IDENTIFYING GENUINE NRFB ENSEMBLE PAK OUTFITS
Occasionally online sellers list Ensemble Pak outfits as ‘NRFB’ or ‘MIB’, but a closer look reveals that they have indeed been removed and resewn. In some cases the items are even incorrect or have obviously been played with. First let’s look at this example of Ken’s Fountain Boy, which is 100% genuine. Shown directly below is the outfit simply removed from the box. The spoons have come loose, as the tape has dried over the years, but otherwise the outfit is exactly as sewn in the factory, with the original cellophane wrapper.
Below left shows the reverse of the backing card with the string still originally taped. This is the guarantee that the outfit has not been tampered with over the years. The picture on the right shows the front of the backing card with the outfit removed. You can see all the original markings and holes, which were guides to the factory packers and can now be used by sellers to resew used outfits.
It is not always necessary though to remove the outfit from the box, to check if it is genuine. The supposed ‘NRFB’ version of In Training below from a 2017 Ebay auction has several obvious mistakes:
1. The items are placed incorrectly. The dumbbells should be together, with the book to the right of them.
2. The white items look dirty and stained.
3. The wrong booklet. This outfit was only available in the first year, so probably only ever came with the pink booklet from 1961. I’ve certainly never seen a genuinely NRFB version of this outfit with a 1962 booklet.
Now compare the above to this genuine NRFB version of In Training sold on Ebay the same week:
The version of Ken In Switzerland below is also not genuinely NRFB. Again, there are several clues:
1. It is the wrong shirt. First of all, the earlier shirt, which came with this packaging, is usually labelled. As the booklet is the later one, an unlabelled shirt may have been used, but this one has no cuffs, so must be from a later version of Ken in Mexico, or Seein’ the Sights (see further below for more details).
2. The clothing looks slightly worn, especially the socks, which have yellowed and are so stretched that it’s obvious they have been played with. See how straight and thin the socks appear in the genuinely NRFB versions.
3. The boots are missing the cellophane bag, and not even sewn on card at all.
If you scroll further below (IDENTIFYING VINTAGE WHITE SHORT-SLEEVE SHIRTS) you’ll see two genuinely NRFB versions of Ken In Switzerland, with correct cuffed shirts, clean unused socks, and boots in original cellophane bags.
If you are unsure about a NRFB outfit you’ve seen online, compare it to the one shown on the corresponding outfits page of this website.
Ebay is a particularly great place to find vintage Ken stuff, but caution is advised at all times. Americans really are a nation of hard-sellers, and their optimistic descriptions often bear little or no relation to the goods on offer. Though some items (such as hideous garbage-heap Kens described as ‘near mint’) are blatantly not as described, others are less obvious. This isn’t helped by sellers, especially the long-time professionals, still using outdated, inaccurate and inadequately-researched Barbie guide books as reference. And do not believe a seller simply because they have ‘Barbie’ in their username. Be particularly wary of vintage ‘variations’: they are usually just clone pieces. Use this website to the full – I’ve done (and keep doing) better research for you than you’ll find anywhere else!
IDENTIFYING VINTAGE SLACKS
Online sellers will often claim to have slacks which fit several outfits. However, the slacks, although similar, varied for each outfit. The guide below should help. One other way to tell whether you have the correct ones, is to check the cut and fabric. For example, in 1966, the same type of fabric was used to make the Jazz Concert, Seein’ The Sights & Best Man slacks, and they all have a similar, loose cut. The Rovin’ Reporter and College Student slacks from 1965 also share a similar cut and type of fabric.
No black slacks are labelled.
1) Trousers from the 1961 outfit TUXEDO. Piping down outside trouser leg. They have a visible YKK zip and no popper. Quite fitted with a narrow leg.
2) Slacks from the 1964 Ensemble Pak COUNTRY CLUBBIN’. Fitted narrow leg. Fasten with hidden YKK zip and black popper. Front and back ‘pocket’ stitching detail (which is extremely difficult to notice – even on these close-up photos).
3) Trousers from 1964-65 version of TUXEDO. Fasten with hidden YKK zip and black popper. Narrow piping down outside trouser leg. Higher waist and cut much looser than previous tuxedo trousers.
4) Trousers from 1966 Ensemble Pak BEST MAN. Fasten with hidden YKK zip and black popper. Cut quite loose, and made of cotton twill with a different kind of piping down trouser leg from previous tuxedo trousers. Front and back ‘pocket’ stitching detail.
Many sellers get ‘confused’, especially when selling Jazz Concert or College Student – even professional sellers regularly list the cheaper Fashion Pak slacks, as belonging to these rarer outfits.
1) The beige slacks from the 1961 outfit CASUALS. They have a visible YKK zip and no popper. Sewn-on back pocket. No label.
2) The tan slacks from the 1962-3 version of Ensemble Pak CASUALS. As above except for the revised front pocket stitching design (see more info regarding this difference further below).
3) The beige or tan slacks from the CASUALS reissue in 1964. They have a hidden YKK zip, popper, and sewn-on back pocket. No Label.
4) The khaki slacks from the 1963 Ensemble Pak ARMY AND AIR FORCE. They have a hidden YKK zip, but no popper. Front and back pocket stitching detail. No label.
5) The stone-coloured slacks from the 1966 Ensemble Pak JAZZ CONCERT. They have a hidden YKK zip and a popper. Front and back pocket stitching detail. They are cut looser on the leg than all the other slacks. No label. Made of a cotton twill fabric. Double-check before buying!
6) The brown slacks from the 1962 FASHION PAK and the 1964 Ensemble Pak FRATERNITY MEETING. They have a hidden YKK zip, popper, and front and back pocket stitching detail.. They are darker and more reddish in colour than the ones above, and have a slimmer cut. The Fashion Pak slacks have a label, but those from Fraternity Meeting do not. I have both versions, and otherwise there’s really not much difference between them. The colour of stitching can vary. The labelled Fashion Pak slacks are the most common, cheaply and easily available, and many online sellers will incorrectly add them to rare outfits to ‘complete’ their sets.
7) The dark brown slacks from the 1965 Ensemble Pak COLLEGE STUDENT. These are the darkest of all, a rich dark-chocolate brown. They have a hidden YKK zip, a popper, and back pocket stitching detail on both sides. No label.
1) The slacks from the original 1961 version of Ensemble Pak CAMPUS HERO. Visible zip only. Front pocket stitching detail. Sewn-on back pocket. ‘Ken’ label inside. These slacks have turn-ups (see above).
2) The 1962-4 version slacks from Ensemble Pak CAMPUS HERO. Hidden zip and popper. Front pocket stitching detail. Sewn-on back pocket. Ken label inside.
3) The slacks from 1963 Ensemble Pak DR. KEN. Hidden zip and popper. Front pocket stitching detail, but no back pocket stitching. No label.
4) The slacks from 1963 Ensemble Pak SAILOR. Hidden zip and popper. No front or back pocket stitching detail. No label. Cut wide just below the hips and flared at the ankle.
5) The slacks from 1964 Ensemble Pak VICTORY DANCE. Hidden zip and popper. Front pocket stitching detail. Sewn-on back pocket. No label. Cut slightly looser than the similar slacks from Campus Hero.
6) The slacks from 1965 Ensemble Pak ROLLER SKATE DATE. Hidden zip and popper. Front pocket stitching detail. Sewn-on back pocket. No label. Cut much looser than the similar slacks from Victory Dance.
7) The slacks from 1964-5 Japanese edition CAMPUS HERO Dressed Doll Ken K770. Very similar to the original 1961 version Campus Hero slacks, except that these have a later-version Ken label inside, and are made of a different fabric.
No blue slacks are labelled.
1) The dark blue slacks from the 1964 Ensemble Pak SPECIAL DATE. No front or back pocket stitching detail. Quite high-waisted.
2) The navy blue slacks from the 1964 Ensemble Pak AMERICAN AIRLINES CAPTAIN. Front and back pocket stitching detail.
3) The dark blue slacks from the 1965 Ensemble Pak ROVIN’ REPORTER. No front or back pocket stitching detail. Cut looser than previous slacks.
4) The navy blue slacks from the 1966 Ensemble Pak SEEIN’ THE SIGHTS. Front and back pocket stitching detail. Made of canvas cotton/cotton twill and cut quite loose.
1) The 1961 version slacks from SATURDAY DATE. Visible zip with no popper. No front or back pocket stitching detail. No label. These slacks also have turn-ups (as shown above).
2) The 1962-3 version slacks from Ensemble Pak SATURDAY DATE. Hidden zip and popper. No front or back pocket stitching detail. No label.
3) The FASHION PAK slacks from 1962-3. Hidden zip and popper. Front and back pocket stitching detail. Ken label.
4) 1964-5 slacks from Ensemble Pak GOING BOWLING. Hidden zip and popper. Front and back pocket stitching detail. No label. Looser cut than the previous trousers.
‘POCKET’ DETAIL STITCHING
The trousers and shorts from 1961 have front ‘pocket’ stitching as shown below left. All versions from 1962 on have a revised ‘pocket’ design, which extends into the stitching around the waist, as shown below right. The only exceptions are some outfits with jackets – such as Saturday Date, Rovin’ Reporter and Tuxedo – which have slacks with no ‘pocket’ stitching at all.
IDENTIFYING VINTAGE WHITE SHORT-SLEEVE SHIRTS
Ken’s white short-sleeve shirt first appeared in 1964. There are two versions of the shirt, and both of them came with and without label.
1. KEN IN SWITZERLAND. This shirt is extremely well-made, like a real shirt, with panelling and finished cuffs. Later versions were not labelled.
2. COLLEGE STUDENT / ROVIN’ REPORTER. This shirt is like the one above, but without the label. Later versions of Ken In Switzerland also came with this shirt.
3. KEN IN MEXICO / VICTORY DANCE. This shirt is more basic (no panelling, no cuffs), but still labelled. Later versions of this shirt came without label.
4. SEEIN’ THE SIGHTS. Basic shirt with no label. Later versions of Ken in Mexico also came with this shirt.
VINTAGE KEN FACE PAINT AND HAIR
1) Teal iris with white dots to the left of pupil. No line around edge of iris. This style is found on 1961-63 flocked hair blonde and brunette Kens. The Kens from 1961-2 have quite thick eyebrows, the thickness and colour varying, especially in blondes. By 1962-3 their eyebrows have a more ‘plucked’ look. The hair colour and shape varies too. Some have an almost perfectly straight hairline, and on others the hairline curves at the temples.
These two Kens below have the rarer dark brown hair – most brunettes have practically black hair. Notice too how pink the jaw is of the Ken on the left – this skin discoloration is quite common with early flocked hair Kens.
2) Teal or turquoise iris with white crescents/dashes in the pupil. No line around edge of iris. Pale, light brown eyebrows, thicker ‘eyelashes’, and painted eyelids. This style was used for the 1961 ‘brownette’ Kens. There were several shades of brown used for the hair, and some have a painted scalp under the flocking.
3) Teal or turquoise iris with no line around edge. Dark eyebrows and thicker ‘eyelashes’. Found on 1963 first version Japan-made Kens.
4) Blue iris with no line around edge. Found on painted hair ‘shorty’ Kens from 1964. These can vary a lot, especially the hair colour and quality of paintwork. On some the plastic has turned a ghastly white.
5) Turquoise iris with black line painted around edge. Found on second version Japan-made Kens from 1963 and third version Japan-made Kens from 1963-64.
6) Blue iris with black line painted around edge. Brightness of blue varies. Found on Japan-made Kens from 1964-5. Some Kens, Allans and Rickys from 1965 have ‘tanned’ faces, which is presumably an effect of ageing.
7) Aqua or blue iris with black line painted around edge. Blushing cheeks and/or much lighter lips. Found on Kens from 1966-7.
THE TWO VINTAGE ARM/HAND MOLDS
In 1963 Mattel released a new look painted hair Ken, to replace the easily-damaged flocked hair version. As well as a new head, he also was given a totally new arm/hand design.
However, Mattel were smart enough to use all the unsold flocked hair Ken limbs before switching to the new version, so the earliest painted hair Kens all come with the original arms/hands and have the typical wide stance.
FIRST VERSION HAND
The revised design gives him a slightly chubbier, but nevertheless more elegant and natural-looking, hand shape. This design remained the same for all vintage Kens and Allans.
SECOND VERSION HAND