Look on any shelf, anywhere
—— at any product. It’s not only difficult, but it’s nearly
impossible to find anything these days that’s not entirely or
partially made abroad, outside the borders of our own country.
This evolution, if you can call it that, has even affected
even one of the most sacred of American traditions: hunting.
A lot of things come my way every week from phone calls
abut new outdoor products to e-mails and press releases. Every
now and then, one will peak my attention enough to get me to
take a more serious look other than a courtesy glance.
When I heard about a new hunting boot being made in the
northeast reaches of the state, something told me to take a
hard look. I’m still not sure why, but I’m glad I did.
Between them, Mike Hensley and Hugh Wallace have more than
80 years of experience in the footwear business. Uniquely,
they have very different backgrounds that make for a very good
partnership and manufacturing philosophy.
This philosophy has evolved itself into the Allegiance
Footwear Company located in Mountain City. Wallace’s
background is in manufacturing while Hensley’s experience has
been enveloped in product development. In Hensley’s words,
that makes them a unique team.
“We’re small, but we can do it all,” said Hensley proudly.
He added their mission goals are to develop and sell a product
that people will purchase based on quality and workmanship.
Once folks get their boots, Hensley said that same quality
will sell the second and third pair.
What brought Hensley and Wallace together eventually was
the Timberland Company’s boot plant that at one time was the
largest employer in Mountain City.
Over 400 people worked there at one time on three full time
shifts. They might not say it, but it seems to me that Hensley
and Wallace were the backbones of the plant.
Hensley, who has been in the footwear business for 34
years, said at the time, Timberland was making the best boot
in the world, and it was coming out of little Mountain City,
That all changed in 1995 with the closure of the plant.
Hensley and Wallace had grown to love the small town of
Mountain City and had no desire to move on to a plant
elsewhere, let alone out of the United States.
Both had traveled the world in the footwear business, but
they found a down home feeling in Mountain City and decided
that’s where they would stay.
In 1996, they founded the Allegiance Footwear Company in
October of that year. They started their business by doing
volume repair. What that means, ironically, is they repair
boots made outside of the country, primarily from China.
They take the rejects and defects from other companies and
simply correct the mistakes whether it has to do with poor
sole construction or leaky seams that allow mold in the
lining. Sounds like we need a label that reads, “Corrected in
Four years ago, Allegiance Footwear moved to a larger
facility and began thinking about making boots. Hensley and
Wallace won a contract with the military and produced some
serious boots for our soldiers.
The industrious pair still do volume repairs, but if they
could make boots good enough for the fighting man, why
couldn’t they do the same for the hunter. They’ve done just
that this year with the introduction of their Ultimate Boot.
The Ultimate has evolved from their original 6-inch and
8-inch style work boots they were making for the military.
What that all means now is that you can choose from not only
the Ultimate Boot which comes in a 10-inch version with 800
grams of Thinsulate but from three different styles of boots.
At the present time, the boots come in pony brown and black
and are all waterproof and insulated. I’ve also laid eyes on a
camouflage prototype that isn’t far from being on the shelf.
“Our boots are different because they’re entirely made in
the USA,” proudly proclaimed Wallace. “Entirely, every piece.”
He said Allegiance Footwear doesn’t want to become a big
company, they like their down home appeal. “We want to keep it
small, and that’ll keep the quality in the product,” added
It boils down to their simple philosophy that if you make a
good quality product, it’ll sell itself. That’s been the case
so far for sure as their customers are satisfied with their
Wallace said he came off the farm and his father told him
he needed to get a job. He started out cleaning floors in the
footwear business. That was 46 years ago and a lot of time and
travel all around the world later.
He said their Ultimate Boot has a cup sole that your foot
just fits into and the boots are quality laced and gusseted.
Heck, they even changed the way that Gore-Tex suggested
they stitch the lining because customers preferred their
method. Like he said, they’ve been doing it a long time.
“Made in the USA still means quality and excellence,” added
Hensley. If you look at the label on their boot, you’ll see
the proud statement of “Made in the USA” and in Mountain City,
Tennessee. To Hensley, being down home and American made means
everything. “We know what hunters want--what they need,” added
No matter how big or how small they stay, Hensley and
Wallace aren’t looking to leave the small town mountain life.
They didn’t leave when Timberland closed, and they’re not
going anywhere now.
You can check out their Ultimate Boot and others at http://www.allegiancefootwear.com/ or
more specifically at their on-line store at http://www.afboots.com./
Hensley will even invite you to tour their store and plant
if you drive to Mountain City. The store hours are 8:00 a.m.
until 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. For more
information, call 423-727-3081.