Gender appropriate toys in this day and age are a bit of a laugh. As babies all genders are given teddy bears and all manner of other kinds of soft toys. As boys and girls get older, they develop a natural affinity towards the things that interest them.
I am not sure if this is all to do with chemicals, gender stereotypes or what it is but of course it is very politically correct these days to try and influence your children in all manner of ways to not be biased towards gender stereotypes.
Speaking for myself, I was an active fan of teddybears right up until about ten or eleven years of age and examining my own youngest son’s behaviour, he abandoned the cutesy and androgynous toy themed items about the same age.
That said, the Action Man – the boy focused equivalent of the Barbie doll – stayed with me into my early teens. The Action Man was a 18″ poseable action figure launched in the UK by Palitoy in 1966. Action Man was a licensed copy of Hasbro’s American “movable fighting man” – G.I. Joe launched two years earlier in 1964. Palitoy Ltd of Coalville, Leicestershire ran from 1966 until 1984.
Generally speaking, Action Man and his accessories were originally based on G.I. Joe figure which was patented even down to the specific method of attaching the appendages.
The first Action Man figures were Action Soldier, Action Sailor and Action Pilot.
All the men were available in four original hair colours: Blonde, Auburn, Brown and Black.
Outfits depicted United States forces of WWII and the Korean War with uniforms and accessories later reflecting the forces of the United Kingdom rather than the USA.
Uniforms and accessories could be bought separately and some knock offs soon appeared in toy stores for purchase, based on the same scale.
I recall we had two uniforms a German field dress uniform with a bolt action rifle and a snow ski patrol uniform which may have also been German. Both would have been bought in South Africa. There were also the remnants of a scuba accessory kit.
I inherited my brother’s Action Man with real hair and augmented the accessories with additional purchases and trades at school.
I would also receive a couple of new Action Man knock offs distinguished by their painted hair as Christmas or birthday presents in later years when my more affluent school chums were being gifted the premium Six Million Dollar man or Action Man vehicles!
The last of my Action Men found a home dressed as a Roman noble in the Natural History Museum in Bulawayo along with other items created by members of the Museum Society. The exhibits move every now and then but when last I visited, they could still be found in the basement foyer of the auditorium in some display cases.