Retro Products Newly Chic

PHOTO: Rocket Poppeteer

The newest thing in marketing? Anything old. Edison-style light bulbs, Schwinn cruiser bikes, manual typewriters that go clack when you hit the keys, even ice cream novelties last licked when Fess Parker was on TV and wore a coonskin cap—all of these and more are hot.

Marian Berelowitz, editor and writer at JWT Intelligence, a trend-spotting group, cites two reasons:

Middle-aged people are buying products they associate with their youth—1960s-style portable record players made by Crosley Radio, for example, or frozen Rocket Poppeteer pops from the 1970s, brought back to market by 7-Eleven in 2011.

Second, says Berelowitz, there is a growing nostalgia for good old, physical things--as opposed to those same things' digital replacements. "We're seeing this among people immersed in the digital world," she says.

The more that physical books fall out of use, she notes, the more people come to appreciate their aesthetic virtues. There are iPad cases on the market now that simulate the look and feel of old, leather bound-volumes.

Many of the most successful products, says Berelowitz, occupy a niche somewhere in-between the digital and physical that gives users some of the pleasures of both.

"We're about to run an item on our blog saying how snail-mail is becoming strangely popular again," she says. "There's this new online platform called 'LETTRS' that lets you write, share and save physical letters."

Through his website, Jack Zylkin of Philadelphia markets what look like (and are) clunky metal typewriters. Built into them, however, are USB links, so that users can peck out tweets, email and text messages. His slogan: "A Groundbreaking Advancement in the Field of Obsolescence."

Here's more on Zylkin's "retro-futuristic marvels" and other hot retro products:

PHOTO: Rocket Poppeteer
Rocket Poppeteer

These bomb-style frozen pops, colored red, white and blue (and flavored with cherry, lime and blue raspberry) date back to the 1970s. Their re-appearance in Paramount Pictures' 2011 movie "Super 8" inspired 7-Eleven to bring them back to market.

Fiat 500 retro mini

Car Magazine calls it the "temptingly hot" retro-chic "Italian answer to BMW's Mini." Fiat built the original 500 in Italy in 1957. In 2007, 50 years later, it introduced the 'new' 500 to the U.S.--larger but still tiny, with front-wheel drive and priced below both the similarly-retro Austin Mini and VW Beetle.


Want electronic photos that look like Mathew Brady shot them? Instagram's technology allows smartphone-users to add imperfections and a 19th-century patina to digital photography. Facebook, by acquiring the company, gave a $1 billion vote of confidence to retro-chic.

PHOTO: Crosley turntable
Crosley Turntable

Crosley Radio makes a variety of retro products, including analog turntables and record-players (some in portable, 1950s-style cases). Not only can you play an old--or new--vinyl record, you can have the music transferred simultaneously to a computer file or compact disc.

PHOTO: The Airstream Sport RV trailer
Airstream Sport

The Sport, like other iconic trailer models made by Airstream, practically demands an owner who smokes a pipe, wears Hawaiian shirts and liked Ike. It's postwar America in lozenge form. The trailers have long been hip with hipsters, including Hollywood stars.

PHOTO: USB typewriter
USB typewriter
USB Typewriter

"Our USB Typewriter circuitry," says the company's website, "Can transform nearly any manual typewriter into a retro-futuristic marvel. Use a gorgeous vintage typewriter as your main computer keyboard, or type with ink-on-paper while electronically recording your keystrokes!" Philadelphia inventor Jack Zylkin, who started the service, was quoted recently in the Tampa Bay Tribune as saying nobody needs in this day and age to play a record or peck a typewriter. "They're all more work. But that's the beauty of it—they're just more human."

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