much better homemade stuff from this period. I suppose they just hoped the patriotism angle would win over common sense. Even if it was all produced in Hong Kong.
PAINTED HAIR CLONES
FRED by Plasty (in Germany), the BEACH DOLL by Arkin A-OK Products, BOY DOLL and others, all resemble painted hair Ken. They are probably the exact same doll, produced in Hong Kong for different companies. In terms of longevity, Fred was the most successful Ken clone, certainly from Europe. Plasty was a German toy company who quite blatantly copied companies like Mattel, Hasbro and Mego for many years. Like Ken, Fred was periodically remodelled, and he survived into the 1990s. More information about Fred can be found in the other clone sections.
The earliest Plasty catalogue to feature Fred seems to be from 1966, a year after the release of his girlfriend Petra.
Of course there were some more original-looking boys too, like the dolls produced by established toy companies, such as Tammy’s brother TED (and her VHTF boyfriend BUD) by Ideal, or Sindy’s boyfriend PAUL by Pedigree in the UK. They had a great range of original and well-made clothing, but they are unfortunate looking, with odd ‘humanoid’ bodies. They look fantastic in the illustrations, but sadly the real dolls bear no resemblance. Despite their innovations (a version of Paul was released with rooted hair, and Pos’n Ted had bendable arms and legs) they were short-lived and, unlike Ken, did not get reinvented for the Mod generation. For more Paul info visit: http://www.oursindymuseum.com/paul.htm.
Ideal even produced a competitor to Mattel’s Ricky (see section Ricky) in 1965 in the form of POS’N SALTY, who, unlike Ricky, had bendable limbs and came with sports accessories. Ideal also packaged this doll in a plain card box, wearing ‘patched’ T-shirt and jeans, and sold him as POS’N PETE.
Note that the bendable version of Ted predates Mattel’s bendable leg Ken and Allan dolls by a year.
As well as their regular line, Pedigree produced a cheaper clothing range under the name Mam’selle. I’ve seen a Mam’selle catalogue showing a total of five outfits for Paul, all of which are now extremely hard to find.
In France there was JACKY (boyfriend of Mily), produced by French toy company GéGé. He came boxed with a basic underwear set. So far I’ve only managed to date him through catalogues from 1965-66, but I’ve seen several different box designs and many outfits, so he must have been sold for quite a few years. Jacky’s outfits are beautifully made, with a wonderful range of quality fabrics.
Back in the US, Plastic Molded Arts (P.M.A.) produced two boys called RONNIE and TOMMY. Tommy features in the 1964 Sears Christmas catalogue. L. Davis Textiles Co. Ltd (Davtex) produced two similar dolls called DON and RICK. Don (boyfriend of Suzette) features in the Canadian Simpsons Sears catalogues for 1964 and 1965, with a large clothing range. All these dolls look similar, with their side glancing eyes and short blonde hair.
Don’s clothing range included copies of Campus Hero, Tuxedo, The Yachtsman, Fun on Ice, Dr. Ken and Ski Champion.
The 1964, 1966 and 1967 Aldens Christmas catalogues feature an identical clone called BOB (boyfriend of Babs or Betty), who came with his own wardrobe.
Another DON was sold through the Jewel Tea catalogue as the boyfriend of Debbie Dunbar, and through the Spiegel catalogue as the boyfriend of Polly. They all have the ‘Dr. Kildaire’ doll head. He was originally made like a regular Ken with straight stiff arms and legs, but from 1963 he was also available with a jointed body.
ANDY or DAN by Eegee came in two versions. One has simple molded crew-cut hair, but the second version is slightly more unique, with his quiffed hair. Dan came in red Ken-like shorts, but as Andy he would originally have had a white cardigan and black and white knit swimsuit, rather oddly combined with sports socks and shoes. The crew-cut version seems to have come without the cardigan. There were at least four extra outfits available for Andy, as shown in the 1963 catalogue below.
The dolls below are all very similar to each other, possibly even produced by the same factory and packaged by various companies as desired in the US. These are the ‘Dime Store’ dolls, the cheapest of all.
Ken was not the first teen-age boy doll, but, like Barbie before him, he literally changed the mold of ‘teen’ dolls. An obvious example of this is Uneeda’s BOB doll, sold exclusively at the US chain store Grants (W.T. Grant Co.). See how the 1962 version Bob (below right) has transformed from the standard boy doll opposite into a tall slender youth, with a body almost identical to Ken.
There are also clone versions of Allan and Ricky. Sadly I have no information concerning the companies who produced them, or how they were originally dressed and packaged.
M & S Shillman, Premier Doll Accessories Inc., Toy Doll & Novelty Company, Progressive Doll Accessories, and Dolly Fashions Inc. etc. all sold clothing and accessories from similar, mostly Brooklyn-based, New York addresses, so were probably the same company working under different names. (Eegee who produced Andy, also based in Brooklyn, was highly likely part of the same company too). Some clothing is identical to Ken’s genuine wardrobe, and some more original. They were presumably all produced during the mid to late 1960s.
This Shillman outfit is called Campus Caper. It is one of two versions, the other having a red jersey and grey slacks. Shillman produced their own clone doll called Mr. Teen. This outfit is possibly from his collection. There were certainly several outfits produced under the title Mr. Teen Tailored Fashions (Above right).
Another company who produced under different names was Ardee/Supreme Fashions. They produced Mr. Kent and Dapper Dan fashions with several great accessories.
Totsy Manufacturing Co. Inc., based in Holyoke Massachusetts, produced a large range of boy doll outfits and accessories, under various titles. Note the sets containing clones of Business Appointment hat, coat & gloves. Some accessories by Totsy appear almost identical to those sold by Shillman.
Peggy-Ann Doll Clothes Inc. from Springfield Massachusetts produced at least one male doll (the charmingly named Happening Hank) and several outfit sets.
The items below were all found loose, so unfortunately I’m unable to identify them, but they are all obvious copies of original Mattel items.
The 1964 Western Auto Christmas catalogue is interesting, as it shows a genuine Ken sold in direct connection with clone clothing, the earliest I have so far discovered. The mention of “luggage-style cases” and an outfit called Campus Caper, suggests that these outfits are Mr. Teen Tailored Fashions by Shillman, as shown further above.
There is so little information available online about Ken clones and clone clothing. The clothing appears for sale online constantly, but usually out-of-box, making it impossible to know which items belong together, or fit to which doll. The information above is just a tiny glimpse into the clone ‘underworld’, and I readily admit that I’m no expert. If anyone can provide extra information and/or photos, feel free to contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org. Some more information about Ken (and Barbie) clones can be found on this website: http://www.kenbarbieclones1960s-1990s.com.