Now is starting to feel a lot like then. From Mad Men – inspired clothing to remakes of classic movies and television shows — including True Grit and Hawaii Five-0 — boomers are leading a nostalgia trend that could make the new decade feel like the New Frontier. The key factors? A tough economy, our fondness for the familiar, and the buying power of people 50-plus. "Any time the economy gets shaky, we get nostalgic for nonshaky times," says Lori Gann-Smith, an assistant professor at Brenau University in Gainesville, Georgia, and the curator of its Historic Clothing Collections. "Interest in the '50s and early '60s is fueled by a need for comfort from the past."
That craving for the good old days is especially evident in fashion. And the younger set is getting on board, too. Spring menswear designs for next year reflect such throwback staples as gingham shirts, bomber jackets, and the gray blazer — "a true classic!" says style expert Felix Mercado, who has dressed celebs such as Eva La Rue and Marsha Mason. Stores are stocked with cat's-eye glasses, and women are carrying boxy handbags à la Jackie Kennedy. If your style is more June Cleaver than Jackie, flirty aprons are also popular: Apron manufacturer Jessie Steele saw a 25 percent spike in retail sales over the past year. It harks "back to a time when aprons were the uniform of domestic armor," explains EllynAnne Geisel, author of The Apron Book.
At press time one of the only Broadway musicals with a green light for 2011 was an adaptation of Tom Hanks's Catch Me If You Can (set in the 1960s) — with a revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying waiting in the wings. And Beatles-centric music festivals are thriving (tribute band Rain plays Broadway this fall). So the key to being cool: Get back to where you once belonged.