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Northamptonshire has arguably been the global Mecca for men’s shoes since the Middle Ages, thanks to its abundant local oak bark being ideal for leather tanning. It was here too that Goodyear welting – a superior way to attach the upper that makes shoes waterproof and able to be endlessly resoled – was developed. Small wonder that the big names – Cheaney, Crockett & Jones, Alfred Sargeant et al – do endless private label work for fashion brands, or that in 1999 Church’s was snapped up by Prada.

Key purchase

Grenson’s limited-edition green brogues with white wedge sole: old and new. £370 


By the mid 1800s there were some 18,000 machines cranking out socks in Leicester, making it an international hub for hosiery. Credit goes to local William Lee, whose 1589 invention of the stocking frame was one of the first stocking-footed steps in the Industrial Revolution. Among the most famous of the city’s 200-odd manufacturers were HJ Hall and Pantherella - who still make for the likes of Richard James and Brioni using a unique interweaving of Victorian innovation and slightly more modern machinery.

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Pantherella’s Danvers style was worn in Baartmans & Siegel’s latest catwalk show. £12 

Yorkshire and Lancashire

These two counties' textile-making history dates back to the 1600s, when ancient methods of hand-spinning and looming at home saw it win a reputation as the go-to region for cotton shirting fabrics in particular. That’s why world-renowned cloth merchants Thomas Mason and Acorn Fabrics are based here, and why shirt-making supremos Turnbull & Asser and Budd come here for their raw materials – not to mention fashion-forward brands that prize made-in-Britain button-ups such as Margaret Howell.


The name might have seemed unpromising, but James Winter’s 1807 invention of the “gloving donkey” – a brass-toothed clamp that enabled more even stitching – in Somerset ensured that the West Country would become Britain’s centre for glove-making. Dents, one of the oldest makers, was established in nearby Worcester, and Chester Jefferies in Dorset: both are still going strong, their generations of expertise in the surprisingly fiddly process ensuring a precise fit that attracts custom from around the globe.

Key purchase

Reiss has fingered Dents to make gloves for its new Premium Collection. £95 

The Isle of Harris 

The northern island makes the most famous tweed partly because inhabitants hand-make it at home, partly because of Vivienne Westwood rebooting interest, and partly because its quality is protected by an Act of Parliament. But it’s just one of many varieties hand-woven in the Outer Hebrides, where brands such as Nike, Junya Watanabe and Marc Jacobs have all called in to get a piece of the original, fashionable-again fabric, with its natural water resistance and warmth-trapping air pockets.

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Soulland has turned tweed into a bomber rather than a shooting jacket. £419 


The small town of Hawick has been the epicentre of the Scottish knitwear and cashmere industry since the 1770s. This one-time home of the likes of Pringle, Lyle & Scott and Ballantyne even prompted Chanel to buy into the local skills with the acquisition of Barrie, one of Scotland’s most historic mills. It’s also where Hermès and Louis Vuitton come to have their super-soft sweaters made. A tartan or argyle pattern is strictly optional; the local waters, said to give garments a superior “handle” (industry speak for feel), are probably not.

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Brandon Flowers is 15 minutes late for his interview. But he's got a good excuse. "My gym is closing down today so it took a lot longer to get out: everybody was saying goodbye," explains the Killers frontman, apologetically. "Being in the city, it's the closest we get to that small-town sense of community." 

As I've got older I've worked out more. The more comfortable I am in my own skin, the more comfortable I am in front of a camera

The city where Flowers makes his home is fabulous Las Vegas. Such a vivid, lurid locale can't help but infuse and inspire much of his muscial output. If The Killers' indie and dance-tinged debut Hot Fuss was a love lette to Britain and '80s bands such as New Order, Depeche Mode and The Cure, then their subsequent records have been an epistolary romance with Vegas, soundtracked by epic stadium rock in the Springsteen tradition. Sam's Town, The Killers' second album, was named after a Vegas casino, and Flowers' first solo record, Flamingo, after the road on which it sits. The lead track is called Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas. 

Flowers' second, as-yet-unnamed solo album, due out this spring, promises to be a departure in more ways than one. Although he's in the studio without his regular bandmates, he's not completely alone, working with up-and-coming producer Ariel Rechtshaid. "Fresh: that's the word for Ariel," says Flowers, and not just because of Rechtshaid's background in hip-hop. (He's also produced Vampire Weekend and Haim.) "He's got a completely different approach to making records than anything I'm used to," says Flowers. "I feel like there's something authentic and a little bit more adventurous about this one, that's for sure." Thematically, Flowers is also leaving Las Vegas behind to an extent – or at least, not moonlighting for the tourist board. 

You might expect that a rock start who has permenant residence in Sin City must live a life of such unbridled hedonism it would make a showering-while-swilling-whisky Nicolas Cage check into rehab posthaste. But Flowers is conspicuously, incongruously clean-living, certainly compared to the legendarily debauched rock stars of yesteryear. "Yeah, it's a new breed of rock star," he laughs. "I'm rebelling against the stereotype." He hasn't drank, or at least been drunk, for "probably seven or eight years." He doesn't smoke. He doesn't even drink coffee. And his much-publicised faith – he's a Mormon, a member of the Church of Latter-Day Saints, which issues guidelines on alcohol and caffeine consumption – is not the only explanation. Indeed, many of his lyrics are about struggling to remain virtuous and resist temptation.

"I had kids and started realising what I want and what I don't want in my house," says Flowers, now a father of three. "There were other deciding factors. I believe it's made me a better performer and given me more longevity with my voice. I know it has, because I was there on stage when I was drinking and smoking consistently and I just didn't... my pipes weren't as strong and I didn't have the energy that I do now." 

That's probably because, instead of partying all night, Flowers goes to the gym five times a week. "I do cardio and weights," he said. "I mix the cardio up: I do elliptical, StairMaster and bike to distribute the damage and not put it all on my knees..." And he doesn't see it as a penance: "There are lots of things I like about it. I need to get out of the house sometimes. I really feel the benefits of running in my brain. I feel lighter on my feet. I've got a lot more energy." That extra wattage has, in turn, helped Flowers and his Killers generate a reputation as one of the most electrifying live bands around. "I don't know if I sing correctly but it's physical: I sing with my body," he says. "Fitness has helped me with the performances." 

Given the opportunity, Flowers would rather fill his newly fortified pipes with fresh air. "If I can do cardio outside then I prefer to go trail running or hiking," he says. "The Mojave Desert around Vegas is beautiful for that: we have great trails and hikes. I take advantage any time I can." That includes the height of summer: "We'll go at night, when it cools off, and hike with flashlights." And he doesn't let touring stop him either: "We've hiked all over the place. I've taken down Snowdon. The Alps. We've done good ones in Chile, Sweden... all kinds of places. It's always on my mind, where we should hike on days off. I love it."

It's not your typical frontman's idea of getting high. On tour is where rock starts are supposed to go off the rails, not on trails. For most performers, being on stage is intoxicating, and in this regard Flowers is no exception. "I can't sit still for long after. I pace a lot. I'm talkative. I'm high, I guess, like a drug addict." 

But where other performers might seek something similarly stimulating to postpone the comedown when they come off stage, he swerves the after-parties altogether: "I just don't go. There are only so many Cokes you can have at a bar... the whole thing doesn't attract me any more." In fact, for their Day & Age tour, The Killers had two buses: a party one and a, um, non-party one. "The party bus!" he recalls. "There are nights when it's still around... but the longer I go on, the easier it is to stay off it." 

Although whisky and vodka have a reassuring presence on The Killers' rider, there's also kombucha – a fermented tea containing stomach-friendly probiotic bacteria. But it's not at Flower's request: "That might be down to Mark [Stoermer, bass and backing vocals]. My wife drinks that kind of stuff. I don't like it. In fact, nutrition is one area where Flowers isn't saintly. Although he's consistent with his breakfast (cereal with almond milk, banana, an Actimel), he occasionally strays from the path of righteousness. "I'm not great with diet," he admits. "It's something that I need to work on. But I love food, so fitness affords me that pleasure. Going to the gym makes it a lot easier to hit the In-N-Out Burger drive-thru and not feel so bad about myself." Hey, a rock star's got to have some vices.

Flowers' devotion to fitness has benefits extending beyond performance, and the excuse to keep up a fast food habit. Photo shoots like this is one. "As I've got older I've worked out more. The more comfortable I am in my own skin, the more comfortable I am in front of a camera," he says. Not that he has reason to feel otherwise. Even within the dandified sphere of rock frontmen, Flowers is frequently feted for his style. "It's born from the first music I listened to," he says. "It was always very style-driven, even though it was good music. People like The Smiths, New Order: they looked the part. It's like there's an obligation once you sign a record deal that you've got shoes to fill. I've taken some style risks and failed. It's always a gamble."

The odds are stacked in your favour if you can get shoes and perhaps a skinny black suit from someone like Hedi Slimane. Flowers was a disciple of the designer during his Dior Homme heyday, which coincided with the release of Hot Fuss. "Hedi was great and he did so many things for me," says Flowers, who remains faithful now Slimane heads up Saint Laurent Paris: "It's pretty apparent he's the best at it. He's got his finger on the pulse. He captures classic stuff and makes it feel new."

Although he doesn't place as much emphasis on being a dedicated follower of fashion now he's a family man – "it can be time-consuming" – Flowers still knows where the pulse points are: "I love Dries Van Noten and Burberry Prorsum. Now Levi's is bring back the classic T-shirts and denim from the '40s, '50s and '60s, so that's a real treat." Denim and biker jackets – rock classics as ageless as, well, Springsteen – are, like Vegas, recurring themes in Flowers' career. The same cannot be said of the snakeskin Dior Homme tracksuit top he wore around Sam's Town. "There's still a wardrobe somewhere with all that stuff in," he says. "I don't really wear it any more. But I kept some of the more... let's say interesting pieces." He says his style has matured and become more sure-footed as he's aged: "As I get older, it gets a little bit easier." 

Which brings us to the killer question. Flowers' style has changed tempo with his record releases, from the guylinered Dior Homme of Hot Fuss to the feather-customised Dolce & Gabbana of Day & Age. So what's the look for the new album?

"I'm working on it," he laughs. "Sometimes you think, I want to wear this or that,' then you go on stage and you realise it was completely the wrong choice. I want it to be something that I feel comfortable in and comfortable performing in. Just because because Mick Jagger looks good in it doesn't mean you're going to. You've got to find your own style." Amen to that. 

Leave Your Holiday Heartbreak at Home

I am 23. This month, my boyfriend of one year broke up with me. I was totally surprised, and am still devastated by it and in love with him. I have asked a few times about getting back together, but he is not interested. So I am trying to move on, which isn’t easy. It’s even harder when we both turn up at the same holiday parties. I’m scared (but also sort of hoping) that we will be at the same New Year’s Eve party. But I don’t want to stay home alone. Help!

Nina, Brooklyn

Welcome to the Heartbreak Hotel, Nina. It is my sad duty to report that most of us have checked in for a spell (or three), often feeling mowed down by a fleet of midsize trucks. But in time, those trucks will feel more like flammable hoverboards, and eventually, like tiny children stepping on your toes. It gets better. And exploring this bummer with friends or a therapist will give you more emotional depth and make you smarter about the next guy. (And there will be a next guy — really.)

Preschool Without Walls

Bundle up, buttercup. A growing number of preschools are situating their classrooms under the open sky and towering trees, regardless of weather.

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