"We may be facing economic doom and gloom from all corners, but that's no excuse to abandon a good shopping habit."

We may be facing economic doom and gloom from all corners, but that's no excuse to abandon a good shopping habit. With phrases like 'credit crunch chic' and 'recessionista' being thrown around, it's all about making your money work harder, so what better place to start than on the vintage clothing trail? The north of England has plenty to offer in terms of great retro finds, so to get you ready for some serious bargain-hunting, we've asked fashion insider James Wright, owner of Mint Vintage, for a few tips.

With regular customers including Scarlett Johansson and Mischa Barton (left), James scours the country to find the best second-hand bargains going. Originally an antiques dealer, James married his knowledge of second-hand goods with his love of fashion when he opened Mint. 'Old stuff is just made better,' he explains. 'People buy second-hand clothes for two reasons. Firstly, it's cheaper and, secondly, they want an individual look.'

Individual or not, James has learned that vintage follows trends in the same way as the rest of the fashion world. 'For some reason, military stuff tends to come back into fashion during a recession,' he says. 'Old dressage military wear is big again at the moment, and it's the same stuff Jimi Hendrix was wearing in the 1960s - certain things happen over and over again. Teddy Boys came about in the 1950s because they wore Edwardian clothes and Edward was abbreviated to Teddy. I think Edwardian clothing is about to be huge again as well.'

If you're a vintage novice, there are certain things to look out for to ensure you're getting a genuine piece of history. 'Zips are a good way of dating pieces,' James explains. 'If the original zip has been replaced, then a piece will lose some of its value. Also look at the buttonholes. Up until the 1950s, they were hand-finished, but after that they were done by machine.' James also recommends researching the piece you're looking for before you hit the shops. 'Also, be prepared to be patient if there's something you really want.'

Once you know what you're looking for, where do you begin? Certain areas are a vintage gold mine. 'The Northern quarter of  Manchester is a good place to start,' says James. 'Leeds has some good places, too - try Headingley, which is a big student area. Further afield, Hebden Bridge used to be a hippy hangout and a great antiques place - it's definitely worth a look.'

James also recommends Dewsbury. 'It used to be known as "Rag Country" and is a brilliant place to scour out some real fashion antiquities. Going west, the Vintage Clothing Company, a massive warehouse that ships vintage clothes across the world, is based in Formby, so make sure you check out its store Pop Boutique in nearby  Liverpool.'

But what are the key pieces to look out for when you get there? 'For women, we've stunning blouses from the 1950s to the 1980s, as well as mohair cardigans, duffle coats and ankle boots. For men, we've got candy-striped shirts, Norwegian print knits and denim shirts.'

So now you know where to shop, and what to look for, the race is on to hunt out those elusive bargains before your fellow recessionistas. On your marks, get set, go...

Some of the best vintage shops across the network...

Attica, Newcastle

2 Old George Yard, Off High Bridge, Newcastle, NE1 1EZ, tel 0191 261 4062

Oxfam Originals, Manchester

Unit 8, Smithfield Buildings, Manchester M1 1JQ, tel 0161 839 3160

Blue Rinse Vintage, Leeds

11 Call Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire LS1 7DH, tel 0113 245 1735

Pop Boutique, Liverpool

58 Whitechapel, Liverpool, L1 6EG, 
tel 0151 709 7858


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