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Barbie&Kencore: The epic win of gender equality

Aggiornamento: 11 ott 2023


"About Gatsby! No, I haven't. I said I'd been making a small investigation of his past."

"And you found he was an Oxford man," said Jordan helpfully.

"An Oxford man!" He was incredulous. "Like hell he is! He wears a pink suit."

-Francis Scott Fitgerald, The Great Gatsby, Chapter 7



The so called "Barbiemania" swept the whole world in July 2023. Hordes of pink dressed fans came to theaters all over the world, in an never ending hype, just to be part of what has been defined "the pop-culture event of the year". In a demostration of that, just a few weeks after its release, the movie about the Mattel doll grossed 1.2 billion dollars worldwide, becoming the 25th most watched film ever and the second Warner Bros film to have grossed more than 500 million of dollars in USA after Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight (2008).


In July 2019, Margot Robbie was officially announced as the new face of Barbie,and then, in October 2021, Ryan Gosling was also confirmed in the role of Ken, the doll's historical boyfriend.


The first photos from the movie set, which portrayed Gosling and Robbie in their stage costumes, went immediately viral and were enough to spark a real fashion phenomenon that would later known as Barbiecore.


This trend, characterized by a constant presence of shocking pink and bright colors that reminds the historical designs of the beloved doll, was first brought to public events and fashion shows by celebrities such Kim Kardashian, Dua Lipa and Hanne Hataway, and then, social medias (as always) did the rest. The hashtag #Barbiecore then went viral on TikTok and Pinterest, where it had waves of approval and shares. Many influencers have begun to copy the style of the famous doll in daily life without limits in terms of age and gender. If we might think of this trend as something uniquely feminine, we couldn’t be further from the truth. With the concept of Gender Equality increasingly affirmed in every way of life, the main characters of this style have later become male personalities from the entertainment world, well-known characters (of all age) who have colored their public presence in pink. Like Harry Styles, who in occasion of the Coachella festival 2022 performed in a sumptuous outfit with total pink fur and leather look designed by Gucci and Timothee Chalamet who attended the London premiere of "Little Women" in 2019, in a light pink suit designed by Thom Browne.


Barbiecore then landed even more quickly on the runways with designers and fashion companies giving their models (both men and women) various shades of this trend, while maintaining typically masculine silhouettes. Is the case of Tom Ford, who presented for his show for the Spring/Summer 2022 a classic ensemble composed exclusively of shades of pink. Valentino's Autumn Winter 2022/2023 fashion show, curated by Pier Paolo Piccioli then consolidated pink as the color of the year. It is no secret that Barbie has always been a muse for the fashion system (Jeremy Scott had drawn inspiration from it to design his collection for Moschino for Spring/Summer 2015) and since its creation in the 1950s, Mattel has always collaborated with fashion companies to create accessory lines.


Ever since we attended kindergarten as children, we have always found in front of us (erected like an apparently unbreakable wall) the basic fashion concept that scream blue for boys and pink for girls, which went hand in hand with other "social impositions" for gender separation (males play with toy soldiers, females with dolls). Even if we thougt that this stereotypes could be applicated only in a backward and conservative society, they have their roots in a much more recent era than we think.


In fact, until the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, pink and blue didn’t have an important meaning about male and female difference, as both girls and boys used to dress in white. Pink was instead used by adults, meant as a quieter and more sophisticated variant of red, in contrast to its meaning which referred to fire, war and blood.


Later in the 40s, fashion companies began to use pink for women’s fashion and blue for menswear, basing this choice on a simple assumption that the two genders simply preferred these colors. This intuition was also influenced by the creations of French couturiers in the 50s, who usually combined pink with women’s fashion at the time.


Over time, the concept of feminine pink and masculine blue became increasingly rooted in society, until it was definitively consolidated in the 80s’s thanks to marketing campaigns and despite all the efforts of the feminist movements in the 60s and 70s to try to establish neutral colors that made no distinction between men and women.


However, this “imposition” was destined to crumble as quickly as it managed to establish. And today, hand in hand with Barbiecore, KenCore was also born. This trend is made of neon colors and sweet, warm shades with a recurring addition of Denim (in an almost surfer look) and it soon arrived on the fashion shows thanks to brands such as Armani and Louis Vuitton.


Speaking in examples, for the premiere of the Netflix’s film "The Gray Man" that took place in London in 2022, it was clear how much Ryan Gosling embraced his role in the Barbie movie, appearing on the red carpet wearing a brightly colored suit made by Gucci in a demonstration of how he was the perfect actor to play Barbie's bf. In the same year, the american rapper Machine Gun Kelly attended the premiere of the documentary based on his own life ("Life in Pink", available on Disney+), wearing a crop top and long sleeves designed by Chet Lo and colored in bright shades of pink and blue.


Fashion trends like Barbiecore and Kencore teach us not only how important movies and toys's culture are in fashion industry, but also how big is the progress that society is making in demolishing the classic stereotype of the serious and insensitive man, creating instead a free, creative, colorful and (why not) exhibitionist , concept of masculinity. And, as a man, I can only appreciate it.





Di Cosimo Baldi

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