Karson Nance, a tall and handsome fellow, owns 15 pairs of cowboy boots in different styles. The charismatic Texan believes a good pair of boots can make a man carry himself with courage. So, Nance left his up-and-coming career in Texas politics to open up Arrow Boot Co.
“Fashion isn’t just for the fairer sex,” Nance said with a laugh. “There’s a whole culture behind the buying and selling of good cowboy boots. Everyone wants to feel like John Wayne.”
Nance, a Stephenville native, graduated with a degree in political science from Lubbock Christian University in 2011. He moved to Austin after landing a job as a legislative assistant in the Texas House of Representatives, where he worked until 2012.
“I wanted to do some actual good by developing policies that would help people,” Nance said. “This is a great state with folks who just need some help and I wanted to be there for them.”
Nance continued to pursue politics, finding work in the Offices of the Governor of Texas, the Texas Office of the Secretary of State, and the Texas Senate, until 2014 — when he became disenfranchised with the political scene.
“It was all a dog and pony show,” Nance told Wanderer News. “My ideas weren’t becoming laws and, ultimately, my suggestions were consistently disregarded.”
Nance said his hallelujah moment came when he stumbled into working as a field sales representative for Farmhouse Delivery, a Texas company that delivers fresh produce and pasture-raised meat.
“With Farmhouse, I found a job that I really loved for the first time,” Nance said. “I felt like myself and could just talk and relate to people in the community. And I didn’t know I had such a knack for sales.”
The job inspired him to return to school and he graduated with an MBA in Entrepreneurship from the Acton School of Business in June.
It was in school that Nance decided to get into the boot business. He had always wanted a custom pair, but could never afford their high-dollar prices while in school, he said.
“I traveled around Texas interviewing and building relationships with world-class bootmakers and realized I didn’t need to pay a starting cost of $2,500 for a pair of good boots,” Nance said. “I wanted to bring that revelation to everyone and show them that they could walk tall in custom boots too.”
Nance made his first line of sales to Acton classmate Jackson Giles, he said. Giles purchased a pair of teal and white cowhide boots. They’re an exact replica of the pair his father, also Jackson Giles, had custom made in the ‘50s.
“These boots are absolutely perfect and a work of art,” the younger Giles said.
Nance designs all Arrow boots, which are made completely in Texas. He travels West Texas making sure to fit every customer and design the boots to their specifications. Customers crave the custom experience and become immersed in boot culture. They’re not the kind of people to own just one pair of boots, though everyone knows good boots are made to last.
“My clientele aren’t people who just want a pair of boots to work in,” he said. “My customers are in it for the fashion and buy multiple pairs from me.”
Nance explained that good boot tops are like good tattoos: most people may never see yours but the artistry is undeniable and they express the wearer’s personality.
“My customers want their boot tops to mean something to them,” Nance said. “If someone gets to see the top of your boots, they must be someone special.”
Nance said his boots start at $500 for the custom experience but can cost up to $2,500 depending on the level of customization.
“I got linked up with this bootmaker who’s been making boots with his friends for two to three generations,” Nance said. “He welcomed me in with arms wide open and spent weeks showing me the business and taking me under his wing. I’ve been using him ever since.”
Nance now uses a team of six bootmakers in an El Paso factory. He said his men can handle about 100 orders at a time. Boots take about four to six weeks to complete — much quicker than the average custom bootmaker — and can be made in a variety of toe shapes and sizes with about as many different leathers.
“If it’s a legal hide, my guy can get it made into a boot for you,” Nance said. “We can do Nile crocodile, alligator, boa constrictors. We can do sharks and ostriches. We can do stingrays.”
The bootmakers were unavailable for comment.
Nance hasn’t experienced many challenges with the business yet, he said, but expects to as it grows.
“It’ll be tough when we start placing even more orders than we are now,” Nance said. “I want to make sure everyone has the perfect fit, but that may not always be the case.”
Arrow Boots also doesn’t have a storefront at this time. Nance said traveling this state to complete orders may eventually take its toll on him.
“It takes a certain kind of man to run a business like this,” Nance said. “But I absolutely love it. I just have to remind myself that the boots are for the customers. I can’t keep making boots for myself.”
For more information, visit arrowboots.com.